Continuing my look back at the 10 top Boston sports media episodes of the decade…
Remember December, 2003? Yankees hysteria was at an all-time high following the Red Sox loss in the seventh game of the ALCS two months earlier. The Red Sox had already hired Terry Francona to replace Grady Little, and brought Curt Schilling onboard – a pretty big event in itself.
Then word got out that the Red Sox were trying to land the reigning AL MVP, and in the process, attempting to change the entire face of their franchise. They had already attempted to rid themselves of Manny Ramirez, unsuccessfully, and now offered him up to the Texas Rangers (along with a kid pitching prospect named Jon Lester) for Alex Rodriguez. The trade was agreed upon, pending the Red Sox being able to work out a renegotiation of A-Rod’s record $250 Million contract.
In addition it was reported (by New York Newsday) that the Red Sox had also agreed to trade Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago White Sox for Magglio Ordoñez, which would complete their makeover, replacing Manny and Nomar with A-Rod and Ordoñez.
It was so much of a “Done Deal” that The Boston Globe was even refering to him as Alex Rodriguez, the Sox shortstop-in-waiting, and calling him for comment on other Red Sox player moves, such as the signing of closer Keith Foulke. Kevin Millar went on ESPN SportsCenter and declared that he was glad to have A-Rod, and would take him over both Manny and Nomar.
Then it all fell apart.
Gene Orza, associate general counsel for the players’ union nixed the deal that had been agreed upon by Rodriguez and the Red Sox. This resulted in angry outburts from Larry Lucchino and John Henry (who posted on SoSH) and a total media monopoly on this story.
The story dominated WEEI, and the newspapers, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Even the regular “news” outlets couldn’t get enough of this story, websites crashed from the traffic it generated, and the Patriots, in the midst of a 14-2 regular season, heading for their second Super Bowl title of the decade, were an afterthought.
A Gordon Edes story in the Globe from December 31st, 2003, lays out what went wrong with the deal.
Then, a few weeks later in early 2004, just when things had settled down a little bit, word got out that the Yankees were interested in A-Rod, and they did manage to successfully work out a deal, making him into a third baseman. This pushed the Yankee hysteria even further, lasting throughout the 2004 season.
Ironically, it was an incident with A-Rod, that spurred the Red Sox on later that summer. Jason Varitek and A-Rod got into a scuffle, resulting in Varitek’s mitt being stuffed squarely into Rodriguez’s face, which many mark as one of many turning points of that season.
With the gift of hindsight, we see that things actually all worked out for the best. The Red Sox finally got past the Yankees in the postseason, and Manny Ramirez ended up as the World Series MVP, as the Red Sox swept the Cardinals for their first World championship in 86 years. Rodriguez proved to be a head case, not the leader and captain that the Red Sox would’ve expected him to be.
This whole episode was a total circus, and even now, six years later, stands out in memory.