By Rich Levine
Imagine you're walking home late from work one night, when two muggers jump out from the shadows and chase you down a dark alley.
Let's say you're pretty fast, and after a few seconds, create a little separation. You're moving like Ellsbury on the base paths, except your ribs are feeling fine. These two thugs have no clue who they're messing with. You're ready to leave them in your dust or, considering where you're running, "in your discarded pieces of alley trash" and cruise back into civilization and safety.
When all of a sudden . . . a ditch.
NStar or KeySpan or whoever was working underground, and they're not quite finished. The missing piece in the road is about seven feet wide, which means it's probably doable, but at the same time, we're not talking about hopping a little puddle here. This is a significant leap, and if you fail, you don't only end up with wet socks. You'll fall far, and hard; we're talking broken bones. Maybe worse. Meanwhile, these muggers are older, and drunker, plus they're wearing Timberlands there's no way they could make it over.
You stop for a split second to contemplate, but there isn't a lot of time.
On one hand, attempting the jump is dangerous. In a perfect world if this were just a normal day, a leisurely walk you'd see this enormous street divot and turn the other way. But now, it's either take the risk, or take on these muggers. You either adapt to the situation and roll the dice, or you say "Nah, too risky. I'll just empty my pockets and hope they don't hurt me."
They're now mere steps away. It's time to make a decision, and . . .
Pop quiz, hot shot: What do you do?
What do you do?
I can't speak for everyone, but if you're a member of the Red Sox front office, I think I know your answer.
You'd throw your money and iPhone and pray that they're gentle. You'd look at that ditch, calculate the risk, and decide it's not worth it. You'd be too worried about the potential consequences of acting a little crazy, even if the potential reward far outweighed them. You'd probably head home in one piece, but you'd be a little lighter in the wallet. That is, if you even still had one.
And you know what?
I couldn't argue with your logic; it's actually pretty sound.
You played it safe, and I understand why you did. But that doesn't mean agree with it. That doesn't mean given the circumstances that it's the decision I'd make for myself. That doesn't mean I think you're right. But I'll give it to you. You were very logical. Well done.
Do you see the difference?
OK, if you couldn't tell already, this column isn't just about an imaginary run-in with muggers. It is, of course, about the Red Sox controversial decision to offer salary arbitration to Felipe Lopez.
But seriously, it's about the fact that they just let the No. 3 hitter in their already lacking line-up leave for Detroit over a matter of 2 million a year and the fact their defense for letting him go is based on a series of very logical points, but ones that are at their most powerful in an unrealistic world.
Yes, in a perfect world, you don't want to give a lucrative contract to a catcher who isn't that great at catching, and who, with age, is only getting worse. Four years down the road, you don't want to pay 12.5 million to a 36-year-old DH. In a perfect world, you'd compile your argument, make it all nice and organized in fancy folders, sit down with V-Mart and don't get up until you can convince him why "this" is all he's worth, and that he if he ever wants to play baseball again, he has to accept.
But this world is far from perfect, and the Sox can't just meet a dangerous obstacle, shrug their shoulders and take the safe route home. They have to react. They're not alone in this alley. There are gangs of thugs from New York, Detroit and Anaheim looking to take advantage of those who want to play it safe. And they're coming after what the Sox have not to mention everything else they want.
I'm not saying that this team needs to be reckless. I'm not asking them to start jumping 30-foot ditches. I'm not saying they should go on another 2007 J.D. DrewJulio Lugo shopping spree. I'm just saying that every once in a while, when a certain situation arises, it might be worth toning down the dogmatism and breaking free from basic logic.
Because in this business, logic isn't batting 1.000.
Logic said Pedro Martinez was going to break down, and he did. Logic said Johnny Damon was going to fall off, and he didn't. Logic said Tim Lincecum would win a World Series someday. After 2005, logic sure as hell didn't say Edgar Renteria would win a World Series MVP. You just don't know.
But with Victor Martinez, we kind of do. Our instincts are pretty solid. We know he's a great player, but more importantly, that he can be great in Boston something so many acquisitions, like Drew, Lugo and Renteria never could. We know that he's getting up there in age, but that he has a few good years left; a few really good years. This isn't a Varitek in 2004 situation where the skills especially at the plate were in a clear free fall, and you knew the last year or two was going to be a mess.
Really, is there any doubt in your mind that Victor Martinez will still be a very effective DH at 36 years old? Yeah, I know, he won't be able to catch anymore, but guess what? When you're the Boston Red Sox, it's OK to pay your mid-30-something DH 12.5 million on the last year of his contract. First of all, because you have the money. Second of all, because you have the money. I mean, come on, you're doing the same thing this year!
Re-signing Victor Martinez wasn't about the Red Sox breaking the bank on a franchise cornerstone. This wasn't the kind of deal that cripples an organization, especially not this one. This four year50 million contract was merely a small risk, and a worthwhile one at that. It was a risk the Sox surely didn't want to take, but they had so much more to gain by doing so. But instead, they played it safe and let another one of their competitors reap the benefits.
And for 2 million a year.
John Henry wouldn't miss 2 million if he lost it in an alley way mugging.