Martinez was a risk worth taking


Martinez was a risk worth taking

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.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

NBA Notes: League seems to be on upward surge in interest and ratings


NBA Notes: League seems to be on upward surge in interest and ratings

For so many years the NFL has had an almost impenetrable veneer in the way it has successfully pivoted away from a myriad of scandals that would have at the very least delivered a significant, noticeable blow to most professional leagues.

But that Teflon-tough image has taken a whacking of late with the league dealing with what has been for the most part an across-the-board ratings dip in its programming.

The NFL’s slide comes at a time when the NBA seems to be on a upward surge in terms of interest and ratings.

Kevin Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma City and play for Golden State is a needle-mover across the NBA landscape. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to defend their NBA title – a phrase no one thought they would ever hear even when James signed on for a second tour of duty – will certainly generate tons of interest.

The Boston Celtics added Al Horford to a team that many believe will be among Cleveland’s stiffest challengers, in addition to being a team that has played Golden State as well as anyone the last couple of years.

There are many hands responsible for the NBA having such a strong position on the professional sports landscape, chief among them being former commissioner David Stern.

He was in town last week as part of the Shamrock Foundation’s annual Gala.

Stern gave a rundown of what he’s been up to since passing the commissioner’s torch to Adam Silver.

He said he has been a senior advisor to a venture capital firm, counsels several start-up companies and of course a senior advisor to the NBA.

But it’s what he’s not doing – negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union – that seemed to bring him the most joy.

“That’s when I got the least amount of sleep,” quipped Stern.

But those sleep-deprived marathon sessions with owners and union leaders, have helped bring the league to where it is today – thriving with its players and the profits both seem to be reaping.

That’s why the reports of the NBA and the player’s union being close to coming to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, make a lot of sense. The NBA or the player’s union can opt-out of the current CBA prior to Dec. 15, although that’s looking less likely to happen because of what should be a new deal that better reflects the economic changes that currently exist in the NBA.

This past summer saw the salary cap in the NBA balloon to $94.14 million after having been $70 million for the 2015-2016 season.

With both NBA players and owners profiting significantly from the new TV deal, most of the changes to come about (paying players on the rookie scale more money; increasing the dollar amounts for veteran’s minimum and team exception contracts) are just common sense rule changes that have both sides closer to getting something done sooner rather than later.

And while he’s not directly involved in any of the current dealings, what he accomplished prior to retiring as commissioner certainly laid the groundwork for what appears to be a relatively smooth negotiation period.

“I didn’t project anything other than I was leaving it in the most spectacular of hands with an All-Star executive cast and they would just do what’s right for the league and they have,” Stern said.

And as far as the current talks that have reportedly been ongoing for months, Stern understands all too well that the last CBA talks which led to a shortened, 66-game season led to changes that has both players and owners feeling better about current negotiations.

“I’m proud to say the league has gotten to a very good place in terms of the player’s share, the owner’s share and where they can all see this is something that pays to keep going,” Stern said. “It’s fun to watch from a distance and not be involved.”



So much for that logjam in the frontcourt for the Philadelphia 76ers. The latest big man to go down with an injury is Nerlens Noel who recently had “minor” surgery on his left knee that will sideline him for reportedly three-to-five weeks. Keep in mind that the Everett, Mass. native missed his entire rookie season following left knee surgery, although the Sixers indicate this was an arthroscopic procedure and is considered minor. He joins No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons who suffered a foot injury that’s expected to keep him out until at least January. That means a lot of the trade rumors involving Noel (and Jahlil Okafor to a certain extent too) should cool off for a little bit.



Signing with Toronto during the offseason was supposed to be Jared Sullinger's chance at a fresh start. Unfortunately for him, things are looking a lot like they did in his early days in Boston. Concerns about his back dropped his draft-day stock from a likely lottery (top-14) pick, to falling in the Celtics' lap at No. 21. During his rookie season, he played well but had to have season-ending back surgery. With the Raptors, it appears he will miss some time early on due to a foot injury that occurred in the team's first preseason game which has kept him out of action ever since.  

“May be a little while before he comes back,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters recently. “He may get checked out just to see what else is going on.”

Sullinger’s weight was an issue during his time with the Celtics. It’s unclear what impact if any, it had on his current injury or whether it’s a factor in the injury keeping him out indefinitely. 



We have seen Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) in lots of different basketball roles from hitting big shots to just hitting people.

But as a coach? That is reportedly being discussed by the Los Angeles Lakers brass as they try to trim their training camp roster down to 15 players.

MWP is likely on the outside of the 15-man roster now, but the Lakers still want him to be part of the organization. While it may seem a bit of a stretch at first, he does bring a wealth of basketball experience to the table, a player how has seen the highs and lows of the game in a way few players can fully understand or speak about with a great amount of credibility.



The LaMarcus Aldridge trade talk will be one of the storylines this NBA season. The Boston Celtics will continue to be discussed as a possibility, but the team to watch is the Phoenix Suns. They came close to convincing him when he left Portland for San Antonio. Phoenix provides him a team that can be built around him (which he wants), lots of shots (which he wants) and a team with no pressure on his back to lead them to major success (yup, he wants that too). … Michael Carter Williams’ stock seems to continue to tumble after winning the league’s rookie of the Year award. He’s going into his fourth season and he’s already on to his third team. … Multiple league executives believe Devin Booker is the best 20-and-under player in the NBA right now. He's good, but I'd probably take Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns.