Using statistics for support, not for illumination 

Jacob Luft complains that the Sox beat the Yankees and won the World Series this year only by emulating the Yankees' free-spending ways. In response, I sent him this letter.

Dear Jacob,

Your column "Red Sox are the new Evil Empire" selectively misuses facts and statistics in several ways.

First, you claim that "The Red Sox have the largest payroll -- $120 million -- of any team ever to win a World Series." However, without adjusting for annual inflation of player salaries, this statistic is meaningless.

Second, you claim that of the Sox' 25-man World Series roster, only Trot Nixon and Kevin Youkilis qualify as homegrown players. However, Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek played the vast majority of their careers in the Red Sox organization. Ironically, Lowe and Varitek may be with other teams next year because they may have priced themselves out of the Sox' bidding range.

Your characterization of the Red Sox as a band of highly-paid free agent mercenaries is inaccurate with regard to many other players as well. Pedro Martinez also spent most of his career with the Sox. The Sox got him from the Expos for Carl Pavano, one of their minor leaguers who himself may become a premier pitcher. Pedro too may be gone next year if the price is wrong.

David Ortiz was cut by the Minnesota Twins. Sure, he was cut as a cost-cutting measure, but the Sox have to be given credit for recognizing his talent when other teams didn't.

Mark Bellhorn is probably not the kind of "mercenary" you have in mind, given that he makes less than $500,000 a year. Ditto for Bronson Arroyo ($330,000).

Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar are a bit more expensive -- $2.1 mil and $3.3 mil respectively -- but pretty close to the average player salary. Basically, they're the perfect Moneyball players.

The only players on the Sox who could really be considered high-priced mercenaries are pitchers Curt Schilling (acquired for a couple minor-league players) and Keith Foulke, and outfielders Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez. However, a significant fraction of top pitchers on top teams are mercenaries, because there are so few premier pitchers to go around. I'd venture a guess that within the last 15 years, only the 1995 Braves, 2002 Angels and 2003 Marlins managed to win without leaning heavily on high-priced free agent pitchers. Plenty of top pitchers on the other playoff teams this year were free agent pickups, too -- Jason Isringhausen, Roger Clemens, Bartolo Colon, Mike Mussina and others.

And how many teams can say they traded away a homegrown superstar in order to make their team better?

The Sox spent $127 million this year, second to the Yankees' $184 million. The Yankees' payroll is 45% more than the Sox payroll. Meanwhile, there are eight other teams that were between $90 and $100 million.

The Yankees' roster includes Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and John Olerud, all of whom were free agents or acquired without sacrificing much in trade, and all of whom make $7 million or more per year.

Sure it sucks to be the Royals or the Devil Rays, and some revenue-sharing plan is definitely needed for the long-term health of Major League Baseball. But the Sox have to be given a lot of credit for spending wisely and getting the most out of their team.


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