Bad choices, bad breaks did in Red Sox

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Welcome to the Chasing Steinbrenner futurity.

The Blue Jays are 2 1/2 lengths behind in the annual sweepstakes which runs until Monday night at the Rogers Centre.

Both teams gathered in Florida in February intent on being in the race this weekend, competing for a spot in the post-season derby, not this claiming race.

Along the way the Jays have mentioned oh, once or twice, how difficult it is to compete with the New York Yankees and their payroll.

For the most part the Boston Red Sox don't worry about the Yankees or their payroll. Since opening day 2003, the Yanks and Red Sox have met 90 times during the regular season and the post-season. New York has a 46-44 edge.

"We've been able to go toe-to-toe with them most of the time," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before his club met the Jays last night.

"Regardless of what your payroll is you have to play the games," Francona said. "We try to look at it as realistically as possible. We're fortunate in that management will spend a lot on our team payroll, mind you it's not an endless supply."

The Red Sox are that close against the Yankees despite being depleted and being swept in a five-game series at Fenway Park in August. The most important loss, though, was catcher Jason Varitek.

"We still end up playing them close, the payroll doesn't matter when you get on the field -- it's a competition thing," Varitek said.

He went down July 31 and didn't return until Sept. 4. The Sox went 10-23 without him. If those numbers don't get him some consideration in MVP voting we don't know what will.

"It was purely circumstantial," Varitek said, "Trot Nixon went down first. I by no means take any credit for that.

"There are many, more pieces to the puzzle than me. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Doug Mirabelli. It was difficult to watch, but really I was working so hard to get back in the lineup."

Post-season teams still look back at wise baseball moves. While the Red Sox were ripped apart by injuries from Manny Ramirez's knee, to David Ortiz's fluttering heart to Varitek's knee ... the Boston decision-makers did not have a good year.

They decided they liked David Wells (two wins in eight starts) over Bronson Arroyo (14 wins for the Reds in 33 starts) when they dealt for Wily Mo Pena.

They gave up young studs Hanley Ramirez and Anibal (No-Hit) Sanchez to the Marlins for Josh Beckett, who has a 4.82 ERA, and Mike Lowell.

They sent impressive reliever Cla Meredith to San Diego to reacquire Mirabelli.

They decided not to re-sign Johnny Damon and then went after Coco Crisp, who is not Damon.

Adam Stern was moved for catcher Javy Lopez, who had nothing left. Lopez was released earlier this month.

"Management has a lot of difficult decisions to make this off-season," Varitek said. "I wouldn't want that job."

The Red Sox laundry list is to find another starter, find a closer to replace Jonathan Papelbon, who is going into the rotation, find an upgrade over Crisp in centre, find a replacement for departing free agent Nixon in right and decide whether to keep second baseman Mark Loretta and shortstop Alex Gonzalez, both of whom will be free agents.

"Basically what the extra money does is allow you to correct your mistakes," Francona said. "Like Billy Beane in Oakland ... if he makes a mistake, he can't correct it."

We would say that signing Esteban Loaiza to a three-year, $21.375 million US contract is a mistake, but there sit the Athletics in first place in the AL West.

And today the Jays and Sox will battle for second place.

Steinbrenner has not been caught. For the Jays, the chase resumes April 2 in Detroit.


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