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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Financing a Winner

What passes for creative thinking with the Sox.

If youíve been reading any of the regular Chicago baseball writers, or for that matter the national ones like Ken Rosenthal, you know they are all saying that a new day has dawned for MLB.

With the advent of the new collective bargaining agreement, and the implementation of the "luxury tax" (salary cap?) It looks like the days of a general manager saying to another GM, ĎIíll trade you player A for player Bí are over.

The watchword now is finances, with the thinking being that payroll considerations in relation to that luxury tax are going to force teams to be more creative in their approach to trades and acquiring players.

With that in mind I found it interesting that Ken Williams made this comment to the Chicago Tribuneís Paul Sullivan on any Sox interest in free agent Greg Maddux.íI asked [agent] Scott Boras at the general managers' meeting what it would take [to sign Maddux], and there wasnít much need to meet further on the matter."

So in other words, Williams asked about Maddux, didnít get the answer he was looking for and concluded that it was pointless to look into it deeper. Can you say "negotiations?"

Contrast that with the Atlanta Braves and their GM John Schurholz.

The Braves were under financial restrictions from their parent company AOL / Time Warner, yet they also badly needed starting pitching. Atlanta concluded that they would probably not be able to resign Maddux and Tom Glavine and would be lucky if they could keep one. Schurholz though put on his creative thinking cap, and after a long drawn out process was able to acquire starting pitcher Mike Hampton as part of a three way deal with the Rockies and the Marlins. Not only did he get an established pitcher but he also got both the Rockies and the Marlins (whom Hampton never threw a single pitch for) to pay for a large part of Hamptonís contract! This from an organization with a payroll in the upper 90's.

The point to this exercise is, that wouldnít it have been nice if Williams at least checked back with owner Jerry Reinsdorf, or consulted Roland Hemond to see if something could be done? Would it have been that difficult to consult with the Sox financial department to see if a creative deal could have been proposed, perhaps back loaded to at least get the Sox in the door? Or for that matter to start talks with a second or even a third team to see if a deal could have been realized? (i.e. the Sox sign Maddux, but trade and acquire other players to stabilize the team and payroll)

Perhaps Williams did try all this. If so, then why didnít he mention that? We are left with the impression that he immediately made a snap decision based on a response and closed the door.

I understand the financial restrictions placed upon Williams by Reinsdorf. It is a serious handicap. All the more reason that Williams has to start thinking "outside the box" to get things done.

Itís bad enough that Williams is laboring under the owners financial restraints... itís bad enough that most people feel he is to inexperienced for this job... itís bad enough his major acquisitions have been failures. Things donít need to be compounded by an inability to creatively approach solutions to these problems, in a new baseball landscape.

If he canít, or is unwilling to do more then just overpaying for what he wants, then he needs to take a long, hard look at whether it would be best for all concerned if he resigned.

As always any comments, questions, responses or criticisms are appreciated. Contact me at

Editor's Note: †Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work. †He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper†organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana)†and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years. †"Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population.

More features from Mark Liptak here!

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