The 2003 Houston Astros finished the season 87-75, one game behind the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs and four games behind the Wild Card-winning Florida Marlins, missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1995/1996. The Astros had a chance to win the division outright, but went 3-7 in the final ten games of the season, and 1-2 in the final series of the year at home vs. Milwaukee, allowing the Cubs to sweep into the playoffs and set up a life-changing event for young Steve Bartman. While the core of the team was aging (Craig Biggio was 37, Jeff Kent and Jeff Bagwell were both 35, Brad Ausmus was 34), the pitching staff was young. Of the starting rotation, Tim Redding and Roy Oswalt were 25, Wade Miller and Jeriome Robertson were 26, and Ron Villone - at 33 - was the only starter over 26 years old.
The 2003 offseason would shape the course of baseball, and the fortunes of a number of teams, for the next ten years, and counting. This is how that off-season unfolded.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane signs general manager Gerry Hunsicker to a one-year extension that will keep him with the Astros through the 2005 season. Hunsicker, who had received permission to interview for the same vacant position with the Mets the previous week, says, "I am excited to have the opportunity to continue working toward our goal of bringing a World Series to Houston."
Later that night the Red Sox and Yankees square off in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series. With a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning, Pedro Martinez got Nick Johnson to pop up to shortstop Nomar Garciaparra for the first out. Derek Jeter hit a double to right field and one batter later Bernie Williams drove in Jeter to make it 5-3 Red Sox. Hideki Matsui hit a ground-rule double to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Grady Little came out to the mound to visit with Pedro, and leaves him in the game, despite Alan Embree and Mike Timlin being ready in the bullpen. Jorge Posada hits a 2-2 double to right field, scoring Williams and Matsui to tie the game. On the first pitch of the bottom of the 11th inning, Aaron Boone - who had come into the game in the 8th to pinch-run for Ruben Sierra, and replaced Enrique Wilson (for whom Ruben Sierra had pinch hit) knocked a Tim Wakefield pitch over the wall to send the Yankees to the World Series.
Friday, October 24
A day after the Florida Marlins won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead over the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series, USA Today's Mel Antonen says that “(Pettitte) will have to make one of those classic decisions, between maintaining his career with the Yankees and possibly going home to Texas if the Houston Astros or Texas Rangers, with former Yankees manager Buck Showalter, show an interest in upgrading their pitching staffs. It’s tempting to pitch closer to home so Pettitte can spend more time with his kids…”
Saturday, October 25
Before 55,773 at Yankee Stadium, the Marlins put up two runs (one earned) on Andy Pettitte in 7IP and Josh Beckett throws a complete game shutout in Game 6 to give the Marlins their second World Series Championship in franchise history. He is coming off a season where he went 21-8 with a 4.02 ERA/1.33 WHIP. He was 2nd in the AL in wins, fifth in winning percentage, sixth in strikeouts, and won the Warren Spahn Award as the best lefty pitcher in baseball. He is coming off a contract in which he made $11.5m in 2003.
Sunday, October 26
The day after losing the World Series and going ringless for three seasons, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner promises to make changes for 2004. In a statement, Steinbrenner said, "Of course I was disappointed, but we will be meeting soon to make whatever changes are needed to bring back a stronger, better team for New York and our fans. You can count on it." Clemens indicated back in February that he would retire following the 2003 season, while Andy Pettitte and David Wells, who has also hinted at retirement, are eligible for free agency. Clemens, Pettitte, and Wells combined to make 96 starts for the Yankees in 2003, going 53-23.
The Yankees are 3/1 favorites to win the 2004 World Series, with Boston coming in at 5/1.
Monday, October 27
The Associated Press reports that Yankees officials meet in Tampa. Cashman acknowledges that Pettitte will be a big topic of the Yankees’ off-season plan, but there’s more on the table. “Andy’s a big piece, but we have a lot to work through. The payroll is a big issue, too, because the luxury tax gets higher. We have to find out what the landscape is and work through it, analyze our deficiencies, try to see what upgrades are possible.”
The Boston Red Sox decline to exercise manager Grady Little's 2004 option after two seasons in which the Red Sox went 93-69 and 95-67. Kevin Millar tells MLB.com's Ian Browne, "The one thing with John Henry and with Larry Lucchino and with Theo, you have to trust their decision making."
Tuesday, October 28
Tom Verducci says Steinbrenner needs to give Andy Pettitte a blank check, “what with Clemens retiring and David Wells, the guy who proudly doesn't bust his butt every day, a back operation waiting to happen.”
Derek Jeter tells the AP: “I would like to see him back, definitely. But once again, it’s a business and I’m sure a lot of things are going to be taken under consideration, not only on the part of our organization, but on Andy’s part as well.”
The Yankees are apparently deciding on whether or not to move Alfonso Soriano - who was 9x52 with 20 strikeouts in the 2003 ALCS and World Series - from second base to the outfield. Backup infielder Enrique Wilson tells Tyler Kepner, "He might get traded, or he might get moved to the outfield, because I know some people see the way he played in the playoffs. I don't know. I hope he stays here, because he's a good player."
Oakland bench coach Terry Francona interviews to be the next manager of the Baltimore Orioles, who fired Mike Hargrove on September 29. Francona has also interviewed for the vacant White Sox job.
Wednesday, October 29
MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports that White Sox GM Kenny Williams acknowledges moving on to “Plan B” after Bartolo Colon turns down a reported 3yr/$36m offer. That Plan B could include Andy Pettitte.
Boston puts Manny Ramirez and his eight-year/$160m contract (of which five years and $101.5m remain) on irrevocable waivers. If a team should claim him, the Red Sox get nothing in return but salary relief.
Thursday, October 30
Manny wants to play in New York, but a Yankees executive says there is “no chance” of that happening, in part because the money Boston would be saving in not paying Manny would then be freed up to try and sign Andy Pettitte. If the Yankees relieved Boston of Ramirez and the accompanying financial burden, the Red Sox could then turn around and make a deal with the Houston Astros -- perhaps for expensive reliever Billy Wagner -- and free up payroll for the Astros to sign Pettitte, whose preference may be to return to his home in Texas.
Pettitte is the Yankees' priority this offseason, and if Pettitte decides to re-sign with New York, he could cost the Yankees heavily, adding to a long list of financial commitments.
Thursday, October 31
Manny Ramirez goes unclaimed by the Yankees (whom Ramirez openly expressed a desire to join) and 28 other teams in MLB. Jeff Moorad, Ramirez's agent, said "He always expressed a desire to play for the Yankees, and in a strange twist of fate, the Red Sox certainly gave him an opportunity to make that happen, although it seems unlikely to me it will. You certainly can't fault the Red Sox for creating a mechanism for that opportunity to come about." Gordon Edes writes that the Red Sox planned to use the money they would save on Manny to pursue an elite starting pitcher, "such as Bartolo Colon or Kevin Millwood."
Jack Curry writes that the Yankees "spent a few hours" discussing Manny and his contract on Wednesday, but decided against taking on "lots of unpredictability from a moody 31-year-old and lots of unexpected money funneling back to a chief competitor." Curry says the Red Sox have taken the first step towards challenging the Yankees in the 2004 season.
Saturday, November 1
Yankees manager Joe Torre says the Yankees are “very serious” about re-signing Pettitte, but said it depends on “how long, how much money?”
Torre is concerned about the starting rotation: "Obviously, if we don't have Andy Pettitte, we don't have Roger Clemens, we don't have David Wells, we have to find people to replace those people," he said. "That's the reason we've been successful, that we've been able to pitch better than everybody else."
Sunday, November 2
The St. Petersburg Times' Marc Topkin says the Rangers would make Alex Rodriguez available in a trade.
Monday, November 3
Astros trade Billy Wagner (and the $8m he is owed for 2004) to Philadelphia for Ezequiel Astacio, Taylor Buchholz, and Brandon Duckworth (the Phillies considered four prospects "untouchable:" Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Gavin Floyd, and Taylor Buchholz. "They then removed Buchholz from the list when it became clear that if they didn't, the Astros were packing up their closer and keeping him.") Wagner had criticized Drayton McLane for not making a move to get another starting pitcher for 2003, and "expected more of the same" for 2004.
Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker tells ESPN’s Jayson Stark:
“For us, this was a matter of trying to regain some flexibility in our budget. We’d just gotten to the point where we had a small number of players eating up a significant portion of our payroll. And it created an inflexibility to do anything. So as painful as this was, it was something we had to begin to address.”
Hunsicker, on trading Wagner before he hit free agency, “This is not something that’s foreign to this franchise. Yet we’ve always been able to come up with a formula to put a quality product on the field. I just hope people will have some confidence in our ability to continue doing that.”
Stark says the Astros are trying to move the $12m contract of Richard Hidalgo. Stark, “If they can shake enough dollars out of their money tree, their obvious hope is to turn around and see what all that saved money can buy them. And if you translate that to mean ‘Andy Pettitte,’ you’re on the right track.”
Tuesday, November 4
In a special to ESPN, Bob Klapisch writes on November 5 that Pettitte met with the Astros on Tuesday, November 4, and that he is also being pursued by the Red Sox. The Yankees tell the media while announcing Don Mattingly's return to the organization as hitting coach that Derek Jeter played the entire ALCS and World Series with a ruptured tendon in his left thumb. Cashman also says the Yankees are declining David Wells' $6m option, but would be open to his returning in 2004.
Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci writes that both the Yankees and Red Sox have held internal discussions about trading for 27-year old Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez. Verducci says Boston would love to dump Manny Ramirez's contract, but would have to be careful about insulting Nomar Garciaparra, who is heading into the final year of his contract. "The worst case scenario for Boston is," writes Verducci, "that Garciaparra leaves for a West Coast club next year and Rodriguez goes to the Yankees."
Wednesday, November 5
The New York Times' Tyler Kepner says Torre told Pettitte after the Game 6 loss to do what is best for his family.
The Red Sox interview Oakland bench coach Terry Francona for their managerial vacancy, joining Glenn Hoffman and Bud Black as candidates.
Thursday, November 6
Pettitte tells Cashman he’s going to test the free-agent market. “He’s going to go out and find out what his market is first,” says Cashman. The ESPN report says that the Astros are the most likely candidate to pursue Pettitte. Cashman says, “You expect to have a competition on your hands when a player of Andy’s ability is available. All you can do is what you feel is best. We’d love to keep Andy. We’ll have our discussions, put out best foot forward and hope for the best.”
Pettitte said he would call Joe Torre, but had not done so yet. Torre says, “When he’s ready to talk about it, we’ll talk. I don’t think there’s any question everybody here wants him back.”
Pedro Martinez tells the media in Santo Domingo that, if the Red Sox don't call him, he'll file for free agency following the 2004 season.
Friday, November 7
Andy Pettitte will start negotiations with the Yankees after November 10, when open bidding begins. Boston picks up their $4.5m option on Derek Lowe for 2004.
Baltimore hires Yankees' first-base coach Lee Mazzilli for their managerial role.
Bud Black removes his name from consideration for the Red Sox' managerial vacancy, but Boston has been given permission from the Angels to talk to bench coach Joe Maddon about replacing Grady Little. Theo Epstein says, "It's safe to say that our payroll next year will be at least as high as it was in 2003, and there's a chance that it will be slightly higher...We have tremendous resources and have a payroll that's well over $100 million. We have enough flexibility to acquire players that are going to help us."
Dan Patrick asks Curt Schilling if he would approve a trade to the Yankees and replied, "Probably not."
A hearing in Boston for Yankees players Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia is postponed until December 12. Boston police say Nelson and Garcia assaulted Fenway Park groundskeeper Paul Williams during the 9th inning of the Yankees' ALCS Game 3 win on October 11 after Williams cheered for the Red Sox in the Yankees' bullpen.
Monday, November 10
The 15-day exclusive window to negotiate with impending free agents ends.
Tuesday, November 11
Tom Verducci says Steinbrenner wants to re-sign Pettitte, sign Vlad, and trade for Curt Schilling, even if it means payroll is almost $200m. Schilling is said to be intrigued by replacing his role model, Roger Clemens, in New York. But if Schilling is open to waiving his no-trade clause, the Yankees can expect to compete with Philadelphia - where Schilling maintains a home - and Boston, "though they don't hold the same appeal for him as the Phillies and Yankees do."
Verducci also writes that Boston is trying to talk Texas into a straight-up swap of Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez. Texas' GM John Hart is familiar with Ramirez from their time in Cleveland, but Rangers owner Tom Hicks maintains his desire to build a championship team around Rodriguez. Newsday quotes a source close to Rodriguez that the idea of playing in Boston intrigues him.
Meanwhile, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's John Hickey reports that the Yankees are exploring a 4yr/$50m deal for Pettitte.
Wednesday, November 12
Gordon Edes writes that rumors of a potential three-way trade have surfaced that would send Alex Rodriguez from Texas to Boston, Nomar Garciaparra from Boston to Anaheim, and David Eckstein and prospects from Anaheim to Texas. All executives involved deny it.
Edes says the Red Sox are working to acquire a top starting pitcher, and "by (the Red Sox') reckoning, the best free agent available is left-hander Andy Pettitte." Meanwhile, the Sox are also interested in Javier Vazquez. At 2pm on the 12th, Theo Epstein interviews Angels bench coach Joe Maddon for Boston's managerial vacancy.
The Boston Globe reports that Rangers' GM John Hart has approached the Red Sox and Yankees about Alex Rodriguez; and the Yankees are interested in acquiring Curt Schilling.
Thursday, November 13
Tyler Kepner reports that Torre has not spoken with the free-agent left-hander Andy Pettitte since the season ended, but buddy Roger Clemens said Pettitte was relaxing at his ranch outside Houston. Clemens told Kepner, "I hope the Yankees come strong after him and make it an easy decision. But you have people at home pulling, too. It could be difficult." Clemens tells Kepner this drama could have been avoided, "I don't think he ever wanted to be in this position, but he is. He did his part. Now it's time for somebody else to do their part and set him up.''
Curt Schilling tells the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jim Salisbury that, if he goes somewhere, the Phillies would be his first choice.
Friday, November 14
Yankees re-sign pitchingcoach Mel Stottlemyre in part as a way to recruit Pettitte. Stottlemyre says, “There is no question I would love to have Andy Pettitte back on my staff again for another year.”
Jayson Stark reports that the Astros are trying to act serious, but conventional wisdom says the Astros won't be able to overcome a rumored 4yr/$52m deal the Yankees are preparing. One NL executive tells Stark that he thinks the Astros are posturing to appease the fan base after trading Billy Wagner. Stark: "As the Pettitte rumors have hogged the headlines, though, the Astros have seemed much more intent on adding set-up men. They've been in hard on Chad Fox and Mike Timlin, to name two. And in the meantime, they've also been exploring the possibility of re-signing Brad Ausmus if he'll take a one-year deal.”
The Diamondbacks indicate that they're willing to trade Curt Schilling. Schilling tells Jayson Stark, "I'm not going to be in Arizona beyond this year, and I know that. So when I'm asked by my owner, 'Would you go to the Yankees?' what are my choices, really?...There are two teams the Diamondbacks know I'll talk with...that's the Yankees and the Phillies. Other than that, there are no hidden factors, no hidden agendas." Stark says Arizona wants Nick Johnson, Alfonso Soriano, another prospect, and $16m in deferred money due Schilling.
Randy Hendricks tells Stark that Roger Clemens "considers himself retired," but filed for free agency under the theory of "You never know."
The Red Sox re-sign Mike Timlin to a one-year deal for $2.5m with a vesting option for 2005 at $2.75m. Pedro Martinez, on a conference call with the media, says (1) he has called Manny Ramirez, but Manny hasn't called back and (2) "Boston is going to dictate whether I go or I stay."
The Twins trade catcher A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants for Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano, with the expectation that 2001 #1 overall pick Joe Mauer is ready to take over at catcher for the Twins.
Sunday, November 16
John Hart tells the Fort Worth Star-Telegram "at least three teams" have expressed interest in trading for Alex Rodriguez, but he still doesn't expect to complete a trade.
Monday, November 17
Alex Rodriguez, twice an MVP runner-up, wins his first American League MVP award. Jorge Posada comes in 3rd; David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Nomar Garciaparra come in 5th, 6th, and 7th, respectively. Rodriguez admits he has thought about a trade with "three or four teams," but he did not approach the Rangers, the Rangers approached him. The Star-Telegram reports that Rodriguez hasn't returned manager Buck Showalter's calls and is mad about the firing of a clubhouse attendant. GM John Hart says the Rangers "had some conversations with some clubs early on in the winter; but none the last several weeks."
The Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers ridicules the Brewers and their board of directors calling for a 2004 payroll of $30m. "So who are you going to blame?" asks Rogers, "Commissioner Bud Selig? That's easy. Wendy Selig-Thurm? Ditto."
Tuesday, November 18
Pettitte meets with Drayton and Hunsicker. Hunsicker tells the AP: “We've got a very talented young pitching staff that is lacking a veteran presence to act as a role model. I really believe that is singularly the most important thing we can do for the club to get up to the next level. I think he would provide the leadership that we're looking for to help these young pitchers…It was basically a meeting to get to know each other a little better and ultimately decide if this is something both sides want to think about. We're certainly interested in the possibility of Andy becoming an Astro and, hopefully, they are, too." Hunsicker admits there's a long way to go before any deal is made, but he tells Tyler Kepner, “If we weren’t seriously interested, we wouldn’t have taken this step.”
Hunsicker tells Alyson Footer, "We gained insight as to who Andy Pettitte is as a person, what his concerns and goals are. I believe everybody left the meeting feeling good about things. We'll digest what happened today and go from there."
The Red Sox, "who have battled the Yankees in pursuit of pitching since last year," have also checked in with the Hendricks brothers on Pettitte. Boston general manager Theo Epstein declined comment.
"Multiple media outlets" report that Terry Francona is the leading candidate to manage the Red Sox.
Wednesday, November 19
ESPN reports that the Angels - one year removed from their World Series - are interested in Pettitte, too.
The Red Sox have "zeroed in on Terry Francona as a top candidate" and who has come in for a second interview for their managerial position, admit that they are considering former Astros manager Larry Dierker as an additional option. Red Sox president Larry Lucchino says Dierker "is under consideration." Boston's senior baseball advisor, Bill James, when asked who blended new-school and old-school baseball approaches, says he doesn't want to influence the team's managerial search, offers a name: "Larry Dierker is perhaps the most obvious example of somebody who has successfully blended the two. But this in no way should be taken to imply that I'm pushing Larry for the job or anything [else]. I am certainly not."
About adding Alex Rodriguez to the Red Sox, "an industry source" says "It's very, very unlikely to happen," and that the Red Sox have spoken to the Rangers but they "have yet to find anything close to a fit."
The Mariners sign outfielder Raul Ibanez to a three-year deal.
Thursday, November 20
The AP reports that Pettitte and his agents Alan and Randy Hendricks have met with both Drayton McLane and Hunsicker. Though the Astros haven't made an official offer "they believe they can persuade him to leave the Yankees.”
Boston.com says that the Red Sox went in to the offseason with a top priority of finding free agent starters and are interested in both Pettitte and Kelvim Escobar. “Trying to fulfill one of the top offseason priorities, the Sox maintain interest in a number of free agent starters, including Yankee lefty Andy Pettitte and Toronto righty Kelvim Escobar. The chances of signing Pettitte are remote, but Escobar remains a possibility.”
The Red Sox contact the Mariners to interview manager Bob Melvin about the open managerial position. The Mariners aren't "interested in the slightest" about Melvin leaving Seattle.
Friday, November 21
Derek Jeter will not need surgery on his injured thumb. The Angels have agreed in principle with RHP Kelvim Escobar to a three-year, $18.75m deal. The Red Sox wouldn't go over three years and $15m, while Toronto wouldn't give Escobar had offered two years and $10m.
Saturday, November 22
Cashman says the Yankees have made an offer to only one player: Andy Pettitte. “It was more of a get-started-on-negotiations offer, but we really haven’t made anything else.” Cashman hasn’t even heard from the Hendricks’ brothers: “I know, at their request, they wanted to go out and see what his market value is, and they’d get back to us. I’m confident about that. But as far as actually retaining him, whether he takes less to go somewhere else or more to go somewhere else or takes our offer, the whole spectrum is possible.” Cashman says the Hendricks were told that the Yankees would improve their initial offer. Kepner says Pettitte has met with the Astros, and the Red Sox and Phillies have also inquired about him.
Nomar Garciaparra marries soccer star Mia Hamm in a private ceremony in Santa Barbara, California.
Sunday, November 23
The St. Petersburg Times' Tom Jones says Pettitte will go to Houston if he doesn’t sign with New York.
The Dallas Morning-News reports that A-Rod, who has seven years and $179m on his deal with the Rangers, will accept a trade to either the Yankees or Red Sox.
David Wells' agent says that the Red Sox have not asked about the pitcher. And "Barring a great offer," Nick Cafardo writes, the Red Sox' best bet for Casey Fossum is to rehab his injury and bring him back in the bullpen. Cafardo also writes that the Astros are among a handful of teams interested in lefty reliever Sterling Hitchcock.
Diamondbacks officials tell Schilling at a fund-raising event that a deal with Boston is "imminent" for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge De La Rosa, and Brandon Goss.
A-Rod's agent, Scott Boras, tells Tyler Kepner, "We're way ahead of schedule as to whether teams are going to get serious at looking at Alex Rodriguez. A month from now, we may be staring at something that looks different."
Monday, November 24
Curt Schiling confirms, while on the front lawn of his house with his kids and dogs playing behind him, that top Boston brass are on their way to Paradise Valley, Arizona to explore a trade. The AP reports that Arizona and Boston have a tentative deal in place, but he and his wife Shonda will "make a decision that we're happy with." Friend, neighbor, and teammate Randy Johnson drives by in a pick-up truck and yells at him, "You're blocking the street!"
Schilling says any trade isn't about just money, "I'm going to make more money on top of money I'm already not going to spend. So the issues are all personal. Any deal between Arizona and Boston has a Friday (November 28) deadline, but the tentative agreement is Schilling for Casey Fossum and three other players. He says that Francona, his former manager in Philadelphia, is "the reason" he'd be interested in accepting a trade to Boston, "My understanding was he was nearly a slam dunk for the Red Sox." A wire report says Schilling indicated that he won't leave Arizona without an extension.
A WFAN report says that there could be a three-team deal between Boston, Arizona, and Milwaukee, with the Brewers' Richie Sexson going to Arizona, Fossum and three players to Milwaukee, and Schilling to Boston.
Kelvim Escobar, rumored to be a Red Sox off-season target, signs a deal with the Angels for three years and $18m.
The Red Sox interview Rangers first-base coach DeMarlo Hale for their managerial position. The Red Sox, while interested in Dierker, have not yet scheduled an interview.
Tuesday, November 25
Randy and Alan Hendricks meet with Drayton McLane and Gerry Hunsicker again in Houston in advance of Drayton's planned December trip to Poland. Houston's KRIV says the Astros have offered Pettitte a three-year contract. Drayton says, "For Andy Pettitte to come to Houston, he wants to understand more about the team we are going to have next year and future years going down the road. This was more of an overall general discussion not only about him being a Houston Astro but how our team is going to develop the next several years."
Terry Francona - a friend of Schilling's - takes a physical Tuesday night as part of the standard process of interviewing to be Boston's new manager, after the firing of Grady Little.
Theo Epstein spends the day "schmoozing" former A's closer Keith Foulke in Boston, a day after taking Foulke to a Celtics game. Of moving from Arizona and Randy Johnson to Boston and Pedro Martinez, Schilling says, "From one Hall of Famer to a potential Hall of Famer."
Wednesday, November 26
Theo Epstein walks out of Schilling's house on Wednesday night declining to acknowledge whether he had been successful in persuading Schilling to accept a deal to go to Boston. Epstein checks into a Phoenix hotel and plans to stay until the (Selig-imposed) 5pm Friday deadline for Schilling to approve a deal. GM Joe Garagiola says, "No, I didn't hear anything," but expects it to go down to the deadline. Typically there's a 72-hour window to negotiate a deal with a player with a no-trade clause, but both sides request - and receive - an extra 24 hours to finalize a deal, meaning the deadline is now Saturday at 5pm Eastern. Trading for Schilling, the AP says, "would represent a major coup" for Epstein, because the Yankees wanted Schilling to replace Roger Clemens, and Schilling said he would only approve a trade to Philly or New York.
Schilling confirms that meetings with the Red Sox lasted "four or five hours" over two meetings at his home, he wants to make a decision by Friday "out of respect" for the amount of work the Red Sox put into courting him. Arizona would like the financial flexibility to acquire Richie Sexson.
Sean McAdam reports that if the Red Sox can't get rid of Manny, there's no way they can afford A-Rod. Even the Yankees can't give the Rangers what they want: pitching. "In terms of stockpiled talent, neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees can offer much of what the Rangers need most -- young pitching...Perhaps with some prodding, Jeter could move to second, replacing Soriano and giving the Yankees the most expensive and talented double-play combination in the history of the game. He's always said he would do what's best for the Yankees, but it's doubtful he anticipated that would include vacating his position -- and stature as No. 1 Yankee -- for someone who has been so dismissive of him."
Thursday, November 27
Drayton McLane says that the Yankees are "in the driver's seat" for Pettitte, as he wants to keep payroll under $75m. ESPN agrees, saying that the Yankees or Red Sox are Pettitte's likely destination.
If the Red Sox sign Schilling, Hal Bodley writes, "they'll be able to do something they couldn't do in October: Beat the New York Yankees."
Pedro Martinez tells the AP in Santo Domingo that, "In Schilling, Derek Lowe, and me in the rotation, it would be tough on our rivals."
Friday, November 28
Very early Friday morning (2:35am Pacific Time), Schilling writes a letter to Red Sox fans on the Red Sox' website, which he had hoped to post on the Sons of Sam Horn website, that read in part (all sic'ed), "I honestly cannot tell you one way or the other if there will be an agreement at this point, alot of issues have been resolved, but some are still out there to potentially be resolved. I don't believe either side has laid a 'deal breaker' on the table, but having said that there are still some issues in front of us that could preclude a deal getting completed. If this does not happen I can assure you that it will not be for lack of effort from either party."
Later that day, Curt Schilling waives his no-trade clause in a deal that will send him to Boston in exchange for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge De La Rosa, and Brandon Goss. During the GM meetings in mid-November, Schilling - whose son's name is Gehrig - was thought to be headed to New York. The New York Times' Rafael Hermoso says that Cashman rejected the deal as Arizona wanted Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson. Sports Illustrated says the Yankees have no choice but to counter the move by re-signing Pettitte.
Buster Olney writes: "Assuming that the Yankees sign Andy Pettitte, the left-hander will be a leader in the rotation that also includes Mike Mussina and a whole lot of question marks. Jon Lieber is coming back from injury after missing the entire 2003 season and may or may not help. Jose Contreras has proven he might be a good major-league pitcher. Jeff Weaver has a great arm, but might be finished emotionally in New York."
George Steinbrenner, attending the Tampa Bay Lightning game, has no comment in regards to the Red Sox signing Schilling.
Saturday, November 29
The Yankees counter the Red Sox move by "virtually agreeing" to terms with Tampa native and Dwight Gooden's nephew Gary Sheffield that will pay him $38-40m with three years guaranteed and an option for a fourth year.
Schilling holds a press conference saying, "I just know that I am looking forward to having a ball in my hand whether it be Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium and pitching in that first game as a Red Sox against the Yankees." Regarding the open managerial search, Schilling says of Francona, "He's not the manager yet, but during the process of the negotiations, I became more than comfortable with their criteria for selecting a manager...I want to be part of bringing the first World Series in modern history to Boston. I guess I hate the Yankees now."
Sunday, November 30
Nick Cafardo reports that the two best offers for Pettitte have come from the Astros and Red Sox. The AP's Ronald Blum says that the Yankees' negotiations with Pettitte would intensify over the next week, and re-signing Pettitte is the Yankees' top priority, but nothing has been finalized with Gary Sheffield.
The AP writes that, "the Red Sox have what could be baseball's best rotation to go with the record-setting offense that helped them win a wild-card berth in 2003 and advance to the AL championship series against the Yankees. It was there, in the seventh game, that they found themselves a pitcher short," and that, by losing out on Schilling, the Yankees could increase their efforts to sign Pettitte.
USA Today's Ian O'Connor writes that the opening scenes of the Schilling drama has its roots in a hatred between Arizona GM Jerry Colangelo and George Steinbrenner, from Buck Showalter in 1995, Bernie Williams in 1997, and David Wells in 2001. Colangelo said of the deal with Boston, "(Schilling) will be a king and a hero if they can win a World Series in Boston."
Red Sox owner John Henry says, "We're still hopeful that Mr. Foulke will choose Boston as Curt did." The Boston Globe's Bob Hohler writes of the escalating war between Boston and New York, "The Yankees were poised to respond by stepping up their pursuit of Andy Pettitte and perhaps Bartolo Colon, even as they planned to make a major investment in free agent right fielder Gary Sheffield."
Alex Rodriguez, after six weeks, calls Rangers manager Buck Showalter. "I had been out of town and on vacation," A-Rod says, "It was more of a timing thing, not out of disrespect. I called him back and we spoke. It was a polite, respectful conversation." The Rangers have listened to offers, but nothing has gotten past preliminary talks.
Pedro Martinez tells reporters in Santo Domingo regarding his contract situation and says, "For me it would be a pleasure to negotiate with Boston...obviously we are a better team with Schilling."
Monday, December 1
Arizona and Milwaukee complete a trade that sends Richie Sexson, Shane Nance, and Noochie Varner to Arizona for Chris Capuano, Craig Counsell, Jorge De La Rosa, Chad Moeller, Lyle Overbay and Junior Spivey. The trade had to wait on Curt Schilling passing a physical, since De La Rosa was sent from Boston to Arizona in the Schilling trade.
The Yankees agree to a two-year deal with Tom Gordon, and agree to terms with Enrique Wilson and Aaron Boone. Sheffield meets with Steinbrenner in Tampa again and reportedly accepts - but doesn't finalize - a three-year, $38m deal with Steinbrenner.
Joe Maddon says he last talked with the Red Sox on November 21, but the Schilling deal "kind of put everything on hold." Even though Schilling praised Francona, Maddon says, "I can't even imagine, based on the discussions I've had with those people, that they would let anything influence them from the outside." The Boston Herald reports Francona "appears set" to become the next manager of the Red Sox, but the announcement won't come until later in the week. The Herald also reports that Francona will keep many coaches from Grady Little's regime, but may also hire Tim Raines and Expos coach Brad Mills.
Tuesday, December 2
Yankees pitcher David Wells has back surgery, and the Yankees refuse to pick up his option for 2004 because of it. Buster Olney speculates that Pettitte is headed back to New York's rotation for 2004 and beyond. The Yankees continue to talk with Pettitte and his agents.
A decision regarding Terry Francona is expected within "a few days."
Thursday, December 4
Faced with the possibility of losing Pettitte, Clemens, and Wells, the Yankees send Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate to Montreal for Javier Vazquez. Theo Epstein says, "I didn't think they were going to sit there and stand pat."
Jayson Stark says that, while the Yankees sound confident they'll re-sign Pettitte, officials from two other clubs think Pettitte will ultimately land in Houston. One executive, on Pettitte:
"This guy has already made a ton of money. And he's family guy. He's not a New York guy. He's done the New York thing and done it very well. But my feeling is, if three for $30 million is there from Houston, he'll take it."
Newsday reports that the Red Sox offered Pettitte four years and $54m to come to Boston before acquiring Schilling. USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that the Yankees expect to re-sign Pettite to a four-year contract "within the week." Meanwhile Philadelphia GM Ed Wade confirms that he has spoken to the Hendricks brothers about bringing Pettitte to the Phillies.
Boston announces the hiring of new manager Terry Francona. When asked about any possible influence exerted by Schilling, Francona jokes, "I think Schill just wants to pitch Opening Day. I love Schill, I don't think he's responsible for getting me the job."
Bob Klapisch writes that Steinbrenner was "absolutely livid" that Boston acquired Schilling for a far weaker package than what Arizona was asking of the Yankees. "Despite what Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo claims to the contrary, The Boss remains convinced" that Arizona treated the Schilling deal as payback to New York. In 2002, Wells had a verbal agreement with the Diamondbacks for a two-year deal before Steinbrenner convinced him to come to New York.
The New York Times reports that the Mets have offered a multi-year contract to Japanese shortstop Kazuo Matsui, assuring him that Jose Reyes will move to Second Base if Matsui accepts. Rafael Hermoso's report indicates that Steinbrenner may make a move on Matsui to prevent the Mets from making headlines. Matsui's agent, Arn Tellem, negotiated deals that sent Hideki Matsui and Mike Mussina to the Yankees, who outbid the Mets for both.
Barry Bonds and Benito Santiago appear before a grand jury in San Francisco focusing on possible tax and drug violations by a Bay Area lab called the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Santiago's attorney is worried about players being ostracized simply by appearing before the grand jury, "My only concern is that there seems to be almost an undercurrent that stigmatizes these guys, which I think is inappropriate." The AP says the two targets of the grand jury are BALCO founder Victor Conte and Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer.
Friday, December 5
Tyler Kepner says that the Yankees and Pettitte are in contract talks and "will top any Houston offer." Kepner says the Yankees won't go after Bartolo Colon until they find out Pettitte's decision. Sports Illustrated's John Donovan says Pettitte's departure for Houston is a "long-shot."
The New York Times' Pete Thamel and Tyler Kepner reference a Dallas Morning-News report that indicates the Rangers are "warming" to a Rodriguez/Ramirez trade, but want Boston to assume part of Manny's salary - which the Red Sox are not willing to do.
The AP's Ronald Blum reports that Manny's agent Jeff Moorad, says, "There seems to be a focus that often leads to successful deals," though nothing is imminent. If the Red Sox can acquire A-Rod, the Dodgers and Angels are interested in dealing for current Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. Red Sox Team President Larry Lucchino says that all rumors are coming from Texas, and the Red Sox "aren't going to have to comment on any of them." Rangers GM John Hart wants a decision on an A-Rod trade by the end of the Winter Meetings on December 16. MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Sandy Alderson confirms Selig gave permission to Henry to speak with Rodriguez, who is a player under contract.
Oakland GM BillyBeane tells USA Today's Hal Bodley that it's unrealistic to think that Oakland will be able to keep all of their free agents, which includes closer Keith Foulke and shortstop Miguel Tejada.
Saturday, December 6
The Yankees' "top priority" is still to re-sign Pettitte to a long-term deal, reports Tyler Kepner. In an email to Kepner, Randy Hendricks writes, "I continue to talk to the Yankees about Andy. I have said that I believe that Andy should be signed by the end of the winter meetings. That has always been an estimate, and the operative words in that estimate have been 'by the end.' But nothing will happen any earlier than sometime into next week."
An AP report says that Pettitte has decided to leave the Yankees to sign with the Astros, and Newsday says the Astros will announce the deal on December 11. The report says that the Yankees offered three years/$39 million for Pettitte, $3m better than the Astros' offer. An anonymous MLB executive said that the Yankees are working on a deal with the Dodgers that would send Kevin Brown to New York for Jeff Weaver.
The Boston Herald cites unidentified sources that Red Sox owner has spoken to Alex Rodriguez in a "get-acquainted meeting," but John Hart says "This has been a lot built up over very little." Nomar's agent, Arn Tellem, tells the Boston Globe that these talks between the Red Sox and A-Rod are "a slap in the face" to Nomar.
Theo Epstein releases a statement regarding the swirling trade rumors, "We appreciate the inquiries and interest today, but we try to adhere to a policy of not commenting on trade rumors. We respectfully cannot participate in the process of confirming or refuting trade rumors."
Sunday, December 7
The Yankees offer Pettitte arbitration for 2004, though the two sides are "far apart" in their negotiations. The New York Daily News says Pettitte is to decide between Houston and New York "soon," but the Astros are clear about their offer of three years/$30m.
San Diego GM Kevin Towers says of the Boston/New York rivalry, "We're all kind of sitting here eating popcorn and drinking sodas, watching it." The Yankees have "zeroed in" on signing Kenny Lofton to play centerfield, pushing Bernie Williams to be the Yankees' designated hitter.
The Yankees and Gary Sheffield are still working on a three-year, $39m deal, with the issue of deferred money serving as a sticking point.
Texas GM John Hart reiterates his desire to have a decision on A-Rod by the end of the Winter Meetings. "As long as this potentially is alive, it precludes us from having a road map of what we can do with anybody else. The sooner we have a resolvement, the better."
Meanwhile, the Mets are expected to announce a three-year, $20m deal for Kaz Matsui. The Expos - afraid he'll accept - decline arbitration to Vladimir Guerrero, allowing other teams to sign him to a new contract without losing a draft pick. The move is a surprise, since trading Javier Vazquez was seen as a cost-saving measure to re-sign Guerrero.
Monday, December 8
The Yankees and David Wells are working out a minor-league deal that will give Wells up to $7m for 2004 if he makes the major-league roster and meets physical conditioning requirements. The move is seen as a way to provide insurance for the Yankees if they are unable to re-sign Pettitte.
Nomar calls WEEI Radio in Boston from his honeymoon with Mia Hamm that a Red Sox trade for A-Rod would hurt. "I'm in a place that I've given so much of my life and so much of my effort," but denies reports that he's unhappy in Boston.
Tuesday, December 9
John Henry calls Arn Tellem's "slap in the face" remark (in regard to the Red Sox' flirtation with A-Rod) "the height of hypocrisy." Henry says the Red Sox offered Nomar a four-year, $60m contract in Spring Training and a four-year $48-52m contract in November, but Tellem rejected the offers.
Theo Epstein acknowledges that the Red Sox have spoken to the Rangers about Alex Rodriguez out of frustration in trying to sign Nomar to a long-term deal. "We have received overtures from Texas," Epstein says, "and we've had some talks, but our first priority is to sign Nomar Garciaparra to a contract." The Rangers want the Red Sox to take on $5m per year over the remainder of Manny's contract. John Henry responds, "I can't imagine that we would. I would never say never, but..."
Bartolo Colon agrees to a four-year, $51m deal with the Angels.
Wednesday, December 10
The Houston Chronicle reports that Pettitte has already passed a physical for the Astros. “The Yankees believe Pettitte would take less money to pitch for the Astros, who play near his home in the Houston area.”
Tom Pettitte tells the New York Times' Jack Curry that the Yankees didn't take advantage of their exclusive negotiating window in early November. "They keep saying Andy Pettitte is their No. 1 priority. We've been hearing that since that day we left. If 14 days goes by before you even call someone you're interested in, you're dragging your feet. That doesn't seem like a whole lot of interest to me." Tom Pettitte says Boston made a substantially greater offer to Pettitte, but Pettitte wanted to be a Yankee. "Maybe they're trying to bide their time to get rid of Andy. You never know what they're thinking...We're racking our brains trying to figure out what's going on. I'd say he's still 50-50 (between the Yankees and Astros).''
Randy Hendricks emails Tyler Kepner that there is no deal, but he expects one to be completed "in the next 24 to 48 hours."
Late Wednesday night, the Yankees make a new offer to Pettitte for three years and $39m. An AP report says that Hendricks told the Yankees to begin their offer at four years and $52m. The Yankees responded with a guaranteed two year contract worth $26m, and an option for a third year at $39m total provided Pettitte doesn't spend significant time on the disabled list in 2005.
The Bergen Record reports that Gary Sheffield has suddenly upped his contract demands from three years and $39m to three years and $42m. A furious Steinbrenner, who had a handshake deal with Sheffield, flies to New York to confer with his team. Brian Cashman speaks with Vladimir Guerrero's agent about the possibility of giving him Sheffield's deal, but Guerrero may want a six- or seven-year deal.
Thursday, December 11
The Yankees think Pettitte could now actually take less money to go to Houston. Wire reports say that Pettitte is on the verge of an agreement with Houston, but the Yankees wanted to make another offer to Randy and Alan Hendricks. Hendricks in an email: “There is no deal, I believe it will be resolved by the end of Friday (December 12)."
Tyler Kepner quotes an anonymous source who says the Yankees would need to offer Pettitte a three- or four-year contract at $15m per season to retain him.
Hal Bodley says that, for any deal with the Rangers to work, Rodriguez's contract has to be re-worked with deferrals. And in addition to the Red Sox paying some of the remaining money on Manny's contract, the Rangers also want pitching in return. "My guess," Bodley writes, "is the deal is a long shot."
The Tigers and Mariners are both interested in Oakland's Miguel Tejada.
The AP reports that Pettitte made a "gut-wrenching decision" to accept Houston's offer of three years and $31.5m (which he did late Wednesday night). "There is no doubt, part of me is broken," Pettitte says, "I'm a Yankee. That's all I know is Yankees." Steinbrenner responds by saying, "It's obvious to a lot of us from the start that he wanted to go home."
Pettitte immediately starts to work on Roger Clemens to come out of retirement and join him in Houston. "We'll see what happens. I know the media's already hit (Clemens) up on that, and if I feel there's a chance, I'll hit him up on it, too." Jeff Bagwell tells KRIV that he's shocked by Pettitte's decision, "Never in my wildest imagination did I think we really had a chance."
Pettitte credits Houston fans with convincing him, "I didn't think this would be a reality, but the fans of Houston in the past six weeks have just really embraced me. I'm a Houstonian and they've really let me know that." Pettitte says his wife was instrumental in getting him to Houston, but his father wanted him to stay with the Yankees.
Buster Olney: "By the time the Yankees tried to make a last-ditch offer, they had, in fact, helped made the decision easy for him."
Gary Sheffield and Jason and Jeremy Giambi are among a number of athletes testifying before a Grand Jury in San Francisco about their involvement with BALCO.
Friday, December 12
Pettitte tells Tyler Kepner on December 12 that he had made up his mind about signing with Houston on Wednesday. "It really wouldn't have mattered how much they could have offered. My mind was already made up, and I felt I gave the Astros my word."
Gerry Hunsicker says, "I don't think any of us thought this was more than a pipe dream. Certainly we weren't in a position to compete financially with the Yankees. I just figured that somebody that had spent so much time with a storied franchise and the success he had with the Yankees would be working against us."
New York Times' Dave Anderson says that the Yankees would have accepted the Hunsickers' offer of four years and $52m if Pettitte was choosing between Boston and New York, not Houston. Anderson says, "Steinbrenner has made some blunders, and this may be his biggest."
The Texas/Boston trade has stalled, and Sean McAdam puts it on Rangers owner Tom Hicks, "the Red Sox aren't about to extend themselves further than they should financially, regardless of their interest in Rodriguez. Though Hicks has been inflexible, he needs this deal more than Boston."
On the opening day of the Winter Meetings in New Orleans, the Yankees agree to trade Jeff Weaver, Yhency Branovan and future Oklahoma State/Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden and $3m to the Dodgers for 39-year old pitcher Kevin Brown. And the Yankees are "moving in" on Vladimir Guerrero while keeping Gary Sheffield at a distance.
"Furious at the blistering he's taking in the New York media" for letting Pettitte slip away, it's rumored that Steinbrenner wants to make a move on free agent Miguel Tejada and move him to second base.
Jayson Stark says that the possibility of Clemens coming out of retirement to pitch for Houston is "a real possibility." Drayton McLane is "openly discussing finding a way to add Clemens" to the roster, but Stark questions Drayton's payroll flexibility since the Astros are already over-budget.
Roger Clemens jokes with Dean & Rog on 93.7 FM that he might have to return the H2 Hummer the Yankees gave him as a retirement gift, if he was to come out of retirement. An hour later Lee DeMontrond drives a 2004 burnt orange Hummer to Clemens' house and says he can keep it if he makes a decision by Monday morning. Clemens says he's going to play golf with Bagwell, and Pettitte has been recruiting him, but he "never expected Andy to be here. This definitely puts a different spin on things."
Saturday, December 13
Keith Foulke and Boston agree on a three-year, $24m deal with an option for a fourth year.
Tom Hicks tells the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he's slowing down on the A-Rod deal with Boston, and the two clubs will pick up early next week. "Both clubs are going to work on other things right now. It's not on the front burner." Talks between the Red Sox and Nomar's agent Arn Tellem are expected to intensify over the weekend.
"Low-level speculation" indicates that Roger Clemens could come out of retirement to join Pettitte in Houston.
The New York Daily News quotes an unnamed Yankees source who is "livid" about the possibility of Clemens joining Pettitte in Houston. The official rants, "This all goes to prove this whole thing by Andy and the Hendricks brothers was a ruse. They intended to go to Houston all along. The Hendrickses were on the stadium committee there, they're all from Houston, and we're made to look like the bad guys here when they never had any intention of staying."
Randy Hendricks responds in an email, "All along I believed the Yankees underestimated the importance of Andy Pettitte in the eyes of the fans, as well as his gritty contribution to the team. I believe the Yankees more highly valued Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez than Andy....Roger always said he was 99 percent retired. With Andy on the Astros, Roger might pitch one more year, but it is a real long shot. The Houston area, though, is going crazy with excitement over Andy and the prospect of Roger pitching for the Astros. Roger has always considered playing for the Astros...Now that one of his best friends has signed with the Astros, it's only logical that Roger be tempted. Time will tell on this."
An AP report says Clemens is expected to decide "sometime in January" about signing with the Astros.
Sunday, December 14
Gordon Edes refers to Alex Rodriguez as Boston's "shortstop-in-waiting," though the economics of restructuring A-Rod's deal in order to fit the Red Sox' budget - primarily the language in A-Rod's contract that says he can opt out of his deal after 2007 and void the last three years of his 10-year deal (at $27m each) - may prove problematic in that the MLBPA might not allow him to do so as it sets the dangerous precedent of a player taking less money than was negotiated as an incentive to steer the player to competitive teams.
Baltimore signs Miguel Tejada to a six-year $72m deal. George Steinbrenner exercises the option on Brian Cashman's contract for 2005. And in Puerto Rico David Ortiz predicts that, if A-Rod and Manny are not traded, "it's going to get ugly."
Monday, December 15
Drayton McLane tells the Associated Press that he would be interested in opening discussions with Roger Clemens. "The first thing that has to happen is Roger has to decide if he wants to play next season. And if he does, we'd set up a meeting."
Jeff Moorad - Manny's agent - says Manny is comfortable finishing his career in Boston and would not hold a grudge with the Red Sox for dangling him over the off-season. The Tejada deal sets a baseline for any negotiations with Nomar, but Arn Tellem says contract talks have not yet begun.
Tuesday, December 16
MLBPA Deputy Union Chief Gene Orza confirms that he met with both A-Rod and Epstein in New York. An anonymous MLB official says Selig has granted a 72-hour window for the Red Sox and Rodriguez to restructure his contract. Both Tom Hicks and Larry Lucchino decline to comment.
Gordon Edes writes that the Manny/A-Rod trade is "on the verge of being completed," perhaps by the end of the week and no later than Christmas. Long-term negotiations between Boston and Nomar have been broken off as his agent, Arn Tellem, flies back to California convinced that the Red Sox are about to acquire Rodriguez. Sources confirm that the Red Sox and Dodgers have held talks about a trade for Nomar for 19-year old pitching prospect Greg Miller and maybe one other, and both would be sent to Texas with Manny for A-Rod. The other sticking point is A-Rod's contract. "Industry sources" tell Edes that Boston might offer A-Rod a contract extension in exchange for A-Rod voiding the final two years of his three-year opt-out clause that would provide a larger total payout, but reduce the average annual value of the last two seasons. The MLBPA would balk at the deal if the Red Sox offer A-Rod a three-year extension for $50m, because it's less than the $54m they would owe him under his current deal.
When Theo Epstein is told that the Yankees would make a "splashy move" if the Red Sox get A-Rod, Epstein responds, "God bless 'em." In a speech to the Boston Archdiocese, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley jokes (maybe) with priests, "I know that I let you down because the Red Sox lost the pennant."
Wednesday, December 17
Dodgers GM Dan Evans declines to comment on any possible deal with Nomar and Boston. "I will say we've made a lot of phone calls the last few days following up on things we discussed at the winter meetings.""
Gary Sheffield gets a three-year $43.5m guaranteed deal with an option for a fourth year and deferred payments through 2019 from New York. Joe Torre tells reporters regarding Pettitte, "The longer it went, the less chance he was going to be here...(Pettitte) didn't need for me to tell him, 'I want you to come back.' Andy's a very caring person, and I didn't want to put any more strain on him than I'm sure he was experiencing from home and from inside himself."
Thursday, December 18
The 5pm deadline for negotiating A-Rod's contract restructuring comes and goes without a deal and Larry Lucchino says "The proposed trade is dead The Players Association's intransigence and the arbitrary nature of its action are responsible for the deal's demise today." The Red Sox and Rangers had agreed in principle on the players in the deal, but MLBPA official Gene Orza said the two sides were "more than $20m" apart from an acceptable figure." MLB President/COO Bob DuPuy says, "It's unfortunate that the Players Association felt it necessary to take a legal position which prevented the player and at least two teams from effectuating an agreement that they felt was beneficial." Another report says that, were the deal to take place, the Red Sox would have sent Nomar to the Chicago White Sox for Magglio Ordonez.
Friday, December 19
Jack Curry says the Red Sox could still trade for A-Rod without restructuring his contract, but seeing as how they've shown no interest in doing so in the past, it likely won't happen. John Hart tells the Associated Press that Tom Hicks might contact Boston again, but Selig might not be willing to open another negotiating window. Scott Boras doesn't seem fazed by the MLBPA or Lucchino's announcement.
One Red Sox management source tells the Boston Globe that, "It would be almost impossible, almost horrible, for everyone to go home without a deal. But the other fundamental involved is this circle in which Gene Orza is a huge problem, and every time the Red Sox pick up a dollar, Hicks thinks he gets it...Alex was prepared to take less money," the management source said, "because it was a benefit to him to have the right to pick where he wanted to work." Gordon Edes reports that Bud Selig is "still steaming at the union for not OK'ing the original restructuring deal made by Rodriguez and the Red Sox, and that litigation by Major League Baseball was still a possibility."
The Steve Bartman ball is auctioned off for $106,000 by Chicago attorney and managing partner of Harry Caray's Restaurant Group, who will destroy the ball on February 26, 2004.
Tuesday, December 23
The Diamondbacks sign Shane Reynolds and Steve Sparks to one-year contracts. Kenny Lofton signs with the Yankees for two years and $6.2m.
Wednesday, December 24
The Yankees have to pay MLB $11.82m by January 31 to cover their luxury tax bill.
Thursday, December 25
The Yankees will have to contribute almost $49m to revenue sharing.
Saturday, December 27
Former 10-year Major Leaguer Ivan Calderon, who played with the Mariners, White Sox, Red Sox, and Expos, is shot and killed in Loiza, Puerto Rico.
George Steinbrenner faints at a church service in Sarasota celebrating the life of football great Otto Graham and is taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.
Monday, December 29
Lance Armstrong - winner of the 2003 Tour De France, his sixth in a row - beats out Barry Bonds for the Associated Press Athlete of the Year award.
Wednesday, December 31
After deciding they can't afford Greg Maddux, the Padres and former Yankees pitcher David Wells agree to a one-year deal for $1.25m guaranteed, and $7m if certain performance bonuses and incentives are met. The Yankees had offered Wells a minor-league deal worth $3m (with $7m total available in performance bonuses), but the deal would have required Wells to make the team out of Spring Training. Brian Cashman tells the AP, "This can happen when you're negotiating with David."
Monday, January 5, 2004
Javier Vazquez and the Yankees agree to a four-year, $45m extension. The Yankees will head into the 2004 season with a rotation of Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, Jose Contreras, Jon Lieber, and Javier Vazquez. Elias notes that the Yankees haven't won their division with an all-RHP rotation since 1947. Cashman says, "There are very few quality left-handers out there," and indicates that the Yankees will try to re-sign Alfonso Soriano to a one-year contract.
Angels pitcher Derrick Turnbow is the first Major-Leaguer publicly identified as testing positive for steroids.
Friday, January 9
Tyler Kepner talks to Gerry Hunsicker on the phone, who says regarding Clemens, "From the fact that there has been som dialogue with regard to a contract structure, you certainly can draw the conclusion that there appears to be growing interest on their part....Obviously, he has been tempted, but that is a far cry from deciding to play." Clemens is expected to decide sometime in January.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Drayton McLane has given the financial parameters for a one-year contract to Clemens. Randy Hendricks says, "Drayton has made it clear he wants to sign Roger, and we have discussed financial parameters."
Sunday, January 11
Vladimir Guerrero flies to southern California for a final check-up on his back, which cost Vlad 40 games in 2003 thanks to his herniated disc, before accepting a deal with the Angels, the New York Times reports. The Angels, whose interest was only clear the night before, outbid the Mets and Orioles. Guerrero would join off-season acquisitions Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar, and Jose Guillen under new owner Arte Moreno.
Monday, January 12
Roger Clemens agrees to a one-year, $5m contract with the Houston Astros, with $3.5m of his salary being deferred for two years. "I took to heart what Wayne Gretzky told me," Clemens says, "and Michael Jordan and Emmitt Smith and even Johnny Bench: It's great to come home."
The Yankees have internal conversations not to engage with public griping about Clemens' decision. Executives "specifically urged George Steinbrenner not to lash out - advice that, for once, he accepted." Bob Klapisch speculates that the Yankees "ignited the engine of Clemens' return by letting Pettitte leave."
Brian Cashman tells Buster Olney, "I wish him the best of luck...I am surprised. It was always communicated he wanted to go out a Yankee. But people have the right to change their mind. We weren't allowed to be a part of the process, for whatever reason. But I'm not going to dwell on this." George Steinbrenner says, "He told the world he was retiring, and we had no choice but to believe him."
Gerry Hunsicker says, "Throughout history, this franchise always has been looked on as the underdog," and Clemens says, "I wouldn't be here if I didn't think this team had a great chance of winning."
Jeff Bagwell says, "It's not that I'm not always ready, but this could be our best shot. I'm going to be in the best shape I can to be ready."
Boston Team President Larry Lucchino signs an extension to remain with the team through 2011.
Tuesday, January 13
A headline on the back page of the New York Post screams about Clemens, "What an Asstro!" Clemens tells Michael Kay that he still considers himself a Yankee, "I had no intentions of playing. Then when Andy signed, that's when everything changed. If Andy Pettitte was a Yankee, I'd still be retired."
Murray Chass laments in the New York Times that, "Never in the 31-year ownership reign of George Steinbrenner have the Yankees suffered the embarrassment that the Houston Astros inflicted on them in the past month, with the theft of Andy Pettitte now being followed by the luring of Roger Clemens out of his short-lived retirement.
Mike Vaccaro writes in the New York Post, "Clemens did nothing illegal by deciding to end his retirement after 78 days. ... But we'd better not ever hear him pipe up about the pinstripes tattooed on his soul anymore, OK? We'd better not ever listen to his dream of making the Hall of Fame as a Yankee. That's over. That's done."
The New York Daily News' Mike Lupica says, "Clemens is who he is, loyal only to himself, and his family. He goes to the Astros because he decides he still wants to pitch. He just doesn't want to pitch here anymore. If you feel like he's buzzing the whole town the way he did Mike Piazza once, have at him. Just don't be surprised at what happened yesterday."
Thursday, January 15
New York's Alfonso Soriano, Houston's Roy Oswalt, Wade Miller, and Octavio Dotel are among 65 players to file for arbitration.
Bud Selig targets a deadline of the 2004 All-Star Break for the sale of the Montreal Expos. Among the cities targeted for the Expos' relocation are: Las Vegas, Monterrey, Norfolk, Northern Virginia, Portland, San Juan, and Washington, D.C.
Friday, January 16
Jayson Stark polls a number of general managers on just who has the best rotation in baseball. The answer? The Astros. One GM says, "No one else has four starters that can be classified as No. 1 or No. 2s." Another GM ominously says, "Pettitte's elbow scares me." The Yankees, Red Sox, A's, and Cubs round out the top five.
Bud Selig says that the Clemens deal is "a great thing for Houston."
Yankees' third baseman Aaron Boone injures his left knee playing basketball.
Monday, January 18
The New York Times publishes a letter to the editor from eight-year old Daniel Weston, who feels betrayed by Roger Clemens, "Maybe he would not have gone if Andy Pettitte had not left first, but Clemens still made his own decision. I would rather have him retire than go to the Astros."
Tuesday, January 19
Aaron Boone is examined by Angels' team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum, who tells the Yankees that he may have damaged his ACL. The extent of the injury will be clear when the swelling subsides. Boone's contract prohibits activities, including basketball, that raise the risk of injury. If the Yankees can void Boone's $5.75m deal for 2004, they will need a third baseman with Major-League experience, something that Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo do not have.
Tuesday, January 20
An ESPN report quotes a high-ranking official that officials for the Red Sox and Rangers are reconvening in the coming weekend to hammer out a deal for Manny Rodriguez and Alex Rodriguez. All parties involve deny the report. Theo Epstein says, "It's unfortunate that someone can fabricate a story like that and then have Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez read about it." A hoax linking to MLB.com briefly offered fans a chance to buy a replica A-Rod Red Sox jersey for $99.95.
Kansas City and outfielder Carlos Beltran agree on a one-year, $9m deal. Beltran will be a free-agent following the 2004 season.
Thursday, January 22
The Blue Jays and pitcher Roy Halladay agree to a four-year, $42m deal.
Sunday, January 25
Roger Clemens, to a chorus of cheers and boos, receives the Toast of the Town award at the annual New York chapter of the Base Ball Writers Association of America dinner. Also in attendance to pick up his American League MVP award is Alex Rodriguez, whom the Texas Rangers name captain of the team after meeting for five hours with owner Tom Hicks, general manager John Hart and manager Buck Showalter. Rodriguez says of the meeting, "I definitely think I'm going to be here for a long time. I'm probably pretty sure it'll work out for the best."
Monday, January 26
The MLBPA declares that, despite the language in Aaron Boone's contract, he was not in breach of his contract when he injured his knee, allegedly playing basketball. One MLB official points to the Braves successfully voiding Ron Gant's contract after he was injured riding his dirt bike in 1994.
Thursday, January 29
Major League Baseball approves the sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to real estate developer Frank McCourt for $430m.
Friday, January 30
Aaron Boone tells the New York Daily News that he will "definitely" be back for the Yankees in 2004. He refuses to comment on how he injured his knee - if it was in a pick-up basketball game, the Yankees could void part or all of his $5.75m contract. Cashman responds, "I can't go full-throttle trying to find a replacement (for Boone) until I know for sure what sort of time period we're talking about."
Sunday, February 1
New England beats Carolina, 32-29, in Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium.
Monday, February 2
Yankees minor-league 3B and former Michigan quarterback Drew Henson agree to part ways after three middling seasons in the minors, allowing Henson to forfeit the $12m he is owed by the Yankees to work out with the NFL team who holds his rights (in an audition for the other 31 NFL teams), the Houston Texans. The Texans drafted Henson with their 6th Round pick in 2003, but are excited about #1 overall pick David Carr.
Wednesday, February 4
39-year old Yankees catcher Joe Girardi signs a minor-league deal with the Yankees that will allow him to make $750,000 in 2004 if he wins a spot on the Opening Day roster. If he does not win the job, the Yankees will release him to work for the YES Network.
Thursday, February 5
The Rangers agree to send third baseman Mike Lamb to the Yankees for minor-league pitcher Jose Garcia. The New York Times says Lamb will be in the mix to replace Aaron Boone at third base. Lamb, once considered to be the Rangers' third baseman of the future, was beaten out of the Major-League job in 2003's Spring Training by Hank Blalock.
Friday, February 6
Theo Epstein doesn't see a situation opening up where the Red Sox and Rangers re-start trade negotiations around A-Rod. "We're basically done," Epstein says, "barring something extremely unforeseen."
A-Rod, back in Arlington, says that he's happy as a Ranger and is content with the team's direction. "I feel like we have a great plan in hand," Rodriguez says, "I feel very comfortable about where the Texas Rangers are going." He says he always felt as though he had a "better than 50-50 chance" at staying with Texas, but the trade rumors were fun: "It was like a soap opera, like a novel...it was pretty entertaining, I thought."
Monday, February 9
Mariano Rivera, in the last year of a four-year contract with the Yankees, wants to remain a Yankee, saying, "I think we can get to an agreement on an extension."
Nolan Ryan decides against signing a new personal services contract with the Rangers. "Ultimately I decided that I just could not make the necessary time commitment to have a meaningful and expanded relationship with the Texas Rangers."
Tuesday, February 10
Aaron Boone's exploratory left knee surgery is postponed due to a rash on Boone's knee. The ESPN report indicates that the Yankees and Dodgers have had trade discussions regarding Dodgers' 3B Adrian Beltre.
Friday, February 13
Gary Sheffield says of the new-look Yankees, "This is probably one of the best lineups I've ever been a part of. The guys hitting seventh, eighth, and ninth would be hitting third or fourth on normal teams."
Saturday, February 14
Confirming a report in Newsday and the New York Post, the AP's Ronald Blum quotes three high-ranking baseball officials that say the Rangers and Yankees have agreed to an outline of a deal that would send 2B Alfonso Soriano and another player to New York for Alex Rodriguez. Texas will pay $67m of the remaining $179m, leaving the Yankees with an average bill of $16m. Rodriguez would move to third base, as Derek Jeter is entrenched at shortstop. "Without going into the specifics," Brian Cashman says, "I can acknowledge trade discussions are taking place with the Texas Rangers." John Hart agrees, "We're in a very sensitive stage right now." Hart says that Hicks was reluctant to deal A-Rod to New York, but Hart was "able to make him more comfortable."
Sunday, February 15
The A-Rod/Yankees deal is "all but complete," Tyler Kepner reports, and the teams are working on administrative details. When asked about the restructuring of A-Rod's contract in the wake of the failed Boston deal, one executive involved assures Kepner, "It is not going that route again. That's been clear from the start." An executive of an unnamed team tells Kepner, "The more guys they get over there, I just see that place imploding...their payroll could probably go to $300m, and their owner wouldn't care."
Monday, February 16
The trade for Alex Rodriguez for Alfonso Soriano, cash, and a minor-league player to be named is completed. Derek Jeter and Rodriguez fly to New York together. Joe Torre basically acknowledges that A-Rod would make a better shortstop than Jeter, saying "Just because someone may have more ability and can do certain things doesn't mean you're a better team that way."
Bud Selig expresses concerns about the Yankees/Rangers trade. "I am very concerned about the large amount of cash consideration involved in the transaction and the length of time over which the cash is being paid," Selig said. "I want to make it abundantly clear to all clubs that I will not allow cash transfers of this magnitude to become the norm. However, given the unique circumstances, including the size, length and complexity of Mr. Rodriguez's contract and the quality of the talent moving in both directions, I have decided to approve the transaction."
Tom Hicks says that the deal will allow the Rangers to win a World Series quicker, thanks to the new-found financial flexibility. President George W. Bush says, "I was as surprised as anyone when I read about it. The Yankees will have one heck of a team with him in the infield."
Aaron Boone has reconstructive surgery on his left knee in California. Boone and New York will likely rework his contract for 2004.
The odds on the Yankees winning the 2004 World Series go from 9/2 in November to 5/2. The Red Sox go from 5/1 to 7/1 on winning the 2004 World Series.
Tuesday, February 17
Alex Rodriguez is introduced in New York as the Yankees' newest member and starting third baseman. Derek Jeter downplays any rift between the two after A-Rod criticized Jeter's captaincy in 2001, "Everyone wants us to not get along, but that's not the case. Our relationship is fine."
Brian Cashman denies a report from WABC-TV in New York and the Bergen (NJ) Record that the Yankees have offered a contract to pitcher Greg Maddux.
Wednesday, February 18
Red Sox owner John Henry sends an email to reporters stating that the Yankees' acquisition of A-Rod proves that baseball's economic system is "woefully out of whack." Steinbrenner responds with a statement handed to reporters at Legends Field in Tampa which reads, "We understand that John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated and disappointed by his failure in this transaction. Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston. It is understandable, but wrong that he would try to deflect the accountability for his mistakes on to others and to a system for which he voted in favor. It is time to get on with life and forget the sour grapes." Joe Torre reportedly has to bite his lip to keep from laughing, and Bud Selig speaks with both Steinbrenner and Henry to tell them to stop the public bickering.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Albert Pujols agree to a seven-year, $100m deal with an option for an 8th year that could bring the total value to $111m.
Sunday, February 22
Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte report to Spring Training in Kissimmee.
Monday, February 23
A "noticeably trimmer" Jason Giambi answers reporters questions at the Yankees' Spring Training complex in Tampa. "My weight is almost exactly the same," Giambi says, "Just cleaning it up and losing some of the excess body fat I had." Asked whether he had taken performance-enhancing drugs, Giambi responds, "Are you talking about steroids? No."
Tuesday, February 24
In Houston, Nolan Ryan signs a five-year personal services contract with the Astros. "I feel like it's a homecoming for me," Ryan says, "It's an exciting time for the Astros."
Sammy Sosa brushes aside questions regarding steroids in baseball at the Cubs' Spring Training facility in Arizona, "I really don't want to make a comment about that because we've got a beautiful team here...I don't want to make a comment because I don't have anything to talk about." Meanwhile, in Tucson, Rockies' reliever Turk Wendell says it's "clear just seeing his body" that Barry Bonds used steroids, "I mean, obviously he did it." Bonds responds in Scottsdale, "If you've got something to say, say it to my face...don't talk through the media like you're some tough guy."
Wednesday, February 25
Astros manager Jimy Williams names Roy Oswalt the 2004 Opening Day starter. "I see five aces," Oswalt says, "I know in a card deck you only get four, but I see five right now."
Thursday, February 26
The Yankees release Aaron Boone, and later that night in Chicago, attorney Grant DePorter allows Cubs fan and Oscar-winning special effects expert Michael Lantieri blow up the Steve Bartman ball on live television.