Red Sox owner says cap is needed

NEW YORK -- They haven't even broken out the balls and bats, and George Steinbrenner and the Boston Red Sox are already throwing high, hard ones at each other.

A few hours after Boston owner John Henry criticized the New York Yankees over their acquisition of Alex Rodriguez and called
for a salary cap, Steinbrenner struck back.

"We understand that John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated
and disappointed by his failure in this transaction," Steinbrenner
said in a statement Wednesday. "It is time to get on with life and
forget the sour grapes."

Spring training is just getting under way, and New York and
Boston already are at each other's throats. That first exhibition
game between them, at Fort Myers, Fla., on March 7, should have
some buzz.

Both teams spent the offseason adding stars. The Red Sox nearly
got A-Rod, too, but couldn't work out the financial aspects -- the
Yankees had no such money problems.

"There is really no other fair way to deal with a team that has
gone so insanely far beyond the resources of all the other teams,"
Henry said in an e-mail to reporters.

Responded Steinbrenner: "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," Steinbrenner said.

Commissioner Bud Selig got involved and quickly told the teams to stop the sniping.

"I've agreed and will abide by that request," Henry said.
"The anticipation about the 2004 season is at an all-time high. So
let's shift our sights to the field. Let the games begin."

By late in the day, the Yankees had the same sentiment.

"The commissioner asked us not to say anything else on this
subject, and of course, we agreed to abide by it," Yankees
spokesman Rick Cerrone said.

Steinbrenner showed up later, however, reading the Top 10 list
on the "Late Show with David Letterman" while standing at Legends
Field, the Yankees' spring training home.

And the No. 1 answer on "Good Things About Being a New York Yankee?"

"You think this A-Rod deal is good, huh -- we're about to sign
Ty Cobb," Steinbrenner read.

Before last season, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino called the
Yankees the "Evil Empire." The teams then played an epic series
of 26 games, with New York winning the pennant on Aaron Boone's
11th-inning homer in Game 7 of the AL championship series.

While New York lost to Florida in the World Series, Red Sox fans know the score remains the same. Since 1918, the Yankees have 26
World Series titles to none for Boston.

Curt Schilling, acquired by Boston in November, already is
worked up over the rivalry.

"I want to be caught up in it," he said after throwing for
about 10 minutes at the team's spring training ballpark. "The way
I've got it figured, I'm starting that first game against the
Yankees the way the rotation falls. I've known about that for two

That would be on April 16, the opener of a four-game series at
Fenway Park.

Boston nearly acquired Rodriguez, the AL MVP, in December for outfielder Manny Ramirez. But the deal collapsed, with Boston and
Texas about $15 million apart and the Red Sox and Rodriguez
separated by about $20 million.

On Monday, Texas dealt A-Rod to the Yankees for second baseman Alfonso Soriano and a minor leaguer to be named. The Rangers will assume $67 million of the $179 million in salary remaining on Rodriguez's record $252 million, 10-year contract, which has seven seasons left.

The Yankees' payroll is about $184.8 million for 25 signed
players. Boston's payroll is approximately $125.1 million for 27
signed players.

"It will suffice to say that we have a spending limit and the
Yankees apparently don't," Henry said. "Fifty-seven percent of
baseball fans polled this week by ESPN.com characterized this
week's events as 'disgusting' and 'sad.'

"There is a simple mechanism that could right a system woefully
out of whack," he said. New York, with the highest revenue in baseball, finished first in the AL East for the past six seasons, with Boston coming in second each time. Last year, the Yankees gave the rest of the major leagues about $50 million in revenue sharing and paid $12 million in luxury tax.

Henry said he was "happy" for Rodriguez, who will move to
third base because the Yankees have team captain Derek Jeter at

"He very much wanted to play in games that have meaning,"
Henry said. "We're not waving a white flag. We're going to
continue to work just as hard to bring home a championship and are
fortunate to have fans that are as uncompromising as we are when it
comes to demanding excellence."