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Remedies to help the Red Sox

In an e-mail to reporters last week, Red Sox owner John Henry wrote that the Alex Rodriguez trade has reversed his stance on a salary cap in baseball.

"It will suffice to say that we have a spending limit and the Yankees apparently don't,'' Henry wrote. "Baseball doesn't have an answer for the Yankees. Revenue sharing can only accomplish so much. At some point it becomes confiscation. It has not and it will not solve what is a very serious problem. ...

"Although I have never previously been an advocate of a salary cap in baseball out of respect for the players, there really is no other fair way to deal with a team that has gone so insanely far beyond the resources of all the other teams. There must be a way to cap what a team can spend without hurting player compensation ...''

This, mind you, from a man whose team signed a left fielder who can't field and would rather play for another team to a $160 million contract. Whose 2004 payroll is expected to be $128 million, second only to the Yankees and about as much as the Pirates, Brewers and Devil Rays combined. Who himself tried to trade for A-Rod in a deal that would have raised Boston's payroll even higher.

You wouldn't be out of line, therefore, to suggest that Henry is being a bit hypocritical here. But you also would be wrong because Henry is quite sincere about his proposed salary cap and it has absolutely nothing to do with Boston losing out on A-Rod. In fact, Heny has come up with plenty of objective ways to improve baseball's revenue disparities. Here are just a couple.

1. His proposed salary cap would be based on whatever the payroll is in Boston. Any amount above that is just way too much money. Unless, of course, the Red Sox need to add a player for the pennant run.

2. Revenue sharing, meanwhile, would apply to all teams spending less than Boston. After all, it's the teams who spend the most money who need the most help making payroll. Why do the Pirates need revenue sharing if they're just going to trade away all their expensive players anyway? Let Pittsburgh put Pedro, Manny and Nomar on the payroll and then we'll see about getting them some money.

3. To spur rivalries and fan interest, the American League will be realigned along logical geographic lines into an AL North division, an AL South and an AL West. The West will remain with the same current teams, but the North will consist of the other teams in the cities located along or north of Boston's latitude of 42, namely the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, Indians and Twins. The AL South will consist of the other teams in cities south of Boston: the Yankees, Orioles, Devil Rays, White Sox and Royals.

4. To preserve baseball's wonderful history and tradition, all stadiums must be at least 90 years old. To make games more intimate and to create a desirable scarcity of tickets, no stadium can seat more than 38,000 fans.

5. The mandatory retirement age for bench coaches is 72.

6. Teams must change owners every 31 years.

7. And in Henry's most important proposal, Tom Hicks has to run every possible trade and free agent past the rest of the league (again, alphabetical order would be the easiest method to arrange this).

Hmmmm. On second thought, perhaps Henry is being hypocritical. The Yankees may be the Evil Empire but the Red Sox are hardly a small-market team in need of a change in baseball's finances.

Henry is frustrated about his arch-rival getting the league's best player but he should remember he's the one who started all this by attempting to trade for A-Rod three months ago. He's the one who originated the tradition of negotiating for an All-Star shortstop with a $252 million contract when you already had an All-Star shortstop on your roster. And he could have had Rodriguez, too, if only they hadn't been quite so tight with his own considerable resources.

Yes, it's a shame for every other team in the league that the Yankees just got better. But Henry and the Red Sox only got what they deserved.

Lies, damn lies and statistics
When A-Rod signed with the Rangers for $252 million four years ago, he said, "Hopefully, when it's over, they won't be calling Mr. Hicks a fool, but the wisest man in baseball." Hmmmm. In the end, Hicks will pay A-Rod $140 million to have played three seasons for him. That works out to $46 million per season and the Rangers finished in last place each year, averaging 33 games out of first place. No, I don't think we'll be calling Hicks the wisest man in baseball. ... In other financial news, the Yankees payroll (counting A-Rod's entire salary, $3 million of which the wise Mr. Hicks will pay) is estimated to be $190 million to $200 million. It cost a combined $196 million for the Diamondbacks, Angels and Marlins to win the last three World Series, with each championship costing less than the previous one. ... Red Sox "Superfan'' Ben Affleck made more for making "Gigli'' ($12.5 million) than Nomar Garciaparra ($10.5 million) and David Ortiz ($1.25 million) made combined last year. ... For the record: Atlanta has finished in first place the past 13 full seasons and has one World Series championship to show for it. The Marlins has never finished in first place and has two world championships for their effort. ... Despite all you hear about how late baseball's games end compared to the other sports, the Super Bowl ended just 21 minutes earlier (10:33 EST) than Game 6 of the World Series (10:54 EST). ...

Win Blake Stein's Money
This Week's Category: Things That Were Even Shorter Than Ricky Martin's Career.

Arrange the following offseason events from shortest time period to longest:

A. Roger Clemens' retirement
B. A-Rod's captaincy with the Rangers
C. Britney's marriage
D. Howard Dean's reign as Democratic front-runner

ANSWER: C, Britney (55 hours). B, A-Rod (21 days). D, Dean (43 days, from Gore endorsement to Iowa Caucus). A, Clemens (78 days).

Your Two Cents
Mr. Caple,

I loved your article on Tom Hicks on the ESPN Web site. I was wondering what are the chances of you writing a piece on what the eight different kinds of idiots are? I know I'm intrigued, and I'm sure others would find it interesting. And would Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton be their own categories, or are they just subcategories?

Sincerely,

Justin Day

Yes, Jessica and Paris are their own categories, having outgrown the entire "People Who Appear In A Reality Show'' category. Thus, these are the eight types of idiots to whom I referred in that column:

1. Tom Hicks
2. Jessica Simpson
3. Paris Hilton
4. People who appear in Reality shows
5. People who enjoy Reality shows
6. Justin Timberlake
7. People who respond to spam mail from Nigerian queens asking for $1,000
8. People who really believed Pete Rose didn't bet on baseball

(Got a question or comment? Jim Caple can be reached at cuffscaple@hotmail.com)

Infield chatter

"Yankees Sign Roy Hobbs, Joe Hardy, Might Casey"

-- headline on the Ironic Times Web site.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.