The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox employed drastically different philosophies this offseason while shopping for the latest in fashions for their World Series wardrobe.
While Yankee GM Brian Cashman was being fitted for a double-breasted Armani from Bergdorf Goodman, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein was hurriedly scouring Filene's Bargain Basement in hopes of sweeping up a Dickey that had fallen behind the clearance table the season before.
Cashman left Yankee Stadium with Hal Steinbrenner's platinum card last December, and returned home after spending more on high-priced free agents than Jennifer Anniston spends on lingerie.
Epstein, on the other hand, did his shopping at Consignment Emporium after fishing in John Henry's overstuffed La-Z-Boy for loose nickels and food stamps to fund his shopping spree.
Cashman's filet mignon palate landed him tasty morsels including CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira, and has Yankee fans salivating for another championship.
Epstein opted to fill the Red Sox shopping cart with slightly dented cans from the rear of the neighborhood Piggly Wiggly, and may just leave Red Sox fans in the Express Checkout this postseason.
While it is not a given that high-priced shopping equates to an automatic championship, Epstein's decision to fill 20 percent of the team's roster with recently injured retreads, has left the Sox with glaring holes as they enter the season's crunch time.
In a span of seven days last January, Epstein announced the signings of what were referred to as "low risk, high return" free agents as a clever way to counter Cashman's careless spending.
Rocco Baldelli was signed as the team's fourth outfielder despite being plagued with mitochondrial myopathy, a rare neuromuscular disease. The disease leaves him unable to play back-to-back games, and has robbed him of the skills he showed as a promising young player in his first several seasons with the Rays.
Baldelli, who is currently on the DL for the second time this season for unrelated injuries, is batting .261 in 111 AB this season, and has performed adequately for the Sox when called upon.
In addition, the Sox signed former Marlin and Dodger ace Brad Penny to a one-year, incentive-laden contract.
But the burly right-hander has been mediocre at best. The former NL All-Star has a 7-6 record and a 5.20 ERA. He has yet to make it out of the seventh inning this season.
With Boston starters Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka spending substantial time on the disabled list, Penny has essentially become the team's No. 3 option, a role that he simply can't fill.
The team continued their spree by signing former Dodger closer Takashi Saito.
Saito, who missed the end of last season with a sore right elbow, has been solid for the Sox out of the bullpen, but hardly the pitcher that saved 81 games in 91 attempts over three seasons with the Dodgers.
He is currently 2-3 with a 3.15 ERA as a setup man for the Sox.
Perhaps the biggest Sox gamble of the offseason had potentially the biggest upside, 42-year-old future Hall of Famer John Smoltz.
Smoltz was coming off of right shoulder surgery last June and was viewed as a midseason boost to the Red Sox rotation. With the injuries to Wakefield and Matsuzaka, Smoltz was quickly elevated to the role of savior rather than a reinforcement.
After struggling to a painful to watch 2-5 win-loss record and 8.33 ERA, Smoltz was designated for assignment.
With the Yankees lead now up to five-and-a-half games and the Rays nipping at Theo's flip-flops, Epstein's coupon-cutting has the Red Sox faithful lining up at the Wal-Mart return counter.
As the Cashman-led Yankees laugh all the way to the bank dressed in Yves St. Laurent, Epstein's Salvation Army Moo Moo continues to fray at the hem.
Perhaps it is time for Epstein and the Sox to skip the Blue Light Special at K-Mart and realize that you get what you pay for.
Todd Civin is a freelance writer for Bleacher Report and Seamheads. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for comment or hire. He is also a supporter of A Glove of Their Own, the award-winning children's story that is capturing the heart of the nation by teaching sharing through baseball.
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