Here’s the best news of the day if you are a Red Sox fan.
After Tuesday’s Hanley Ramirez news conference at Fenway Park, John Henry, owner of the Red Sox (and the Globe), said the Sox are now willing to exceed the magical $189 million salary tax threshold.
Wow. Now we’re talking.
It’s OK now to applaud the Sox for spending money and trying to make their team better and more interesting in 2015. What we’ve seen this week is more like the Red Sox of the old days — a team that would spend buckets of cash to take other teams’ best players; the Red Sox who were more like the Yankees than they ever wanted to admit.
Tuesday was a boffo day at Fenway Park. Pablo Sandoval and Ramirez were officially introduced as new Sox players. The Sox now could hit the proverbial home run if they actually sign Jon Lester and trade Yoenis Cespedes in a package for Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto. Count me as skeptical. I still believe the Sox will be outbid for Lester.
Which . . . should . . . not . . . happen.
Meanwhile, let’s welcome the Red Sox back to relevancy. On a week when the Super Bowl-bound-Patriots are getting ready for a Glendale preview with the equally hot Green Bay Packers, the Sox managed to create some baseball buzz by burning $200 million in cold cash on the hot stove. Most of us approve. After all, it’s not our money — these are elite, clutch bats — and anything’s better than the smarmy, know-it-all Sox who pretended they re-invented baseball after shocking the world (and themselves) by winning the World Series in 2013. Count me as one with zero interest in another elimination summer featuring a soft parade of overrated Sox prospects losing much of their trade value by coming to the big leagues too soon and/or demonstrating their flaws at the big league level. Watching Sox prospects struggle in the bigs last summer was like Internet dating: everybody’s résumé seemed great . . . until they showed up and you actually saw them.
Here’s president and CEO Larry Lucchino comparing the Sox and the Yanks last February when the Sox were still basking in the glow of their fluky flag: “We’re very different animals. I’m proud of that difference. I always cringe when people lump us together . . . they are still, this year at least, relying heavily on their inimitable old-fashioned Yankee style of high-priced, long-term free agents. I can’t say that I wish them well, but I think we have taken a different approach . . . If you compare what we did last year in the offseason to what they’ve done this year, there’s quite a difference.’’
To their credit, the Red Sox have junked this phony stance. They have demonstrated that their “philosophy” is only as firm as the last NESN rating book or the most recent American League East standings. Finishing in the cellar for the second time in three seasons (a feat not accomplished at Fenway since the pre-Yawkey era of 1930-32), the Sox are reacting.
In March, Henry spoke of the folly of signing players over 30 to long-term deals — a comment he now says was overblown. Tuesday the Red Sox signed the soon-to-be 31-year-old Ramirez to a five-year (four plus a vesting option) deal worth a potential $110 million.
Bravo. When you have won a playoff game in only one of your last six seasons, it’s time to throw cash at the problem, even if it means blowing up your blueprint.
OK, now let’s get the easy jokes out of the way:
■ Did the Red Sox have to put Sandoval in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts logo for his first press conference?
■ Any chance that Tom Werner was the human in the panda suit, posing with Sandoval at Fenway?
■ If Ramirez played short with Panda at third, wouldn’t the Sox have baseball’s only slow-pitch softball unit on the left side of the infield?
There. Just needed a little balance to this column.
Seriously, for all of their considerable skills, Sandoval and Ramirez both represent enormous risks. Panda has been a champion and a great clutch hitter, but he’s already in the bad body club at the age of 28 and you have to wonder why he would leave a great situation in San Francisco when the contract offers appeared to be almost identical. Sandoval said he “wants a new challenge,’’ but it worries me a little when I hear him say that the Boston baseball experience is, “not gonna be different. Baseball is baseball, everywhere.’’
Actually, it’s not. Just ask Carl Crawford.
Video: Pablo Sandoval talks about coming to Red Sox
It was also weird to hear Panda reject the notion of eventually morphing into a designated hitter. We love his competitive spirit but worry about the reality of his body in three or four years. The Sox are in for $95 million on Sandoval over five years. Panda says he doesn’t “take it personally,’’ when folks ask questions about his weight. Let’s wait and see.
Ramirez is a terrific hitter. He was never elite defensively, but he says he’s willing to learn how to play left field. He was a bit of a bowser in some of his days with the Marlins and Dodgers, but said, “I’m a different person than I was in my mid-20s.”
Video: Hanley Ramirez OK with move to left field
Swell. Let’s give him a shot. You will love watching him hit. And the same goes for the Panda.
We all know that the Sox desperately need starting pitching. Lester and Cueto would solve that. The Sox have the money to get Lester and the trade chips to get Cueto. It’s a virtual lock that Cespedes will be dealt, and Boston is going to have to part with some of its beloved prospects. If the Red Sox can get pitching without moving Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, this will be one of the greatest offseasons in history.
Tuesday was a good start. Now let’s see if they are serious about competing for Lester (a source close to the negotiations says they’re willing to go to six years, $132 million). And if they can swing another deal for a starter.
This much is certain. This offseason is way more entertaining than what we saw on the field in 2014.