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New allegiance

Red Sox sign Mendoza to two-year, $6.5 million deal

Posted: Sunday December 29, 2002 11:15 PM
Updated: Monday December 30, 2002 6:39 PM
  Ramiro Mendoza joins a bullpen that includes Alan Embree, Bob Howry and Mike Timlin. AP

BOSTON (AP) -- Ramiro Mendoza is about to get a fresh look at one of sports' fiercest rivalries.

So it was fitting that a day after the former New York Yankees reliever agreed to a two-year, $6.5 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, the team presidents took turns sniping at each other.

"He always thought that Boston is very, very competitive against the Yankees," Mendoza's agent and translator, Fernando Cuza, said Monday. "If he could make the difference and get them to the playoffs against the Yankees, that's what he would like to do."

While the Red Sox were talking about Mendoza, the Yankees were announcing a one-year, $10.1 million contract with Roger Clemens.

On a conference call about Clemens, a six-time Cy Young winner chased out of Boston by the previous Red Sox administration, Yankees president Randy Levine took aim at the "whining" by other teams frustrated by New York's century of success.

"The days of trying to shed or hide your own problems by blaming the Yankees are over," Levine said, noting that New York will pay about $55 million in luxury tax and revenue sharing to other teams next season.

"We're playing by the rules of the agreement. There are teams that are getting millions and millions and millions in revenue sharing. Those teams should worry about their own business and be creative, as we were here," he said."

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was quick to respond.

Lucchino said that if Levine's comments were directed at Boston, "He can be sure the Red Sox will indeed be creative in our baseball and business operations, and be aggressive.

"Neither attribute will prevent us from criticizing the mighty 'Evil Empire' wherever and whenever we believe they deserve it," Lucchino added. "That's one of the things the Yankees must accept for inhabiting and exploiting the largest sports market in the nation."

The Yankees had a payroll of about $133 million last year -- Boston was second at $110 million -- and New York set out to cut costs this year by cutting loose Mendoza and fellow reliever Mike Stanton.

Then the Yankees turned around and signed Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui and Cuban defector Jose Contreras, a pitcher the Red Sox desperately wanted, and then Clemens to give them eight starting pitchers under contract and a payroll of $155 million.

To answer, the Red Sox signed Mendoza, who is 54-34 with 16 saves and a 4.08 ERA in seven major league seasons. He has won four World Series with New York, going 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA in the postseason; he twice shut down the Red Sox in the 1999 playoffs en route to the Yankees' 25th of 26 World Series titles.

Boston has not won it all since 1918.

Mendoza had said he wanted to die a Yankee, but once they weren't interested he turned immediately to the Red Sox.

"He didn't want people to think he's a traitor for leaving the organization, but he realizes this is a different business now," Cuza said. "He said, 'If I can't play for the Yankees, I really want to play for the Boston Red Sox."'

Mendoza was 8-4 with four saves and a 3.44 ERA in a career-high 62 appearances last season when he pitched out of the bullpen exclusively for the first time in his career. He worked 91 2/3 innings, second-most among AL relievers to Billy Koch.

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