How the Yankees/Red Sox Rivalry Hurt the Phillies
As the sports world turns its attention to the storied Red Sox/Yankees rivalry as it renews itself in the form of the American League Championship Series, Phans should take a moment to consider how the rivalry has hurt the Phillies.
According to the book Chasing Steinbrenner: Pursuing the Pennant in Boston and Toronto by Rob Bradford, the Atlanta Braves offered Kevin Millwood to both the Yankees and Red Sox prior to the 2003 season. However, at the time, the Yankees and Sox were engaged in a bidding war over the then recent Cuban defector Jose Contreras. Both teams decided to concentrate on Contreras and the Phillies were eventually offered Millwood. They accepted in return for catching prospect Johnny Estrada, and in the two seasons the Phillies have had Millwood, he has put up fourth-starter-type ERA's while taking home first-starter-type money.
There is no doubt that both the Yankees and Red Sox felt that Contreras would become an excellent pitcher (they were wrong), but the rivalry between the two teams also fueled the bidding war as neither team wanted to let the other team sign Contreras. Because the Yankees and Red Sox were too busy trying to out-do each other, the Phillies were able to land Millwood. At the time, nearly everyone who followed baseball thought the Phillies got the better end of the deal from the Braves. The conventional wisdom was that the Phillies had gotten a potential ace for only a slightly-old-for-a-prospect catcher.
As it turns out, Millwood's poor performance and injuries helped to bring down the Phillies hopes of a playoff berth in 2003 and 2004. Johnny Estrada on the other hand, was a 2004 All-Star and has become one of the better catchers in the league. Had either the Yankees or Red Sox been willing to take their eyes off of Contreras to seriously look at Millwood they may have accepted the trade offer (the Braves wanted Casey Fossum from the Sox, who the Sox eventually traded to Arizona for phormer Phillie Curt Schilling). And had that happened the Phillies would still have Estrada to take over for the rapidly aging Mike Lieberthal, and may have been able to use the eight-digit salary they have paid Millwood for the last two seasons on a free agent or two that may (or may not) have served the Phillies cause better.
Hindsight is certainly 20/20, but as we watch the ALCS and read about the Phillies interviewing managerial candidates, phans should consider if there own team is cursed in a similar manner as the Red Sox. Because the Yankees were able to acquire Babe Ruth in 1918 the Red Sox have the Curse of the Bambino, and because the Yankees and Red Sox were obsessed with Jose Contreras, Phillies phans have to suffer from the Curse of the Cuban.