So, you want a couple of what-might-have-beens? Thanks to David Samson, here are a couple of doozies.
Appearing on the ‘The Local Hour Podcast’ with Mike Ryan (a part of the “The Dan LeBatard Show”) the former team president for the Florida Marlins revealed a few interesting behind-the-scenes scenarios involving current Red Sox principal owner John Henry.
- Henry almost bought the Angels instead of the Red Sox.
- There were discussions about bringing Miguel Cabrera to Boston as part of the sale of the Red Sox to Henry.
On the podcast, Samson — who was dismissed from his duties with the Marlins when Derek Jeter bought the team — reflected on negotiations he had as the President of the Marlins with Henry when he was selling the team to the group which owned Montreal just prior to 2002. The complex scenario was part of Major League Baseball’s plan to contract the Expos, with that ownership group going on to buy the team in South Florida. Henry would sell the Marlins on the way to buying another club, which evidently was initially going to be the Walt Disney Corporation-owned Angels.
“He wanted to buy the Los Angeles Angels, not the Boston Red Sox,” Samson recalled. “The first 70 percent of our negotiation was based on him buying the Angels.”
Samson explained that Henry was looking to make back the $138.5 million he had invested in the Marlins, a number no local group in the Miami area was ready to commit to. That’s when the Expos people — headed up by Samson’s stepfather Jeffrey Loria — came in.
“So the Angels were a deal, that was going to be the swap. Sell Montreal, buy Florida. Have him sell us Florida and then buy the Angels. He could not cut a deal on price with the Angels owner. He could not come to an agreement,” Samson said.
“John Henry just said, ‘No I’m not doing the deal because, A. I can’t guarantee the 138.5 for the Marlins, and B. I’m not paying $500 million for the Angels. … So John Henry said I will be willing to buy the Red Sox. He just wanted a big market team. He wanted out of all small markets.”
Henry would ultimately pivot to purchase the Red Sox, which according to Samson, was initially good news for then-commissioner Bud Selig. Since then, however, the former baseball executive believes opinions on Henry among some in the ownership circles have changed.
“What happened with the Red Sox was that he said he wanted to go to a big market team and Bud Selig at the time spoke to the owners and said, ‘This is perfect.’ He spoke to a small group of us who were the small revenue owners the way he had been with Milwaukee,” Samson said. “He said We will have one us on the other side. So Bud thought having John owning a big market team was perfect because he was a big-time small market champion and therefore we would have one more votes when we would have fights among the owners.
“One of the big issues between the Red Sox and Major League Baseball to this day is the fact that John Henry disappeared. He became the biggest big market bully in all of baseball. Worse than the Yankees. Worse than Frank McCourt. Worse than the Dodgers. John Henry … just hated the small markets and tried to squish us every moment he could. … One of the biggest disappointments was how John Henry went to the dark side and went so far to the dark side it was almost unrecognizable.”
So, what about Cabrera?
Samson said that as part of the initial negotiations involving the sale of the Marlins Henry floated the idea of including key players in the transaction. It was a notion that gained momentum to the point where a list of names were being drawn up to head from Montreal to Florida, and Florida to Boston.
“John Henry would call one day and say, ‘By the way we’re taking Josh Beckett with us.’ He would call and say that is part of the deal,” Samson said. “‘You can’t get the Marlins unless you trade me and give me as part of the transaction Josh Beckett.’ So I would then call Bob DuPuy the president of baseball and say, ‘OK, John Henry wants Josh Beckett, let me tell you, we’re taking Vladimir Guerrero.’ We ended up having meetings where we were drafting players and doing reserve lists of our own teams that we had prior to doing this franchise swap.
“We were going to take with us Guerrero, (Javier) Vazquez, (Jose) Vidro. We had a few guys in our farm system we wanted. ... We were going to give John Henry the right to take players from us. He would have taken Miguel Cabrera with him to where he was going in Boston. What happened was that we were negotiating with Florida with the Marlins and we were doing this franchise player swap. It would have come out like a big trade is what it would have been. And Bud Selig called us up at the same time and said, ‘There will be not one player moved. There will not be one trade made between you. You are buying the Red Sox. You are leaving the Marlins as is.’”
Henry would go on to purchase the Red Sox prior to the 2002 season for $700 million, while Arte Moreno went on to own the Angels. Cabrera made his big league debut in 2003 with the Marlins, earning MVP votes in each of his first 14 seasons.