Day 2: Dodgers | Extra Innings
VERO BEACH, Fla. – A new uniform, a new league and a new $36 million contract aren't enough for Derek Lowe to stop trying to defend something old: his reputation.
Lowe is convinced a whisper campaign by Boston Red Sox management cemented his image as a partier and served as a reason for the team to not re-sign him after winning the clinching games of both the ALCS and World Series. And he insists it isn't based in reality.
"It's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of," Lowe said Friday morning from the spring training facility of the Los Angeles Dodgers, with whom he signed a four-year deal this winter.
Exactly what is true and what isn't in this story aren't easy to decipher.
"We actually went out of our way to help the guy," Sox GM Theo Epstein told the Los Angeles Times. "We actually gave a glowing recommendation to the one team that came to us. We went out of our way not to smear Derek."
Lowe, meanwhile, is convinced his view of the events is fact.
What is undeniable is that by last October it was clear Lowe, a free agent at season's end, would not return to Boston. And there was definitely chatter about personal issues.
"It started with a story out of New York, after I got shelled, that I went out to a nightclub in New York with three friends," said Lowe of a Sept. 18 game in which he gave up six earned runs in one inning.
Lowe denies that and says it is improbable if only because the game the 18th was a Saturday day game beginning just over a dozen hours after the end of Friday's night game.
"The thing to me that was most disappointing was, everyone knows it didn't happen but the Red Sox never said it never happened," said Lowe. "The media in Boston never bothered to ask me about it. But it was out there."
For Lowe, the reason why is simple. Boston wanted to get rid of him, and he believes the Red Sox modus operandi when looking to let a longtime player go is to fabricate negatives rather than just part ways as professionals.
"As an organization the Red Sox can't use money as a reason not to bring a player back," said Lowe, who went 14-12 last year with a 5.42 ERA. "We all know [money] is not an issue. They can't just say to their fans, 'We're not going to bring back Pedro Martinez.'
"It goes back. Roger Clemens, they said a lot of things about him. I saw it with Mo Vaughn, Nomar [Garciaparra], Pedro [Martinez]. So it's not just me.
"It sucks. You know what is going on. Your teammates know what is going on. If I'm a Boston Red Sox fan and want to see who they are bringing back, just start reading the paper in August and September."
Whether any of this is the reason why Lowe is now wearing Dodger Blue isn't certain. But the questions about Lowe's off-field antics were strange if only because the Red Sox were open about their partying ways. They embraced the portrayal that these were a collection of "idiots" and not a buttoned-down group.
Then, in essence, the Sox replaced Lowe with David Wells who, shall we say, knows his way around a six-pack (or three).
But Lowe is certain his account is correct, and the fallout made the end of his eighth season in Boston bittersweet. He went virtually unused down the stretch and into the division series until a lack of available arms put him back into the rotation. He responded with a 3-0 record and 1.86 ERA in the postseason, including the crucial Game Seven victory over the Yankees in the ALCS on two days' rest and a masterful World Series sweep closeout against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I used it as motivation," Lowe said. "I knew I was leaving. I was trying to prove them wrong and help the organization win at the same time."
His performance didn't go unnoticed.
"He was pretty darn good," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. The Dodgers made Lowe one of their priority signings in the offseason to bolster the starting rotation.
Tracy thinks a sinkerball pitcher such as Lowe is perfectly suited for Dodger Stadium. For Lowe, the Dodgers are a fresh start but with many of the trappings of the Red Sox.
"Boston spoils you as a player, the magnitude of each game, the [media] coverage," he said. "My main goal was to find a team with a chance to win, not just this year but in the future. And then get to the biggest market possible."
Which is why this looks like a marriage made in heaven.
And if there were any concerns in Dodgertown about a player with a partying problem, there's been little sign of trouble thus far.
"I've been very impressed with him," said Tracy, pausing slightly, perhaps as emphasis.
"And that's not [just] the physical nature of things."