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— Where Thinking Red Sox Fans Obsess about the Sox

Friday, February 12, 2021

Canary In The Coalmine

Over the last couple of days I’ve been trying to make some sense of the Sox’ trade of Andrew Benintendi.  From a practical standpoint, I suspect we will look back on this as a non-event or possibly even a good trade.  While hopeful for Benny’s future I think the ship has likely sailed on his stardom.  Having said that it is hard not to look at this deal and other moves in recent years as a bit of an end of an era.  I don’t think I’m unreasonable when I say that from 2003 to 2018 is the greatest era in Red Sox history.  Great teams, big success, lots of memorable moments, it was special and I don’t think it is a coincidence that it kicked off with the purchase of the team in early 2002 by John Henry and friends.

Henry is by any objective measure a great owner.  He doesn’t embarrass the club with off field antics and rarely says anything remotely controversial (or anything at all really).  His hiring practices have been pretty strong with the Sox employing a number of impressive folks and spending somewhere between a #### ton of money and a metric #### ton of money.  That is not to say he has been perfect but as a baseball fan and a Red Sox fan I can accept the decision to linger around the luxury tax limits.  At the end of the day the Sox have poured tremendous money into the club and to the product in general with the renovations to Fenway Park.  I fully expect the Sox will rise from where they are today in the coming years and be successful sooner than later.

But this brings me to the last couple of years of decisions.  Following 2018 the Sox were running with house money.  Had they gone out, traded JD Martinez, let Chris Sale walked and thrown that money at Mookie Betts to make him Red Sox For Life I think people would have viewed the last couple of years differently.  “Yeah they suck but man 2018 was awesome and Mookie is so awesome.  Mike Trout except he’s got a ring! Count the ringzzz!” would be the cry to sports radio.  This all leads me to the title of this column because in retrospect the canary in the coalmine (yeah I have been listening to The Police on my vacation what of it?) is someone who had nothing to do with the Sox winning a single game yet his move was a moment where things began to change.

Don Orsillo, and by extension Larry Lucchino.

I’ll explain.

Reports from the Globe said that in 2012 NESN wanted to let Orsillo go.  Apparently Lucchino rained down fire and fury noting that he liked Orsillo and more importantly the fan base loved him even Sean McGrail and NESN didn’t.  In early August, 2015 Lucchino announced he would be stepping back from his involvement in day to day operations of the Sox.  A few weeks later the story came out that Orsillo was ousted by NESN to the rage of the fanbase.  Dave O’Brien is a good announcer but I think it’s fair to say he has not had the same link to the fans that Orsillo did.

I can’t help but think that if Lucchino were still involved Mookie would still be with the Red Sox.  One thing I’ve always liked about Henry, Lucchino and Tom Werner is they are genuinely baseball fans.  However, Werner often sees the world in publicity terms and Henry’s hands off style, while generally good, allows for unforced errors to slip through.  Letting Orsillo go was one of them and letting Mookie walk was another.  Lucchino, who could be saucy on a good day, seems to have been the details guy.  When the Sox needed someone to step in and say “what the #### are you people thinking?” they just did not have that person.

Look, I hold no illusions that Major League Baseball teams give a rat’s patootie about fans any more than any other major corporation.  But the good ones fake it.  Jordan’s furniture doesn’t give free dippin’ dots at the store in Nashua because people like candy, they do it so people buy thousands of dollars worth of furniture.  Letting Orsillo go was the canary in the coalmine here. The Sox have made a series of unforced errors in recent years and I think that is the starting point.  There were others in previous years; the hiring of Voldemort, the signing of AJ Pierzynski, but for me it was Orsillo where I find myself saying “hmmmm” (C&C Music Factory plug!).

I still love the Red Sox and I still love baseball.  But the people who run those organizations are just doing everything they can to dismiss fans it’s frustrating.  I’ve got in mind to write something soon about my experiences coaching youth baseball.  But these kids are being pushed away.  There is no reason that Don Orsillo isn’t announcing games, he should have been our Scully, and there is no reason Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi aren’t playing in the Red Sox outfield.  It’s frustrating.  Like I said earlier I expect the Sox to get things right but I wonder if it will feel different.  And there is no reason it should feel that way.

Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: February 12, 2021 at 03:13 PM | 79 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Answer Guy. Posted: February 13, 2021 at 03:29 PM (#6004991)
I am with you.

My enthusiasm for this team is pretty much zero at this point. I took a year off due in part to the pandemic and the fact that I was furious that pro sports were not taking this seriously enough, but I can't say that the Betts trade (and, in general, that the team essentially wrote off 2020 and, at minimum, probably 2021 as well) didn't make sticking to my vow to watch no baseball in 2020 a fairly easy sacrifice. And right when I'd be starting to pay attention again, we get this trade. And yeah, it's part of a pattern that, in many ways, goes back a few years.

You can get away with that sort of thing when you're winning 108 games.
   2. toratoratora Posted: February 13, 2021 at 07:43 PM (#6005017)
I'm pretty much in the same boat, Big fan since 75. 2004 is among my lifetime highlights...as is the Trophy celebration they did at the restaurant I worked at to kickoff the next year.
But something changed recently. No More Red Sox Nation. No real enthusiasm. And it all to oft feels as if the teams is going out of their way to be deliberately obtuse.
From time to time it has a Smartest Guys in the Room feel
   3. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: February 13, 2021 at 07:46 PM (#6005018)
One thing I found myself thinking about is the similarity to the early 80s. They let Lynn and Fisk go for some nice baubles through a mixture of incompetence and frugality, the whole Buddy Leroux mess, and a few years later they were in the World Series.

I won’t be shocked if that happens here. The people running the show right now are so much smarter than Haywood and friends but there does feel like a change. I think that change is not unique to the Sox or baseball but sports in general. I think a lot of people got a glimpse of a sport free life last year and it was ok for them.
   4. Jay Seaver Posted: February 14, 2021 at 12:02 PM (#6005065)
As much as I've been making remarks about this being frustrating and dispiriting, I'll probably still be turning on NESN at 7pm every night because it's just too much a part of my routine.

I wonder, sometimes, if the fact that discussion is naturally concentrated on complicated things rather than simple/obvious ones accelerates these sort of tone-deaf moves. I remember noticing a few years ago that the TV shows that drove a lot of internet discussion are the serials with ongoing mysteries even as CBS and its lineup of self-contained detective shows and episodic comedies was what people actually watched, to the extent that when my DVR ate the last five minutes or so of an episode of Elementary, I couldn't find anything online about who the killers was, just the subplots that had been advanced. That's what keeps people talking week-to-week. Similarly, I wouldn't be surprised if baseball front offices see all the sustained discussion of contracts and luxury taxes and the like and think the fans really care most about that when most of the fanbase just likes baseball, but is also much more prone to get attached to fun players rather than feel good about flexibility and how mixing and matching might get the team 0.5% closer to a championship. We don't talk about it because it's right there and obvious, but maybe we should, because apparently it's easy to lose track of.
   5. villageidiom Posted: February 14, 2021 at 12:14 PM (#6005068)
I can’t help but think that if Lucchino were still involved Mookie would still be with the Red Sox.
Jon Lester says hi.

I've mentioned plenty of times that they're in the position they're in now because of Dombrowski, but also I'm a firm believer that 2018 wouldn't have happened if not for Dombrowski. Like, seriously, in recent history prior to Dombrowski the Red Sox were ####### horrible at the Big Decision. Free agent signings were for crap; high-profile trades were for crap; Bobby Valentine was for crap. And nearly every high-profile homegrown free agent the team had was let go, often because management (Lucchino?) tried to play the if-they-really-want-to-be-here-they'd-take-the-hometown-discount card. Just because some of those worked out in hindsight - Hi, Jacoby Ellsbury! How's it going, Jonathan Papelbon? - it doesn't mean they're always making the right decisions. They just kept playing each of these the same way: turn the screws to get the hometown discount, and keep the ones who were willing to take it (e.g. Ortiz, Pedroia). Betts would have been with the team to start 2020, but I've no doubt Lucchino would have been playing the media to paint Betts as greedy and disloyal throughout the season and they would not have offered him enough to keep him, and he would be gone as a free agent now if they hadn't already traded him away during the 2020 season.

You're absolutely correct, though, that the team is being run differently now. Whether that's good or bad in the long run I don't know, but in the short run it sucks.
   6. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: February 14, 2021 at 01:20 PM (#6005079)
I think a part of the feeling being described here is the unique juxtaposition of pre-2002, with post-2002. I grew up in New Hampshire, rabid Boston sports fan, went away to college, came back in lived in Boston for a few years, and the energy in Boston related to the late-1990s Red Sox was absolutely crazy. I was fortunate to live in Boston those couple of years, get on the T to go to games, go to a bar and see people glued to the TVs when Pedro was pitching, with the level of intensity for a June game on a Wednesday that you normally see for an NFL game. The desire to beat the Yankees, to finally win a World Series, everything.

And then the 2001 Patriots and Brady/Belichick come along, and everything started to change. Suddenly, we had the NFL dynasty (never thinking it would last 20 years). Then, the 2003 baseball season, and how close we came to winning it all. Then, the unimaginable magic of 2004 - beyond what you could have imagined for the way it played out. Then, we win again in 2007, and almost win it in 2008?! Meanwhile, the Patriots are winning three Super Bowls, have the Perfect Season drama...meanwhile, The Celtics are brining back the magic with Garnett, Pierce, and Allen...then the Bruins are going win a Stanley Cup...and then..another Red Sox World Series...wait, three more Super Bowls...now the Celtics and Bruins are competing again...a 2018 wire-to-wire domination by the Red Sox...I mean, by the time the Patriots lost in the Divisional Round in early 2020 to the Titans, you could feel that the gas was just about out of the tank.

The Red Sox were in full rebuild. Tom Brady leaves. Mookie is traded. The Bruins are very, very good, and the Celtics are also very competitive and interesting, but after the last 20 years...I am exhausted, content, amazed, and grateful. And for the Red Sox to get the passion back from Red Sox Nation, it will probably take a period of time where we aren't all on a 20-year sugar high of crazy amounts of dramatic winning (It wasn't just winning all those titles - it was the *way* it all happened. The 28-3 Super Bowl comeback. The 2004 ALCS. The 2007 ALCS. The 2013 "David Ortiz is going put the team on his back" playoff stretch. That 18 inning World Series loss in 2018. The Malcolm Butler interception at the goal line. And then the stuff we didn't even win - the 2003 ALCS. The two Super Bowl losses to the Giants. The Game 7 loss to the Lakers in the Finals. The Bruins loss to the Blackhawks. Deflategate. SpyGate. All of it.)

I suspect that in a couple of years, the New England fan base will be ready to get jacked up again for a baseball season, and just as I took the 2020 baseball season off to focus on other things, I think a lot of people will be taking the 2021 baseball season off around here, because the team is basically telling us that 2021 is a bridge year, not looking to win the whole thing quite yet. That's cool, and I appreciate Bloom's candor about it. I think Belichick basically did the same thing with the 2020 NFL season - we've got to get our salary cap back under control, and this season is a s**tshow, anyway, so don't worry about it. After the last 20 years, having a couple years off is surprisingly welcome in my household - and a lot of my neighbors, too.
   7. bfan Posted: February 14, 2021 at 07:37 PM (#6005124)
First of all, I think you are a superb writer and show excellent analytical skills and I enjoy every piece you write. Big fan here-can you tell?

I do take exception to kids being pushed from baseball, with the reference to Betts and Benintendi. I assume you mean New England kids. But players aren’t eliminated when they go away; they go to someone else’s fan base. You know what the #1 jersey seller was when Harper signed with the Phillies? Phillies jerseys with Harper on it (so I do not buy the only home grown fan loyalty argument).

Your loss is Kansas City’s gain here. Let them have some Benintendi excitement. This lament ultimately boils down to “we are from Boston and we are entitled to more than our share of stars, because we are Boston.” Well as a fan of a smaller market team, I say no you are not. The Boston teams have way over collected their share of rings over 20 years. As far as I am concerned, you all can bottom dwell for 20 years, and we will all pet you on the head and tell you to be a good sport when your team becomes a player development team for a bigger spending, larger market team. I have been there and done that.
   8. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: February 14, 2021 at 09:38 PM (#6005134)
I wasn’t saying the Royals (or Dodgers to go back to Mookie) don’t deserve that joy. But I was noting the disappointment from a Sox fan perspective since I’m a Sox fan.

I think there are concerns league wide to be considered about how teams are being run right now. That’s a concern for the health of the game that needs to be addressed by people smarter than me.
   9. dave h Posted: February 14, 2021 at 11:03 PM (#6005147)
Will there really be a lot of "Benintendi excitement" in KC? When I think of him, 100% of the time my mind jumps to the diving catch to save game 4 in the 2018 ALCS. That has no value to KC fans, and it is diminished to Red Sox fans when he's traded 2 years later.
   10. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 14, 2021 at 11:32 PM (#6005149)
it is diminished to Red Sox fans when he's traded 2 years later.


No, not really. He was part of the best Red Sox team ever and I have great memories. Guys like Benny get traded all the time. The only one that really stung was Mookie. That guy was a home grown, once in every 10 years player. It's hard to understand why they didn't even seem to make an effort to sign him but there is always stuff in the background we don't know about.
   11. Jay Seaver Posted: February 15, 2021 at 08:18 AM (#6005158)
This lament ultimately boils down to “we are from Boston and we are entitled to more than our share of stars, because we are Boston.”


Not to speak for Jose, but I don't think that's his attitude or that of most Red Sox fans. It can sound that way because we don't see homegrown favorites traded very often - the most prominent time that something like the Betts trade happened, it was Nomar and the team won the World Series (though Lester is in there as well) - and we're kind of behind the curve on this. That we've been insulated from this doesn't necessarily mean that we think it's been good before. I know I've pondered that even when they're successful, its got to be less fun to be a fan of the Rays or A's because you can't really get attached.

I've long wondered if there could be a way to incentivize teams retaining players - those who have been with the team for 5+ years or since entering professional ball don't count against the luxury tax or something - but it's hard to see who would argue for it in the next round of CBA talks.
   12. villageidiom Posted: February 15, 2021 at 10:14 AM (#6005164)
Jay, at first glance I love the idea of home-grown players not counting toward the CBA.

Just to play that out a bit... It becomes much harder for teams to replace their home grown talent via free agency, meaning that an 8 WAR player can't be replaced with another without risking a significant penalty. If salary/WAR is linear then the same risk exists when replacing him with two 4-WAR players via free agency. If it's not linear then it kills bidding wars for top talent, by penalizing every other team that might be willing to sign him away from his original team. Yes, Boston could afford to pay Betts; but they wouldn't *have* to pay him any more than $1 over what a penalized team could afford. I'm not sure that works for the players.

Of course all this is to undo the aspect that Boston couldn't afford to pay Betts, which itself is a fabrication. They could afford to pay Betts under the current structure. They just chose not to.
   13. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 15, 2021 at 10:59 AM (#6005172)
No, not really. He was part of the best Red Sox team ever and I have great memories. Guys like Benny get traded all the time. The only one that really stung was Mookie. That guy was a home grown, once in every 10 years player. It's hard to understand why they didn't even seem to make an effort to sign him but there is always stuff in the background we don't know about.


Similar thinking here. Benintendi, eh, I wish he'd been a bit better, but he's a guy. Betts is pretty much the entire reason I just don't care about the Sox right now. Screw once every ten years, Betts had the chance to be a top 5 Red Sox player, if not 2nd behind only Ted Williams. To lose him because of not being able to forecast two years out is ####### ridiculous. Just don't sign Eovaldi to his completely-foreseeable injury plagued contract and all the sudden it's a lot easier to keep Betts and reset the luxury tax.
   14. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 15, 2021 at 11:02 AM (#6005173)
I've long wondered if there could be a way to incentivize teams retaining players - those who have been with the team for 5+ years or since entering professional ball don't count against the luxury tax or something - but it's hard to see who would argue for it in the next round of CBA talks.


The NBA has this in the "Bird Rule". Teams can offer their players max contracts that are higher than other teams. It's worked...to an extent. Once LeBron and others started taking less to go to the teams they wanted the benefit hasn't worked as much, but it's hard to complain when a player takes LESS money to go where they want.
   15. Nasty Nate Posted: February 15, 2021 at 11:06 AM (#6005174)
Now we now what a real bridge year looks like!
   16. SoSH U at work Posted: February 15, 2021 at 11:10 AM (#6005175)
Just don't sign Eovaldi to his completely-foreseeable injury plagued contract and all the sudden it's a lot easier to keep Betts and reset the luxury tax.


Or Sale to the extension, coming off an effective but injury-limited season.
   17. Jay Seaver Posted: February 15, 2021 at 11:45 AM (#6005180)
Guys like Benny get traded all the time.


Yeah, I don't think this trade hurts as much without the Betts trade - with Mookie gone, the other players take up more of the "guys we've been following for years who bring up good memories and are invested with" headspace, and it just highlights that switching parts in and out might become more the norm than developing players and locking them down. It's the sort of thing that maybe feels worse than it actually is, but it's not like fandom is or should be entirely rational.

Of course all this is to undo the aspect that Boston couldn't afford to pay Betts, which itself is a fabrication.


Absolutely, and truth be told, I don't know that it really helps unless we actually drop the luxury tax threshold, because it's not like Kansas City or Cleveland or the like are getting close enough to it that it figures in the decision-making, and I wouldn't want this to just help teams like Boston. I suspect there's too many variables that have to be adjusted to make it have the intended effect, especially since teams are pretty shameless about not caring so long as they make a little more money.

In some ways, the rule might be most useful as a statement of intent: It would say that it's good for players and teams to build long-term relationships with their fanbase, and that it's better for teams to try to be consistently good rather than pursue boom-and-bust strategies. Again, I don't know how you balance the equations so that enough comes in from the league to support smaller-market teams but enough is local to make good regular seasons valuable beyond getting to the post-season, but it seems like that's something the league should prioritize. Unfortunately, as much as that's probably good for the game, it's not necessarily that important to any of the people with the biggest financial stakes in it.
   18. Nasty Nate Posted: February 15, 2021 at 11:58 AM (#6005181)
Just don't sign Eovaldi to his completely-foreseeable injury plagued contract and all the sudden it's a lot easier to keep Betts and reset the luxury tax.



Or Sale to the extension, coming off an effective but injury-limited season.
This has always been the weirdly incompetent and mysterious thing to me. Veering from big-spending to wanting to trade Mookie in such a short time period. I've thought about it a lot and now have a quasi-theory.

This is my idea about why the Red Sox might have acted like they did - this is not a defense of their actions or justification for their thinking. OK. After 2018 ends everything is great and they give Dombrowski the go ahead to keep the world series heroes together and negotiate extensions with some stars. He gets Sale, Bogaerts, and Eovaldi on mult-year deals, but can't reach an agreement with Mookie. But I think at the ownership level of the team was this idea - and this is the crux of my theory - that if things are rosy again in 2019 and/or they look loaded for 2020, then keep the huge payroll levels; buuuuut if things don't go so well and if they don't project to be great for 2020, they would plan on ducking under the threshold and re-setting the luxury tax penalties.

Then they are not very good in 2019 and Chris Sale has major elbow problems and a dark cloud is forming above their manager, and so they determine that the outlook for 2020 is sufficiently gloomy to enact Plan G (for Garbage). Now, their commitment to this plan and the way things have unfolded have put them in a tight spot. The Sale, Price, and Eovaldi contracts are too far underwater to accomplish their goal by trade. Bogaerts and Devers have tons of trade value, but they are under contract for 2021 and beyond so trading them with some other big contract doesn't really work. After a so-so season, Benintendi doesn't have enough trade value to get it done. That leaves you-know-who.

To sum up: They decided that if things went bad, they would duck under the luxury tax threshold sooner than originally planned. And once that contingency was triggered, the best way (in their determination) to get under was a Mookie trade.

(and let me repeat, this is not a defense of Plan G on my part.)
   19. villageidiom Posted: February 15, 2021 at 01:03 PM (#6005191)
Just don't sign Eovaldi to his completely-foreseeable injury plagued contract and all the sudden it's a lot easier to keep Betts and reset the luxury tax.
Or Sale to the extension, coming off an effective but injury-limited season.
Or JD Martinez with opt-outs, in the first place.

We've been through this before, but trading Mookie Betts was the key to being able to trade David Price. Any one of the above alternatives still would have had an effectively untradeable Price on the roster, and they still would have been above the tax threshold. They would have had to enact most of those alternatives simultaneously to get there.

To Nate's theory... I think it's plausible. As y'all know my theory all along was that Dombrowski made empty promises to get under the threshold eventually. If we're on the same page then DD was figuring winning in 2019 would buy him more time, so he gave the extensions; but then 2019 did not go as he had hoped.
   20. Nasty Nate Posted: February 15, 2021 at 01:27 PM (#6005193)
Yeah, given his involvement in the 2018-2019 offseason and the timing of his firing, Dombrowski fits into the theory in some way or another.
   21. Darren Posted: February 15, 2021 at 10:26 PM (#6005276)
This is my idea about why the Red Sox might have acted like they did - this is not a defense of their actions or justification for their thinking. OK. After 2018 ends everything is great and they give Dombrowski the go ahead to keep the world series heroes together and negotiate extensions with some stars. He gets Sale, Bogaerts, and Eovaldi on mult-year deals, but can't reach an agreement with Mookie. But I think at the ownership level of the team was this idea - and this is the crux of my theory - that if things are rosy again in 2019 and/or they look loaded for 2020, then keep the huge payroll levels; buuuuut if things don't go so well and if they don't project to be great for 2020, they would plan on ducking under the threshold and re-setting the luxury tax penalties.



Best way I can make sense of it: By the time they signed Sale/Bogaerts/Eovaldi, they had already decided they weren't going to sign Mookie. They had made him the $300 million offer, he wanted more, they didn't want to go higher. So they secured everyone else and figured they'd get one more year out of Mookie then either deal him. I just can't imagine a world where they sign the other 3 if there's any chance that precludes them from signing Mookie.


As for this 2021 team, I think the Sox have finally uncovered the biggest market inefficiency: clogged bases. And so they've wisely done whatever they can to find pretty good players who are terrible at getting on base. Should make for a really interesting season.

   22. Darren Posted: February 15, 2021 at 10:28 PM (#6005277)
My sincere hope when Orsillo left was that they were going to try to have a bit more of a professional broadcast. If I had known they were going to just run the same 2-man 'comedy' show with an inferior straight man, I might have felt differently about his departure.
   23. Darren Posted: February 16, 2021 at 09:10 PM (#6005435)
Apparently Lucchino rained down fire and fury noting that he liked Orsillo and more importantly the fan base loved him even Sean McGrail and NESN didn’t. In early August, 2015 Lucchino announced he would be stepping back from his involvement in day to day operations of the Sox. A few weeks later the story came out that Orsillo was ousted by NESN to the rage of the fanbase.


In late 2015, x, y, and z happened. Then, in 2016, the Red Sox began a 3-year period where they won the AL East every single year, culminating in a 108-win World Championship. I dunno about this theory.
   24. villageidiom Posted: February 16, 2021 at 09:41 PM (#6005438)
I think the cogent part of the theory is that at some point the front office stopped caring about our joy. They got rid of a joyful broadcaster, and got rid of the player who brought us joy, and became a subpar team during a year that was nearly devoid of joy.

Where the theory goes wrong is that it pegs this as being in 2015 rather than 2002 when they let go of Rich Garces.
   25. Nasty Nate Posted: February 17, 2021 at 09:00 AM (#6005462)
I think the cogent part of the theory is that at some point the front office stopped caring about our joy. They got rid of a joyful broadcaster, and got rid of the player who brought us joy, and became a subpar team during a year that was nearly devoid of joy.

Where the theory goes wrong is that it pegs this as being in 2015 rather than 2002 when they let go of Rich Garces.
This better be a sneaky Sean McDonough reference too!
   26. pikepredator Posted: February 17, 2021 at 01:06 PM (#6005491)
When they signed Eovaldi and Sale, etc. I just assumed they were always budgeting to keep Mookie . . . shocked me that they weren't. At the end of the days I'd rather root for a strong team that is populated by a number of home-grown stars I've watched blossom, over a possibly better team that is built mercenary-style. The season is long and I'd rather root for players I've become familiar with.

This thing they're doing right now kinda feels like neither.
   27. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 17, 2021 at 01:20 PM (#6005493)
When they signed Eovaldi and Sale, etc. I just assumed they were always budgeting to keep Mookie . . . shocked me that they weren't. At the end of the days I'd rather root for a strong team that is populated by a number of home-grown stars I've watched blossom, over a possibly better team that is built mercenary-style. The season is long and I'd rather root for players I've become familiar with.

This thing they're doing right now kinda feels like neither.


It's really weird. To have a $200M payroll, and be neither good nor bad, with no recognizable character to the team, is just strange.

They're spending $36M this year on Ottavino, Richards, Hernandez, Barnes, Perez, Renfroe, and Gonzalez. Wouldn't this be a more interesting team without those guys, and with Mookie Betts?

It might be worse, but winning 78 game instead of 82 isn't really a big deal.
   28. pikepredator Posted: February 17, 2021 at 01:56 PM (#6005498)
It might be worse, but winning 78 game instead of 82 isn't really a big deal.


Agreed. Particularly in that mediocre win total range, entertainment is critical.

Even at higher win totals - which would I pick between a team that projects to 92 wins (elite) v. 89 (in the next tier with lots of other teams), given that the 92-win team would be more mercenary-style and the 89-win team has those killer Bs? I'd be fine with the latter.

This is of course a separate from the reality that the red sox are fortunate to have the resources to do both.

Just checked FG. Their 87-win projection seems optimistic, but that could be a sign of my current pessimistic view of the team as a whole.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 17, 2021 at 02:19 PM (#6005503)
Just checked FG. Their 87-win projection seems optimistic, but that could be a sign of my current pessimistic view of the team as a whole.

Well, that proj. includes 375 IP and 6.7 WAR from Sale, Eovaldi, and Richards. That seems unlikely.
   30. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 17, 2021 at 04:01 PM (#6005517)
Letting Orsillo go and trading Betts are obvious, yet inexplicable, unforced errors, both at the time and now. Not sure there is a connection, other than just the poor decision making. But good to see the newfound appreciation of Larry Lucchino, a fellow DC lawyer, who previously seemed to always be the fall guy for unpopular decisions.
   31. villageidiom Posted: February 17, 2021 at 05:02 PM (#6005524)
They're spending $36M this year on Ottavino, Richards, Hernandez, Barnes, Perez, Renfroe, and Gonzalez. Wouldn't this be a more interesting team without those guys, and with Mookie Betts?
I mean, I know in 2021 I will be a LOT more interested in the Red Sox than the Dodgers. So clearly not.
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 17, 2021 at 05:51 PM (#6005529)
I mean, I know in 2021 I will be a LOT more interested in the Red Sox than the Dodgers. So clearly not.

That's not the question.
   33. Buck Coats Posted: February 17, 2021 at 06:44 PM (#6005533)
While I agree with the premise, I'll point out that said team would also be minus Verdugo (and still have the David Price contract on the books too)
   34. Darren Posted: February 17, 2021 at 09:02 PM (#6005546)
Well, that proj. includes 375 IP and 6.7 WAR from Sale, Eovaldi, and Richards. That seems unlikely.


Yeah, I was excited about those projections until I saw how they projected the pitching staff. Projection systems can't know what we know, of course, but it seems really unlikely to me that these 3 add up to this many innings and WAR. To their credit, the Sox have built some good depth for the pitching staff, but not good enough to make up for these guys falling short of their projections.


I think the cogent part of the theory is that at some point the front office stopped caring about our joy. They got rid of a joyful broadcaster, and got rid of the player who brought us joy, and became a subpar team during a year that was nearly devoid of joy.



You touched on this earlier, sort of, but they were ignoring our joy long before 2015. At the 2004 trade deadline, they dealt Nomar. After 2004, they let Pedro go to the Mets. After 2005, they let Damon go to the Yankees. THE YANKEES! They have been this way all along. 2015 wasn't, in my view, some sort of change of direction.

And let's not forget, the Red Sox repeatedly tried to sign Betts to long-term deals. Their last offer was ~$300 million for 10 years, including a couple of arb years. He ended up signing for something like $306 million (when deferrals were considered) for 12 years. Not to say they were right or wrong in their evaluation, but they didn't exactly push him out the door.

As for Orsillo? Do you think there is a single fan out there who stopped watching the Red Sox or watched less often because Orsillo was no longer on the broadcast? I don't think so, but I really didn't like Orsillo, so maybe I'm biased.
   35. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: February 17, 2021 at 10:54 PM (#6005567)
I can’t help but think that if Lucchino were still involved Mookie would still be with the Red Sox.


I can't help but think that this is unbelievably ridiculous mind-reading.

I mean, you're fetishizing Larry Lucchino? The attorney who knows nothing about baseball? The man who was complicit in running Theo Epstein out of town? The man who never made an actual on-field personnel decision in his life? That guy? Come on.
   36. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: February 17, 2021 at 10:55 PM (#6005568)
they're in the position they're in now because of Dombrowski


Also this. Dombrowski has an outsized rep because it was weird for someone to spend a lot of money well for a while there. But it turns out you can spend a lot of money well and not destroy the organization at the same time, and Dombrowski has no clue about any of that.
   37. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: February 18, 2021 at 12:20 AM (#6005575)
As someone who has attended spring training for 21 years this Shaughnessy column nails a lot of the stuff I’ll miss.
   38. villageidiom Posted: February 18, 2021 at 12:35 AM (#6005577)
That's not the question.
It's the closest real-world application of the question.

The Red Sox with Betts (and Price, and without Verdugo), and without all those other players you mentioned, and all other things being equal, presumably has Betts as the only outfielder. I guess that's more interesting in a car-wreck kind of way? Or more properly, they'd have Betts and two outfielders who haven't played above AA (IIRC all their AAA outfielders from 2019 are gone now). And they'd have Lin at 2B, and some holes in the rotation, and a historically-bad bullpen. Is that more interesting than what they have now? To me, no.

   39. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 18, 2021 at 12:46 AM (#6005579)
The Red Sox with Betts (and Price, and without Verdugo), and without all those other players you mentioned, and all other things being equal, presumably has Betts as the only outfielder. I guess that's more interesting in a car-wreck kind of way? Or more properly, they'd have Betts and two outfielders who haven't played above AA (IIRC all their AAA outfielders from 2019 are gone now). And they'd have Lin at 2B, and some holes in the rotation, and a historically-bad bullpen. Is that more interesting than what they have now? To me, no.


You know when I'm all fired up about the loss of an historically great player(well so far) and you come in with all this rational discussion rubbish; well I really have no good comeback!
Good points, BTW.
   40. Monadnock Posted: February 18, 2021 at 12:42 PM (#6005655)
For me, the question VI invites us to ask is, would you like to be an Anaheim Angels fan. For the past ten years, they've gotten to enjoy watching the best player in the game everyday--and not much else. I've never envied them.
   41. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 18, 2021 at 12:55 PM (#6005658)
To their credit, the Sox have built some good depth for the pitching staff, but not good enough to make up for these guys falling short of their projections.


Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Martín Pérez, Nick Pivetta, Matt Andriese - that's your starting rotation. Add an injured Sale to the mix and it hardly screams of depth. Every single one of those guys, except for Perez - an average pitcher at best, is a huge injury risk. Tanner Houk is the only other pitcher in the system that may be ready to step in, every other starting pitcher the Sox may use is a complete "throw #### at the wall and hope it sticks" guy.

While I agree with the premise, I'll point out that said team would also be minus Verdugo (and still have the David Price contract on the books too)

No amount of Verdugo will every make up for Betts. And I would love to have Price on this team - look at the ####### starters!
   42. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 18, 2021 at 12:58 PM (#6005660)
For me, the question VI invites us to ask is, would you like to be an Anaheim Angels fan. For the past ten years, they've gotten to enjoy watching the best player in the game everyday--and not much else. I've never envied them


Not buying that comparison. The Sox still have Bogaerts, Devers, Martinez, Vazquez, either Benintendi or whoever he was traded for. They would have Rodriguez & Price fronting a rotation until Sale gets back (I am envisioning no Eovaldi signing). They could re-sign JBJ still (and as is, I do not think their OF is complete, they really don't have a CF). 1B shows potential, with no investment. 2B has been improved for sure, but the drop off with Lin there would be made up with Betts over Verdugo.
   43. villageidiom Posted: February 18, 2021 at 03:06 PM (#6005685)
For me, the question VI invites us to ask is, would you like to be an Anaheim Angels fan.
Not quite that, because as jacksone points out Boston does have a lot of other players to root for in that scenario. Then again, the Angels had Pujols, and Andrelton Simmons, and Shohei Ohtani... so maybe the comparison is closer than I'd thought. It's not like they had nobody to root for other than Trout. They had some interesting players but not enough of a team to make them an interesting team. That was what I was getting at. So, yeah, I guess I like that comparison more than I thought.

Bogaerts, Devers, JDM, Vazquez, Verdugo, Sale, Rodriguez, Sawamura, Hernandez... This is a more interesting team to me (than the analogous Angels team). I'd prefer that Betts were on it AND all these other players were, too. But, like, that wasn't going to happen.
Add an injured Sale to the mix and it hardly screams of depth.
This is entirely fair, but I think where they've legitimately added depth is in the bullpen. Obviously they can't protect a lead the team doesn't have, but last year Barnes was essentially the best they had on paper, and this year he could be as low as their fourth best option? That counts as legitimate depth.
   44. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 19, 2021 at 08:51 AM (#6005777)
This is entirely fair, but I think where they've legitimately added depth is in the bullpen. Obviously they can't protect a lead the team doesn't have, but last year Barnes was essentially the best they had on paper, and this year he could be as low as their fourth best option? That counts as legitimate depth.


True, they COULD have a decent bullpen. But I have long since given up trying to predict who is going to be good in any given year in the Sox pen. Guys come into the organization with decent track records and suck, others come from nowhere and are decent. Either way the next year there's a good amount of variability and that pitcher you were counting on is ####.


   45. jmurph Posted: February 19, 2021 at 09:05 AM (#6005778)
We've been through this before, but trading Mookie Betts was the key to being able to trade David Price.

To state the (apparently not?) obvious, you don't trade future Hall of Famers in their prime in order to move salary.
   46. villageidiom Posted: February 19, 2021 at 09:46 AM (#6005786)
Because?
   47. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 19, 2021 at 09:57 AM (#6005788)
Because?

Future HoFers are scarce, and money is plentiful (especially for the Red Sox, but really for any MLB team).
   48. jmurph Posted: February 19, 2021 at 10:00 AM (#6005789)
Because it's not a winning move? Because it's historically unprecedented? Because developing those kinds of talents is the entire point of the player development system? Because they're a money-printing machine and it was entirely unnecessary? Because it made them worse? Because it was poisonous to the fanbase?
   49. villageidiom Posted: February 19, 2021 at 12:04 PM (#6005813)
Because it's not a winning move? Because it's historically unprecedented? Because developing those kinds of talents is the entire point of the player development system? Because they're a money-printing machine and it was entirely unnecessary? Because it made them worse? Because it was poisonous to the fanbase?
I mean, without the trade the 2021 Red Sox would be without Mookie Betts. They would also be without most of the following players: Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, Connor Wong, Adam Ottavino, Garrett Richards, Kike Hernandez, Martin Perez, Hunter Renfroe, Marwin Gonzalez, Hirokazu Sawamura, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Andrew Benintendi. But they'd still have David Price. And they would downright suck. They might suck enough that the Orioles would project to 4th place, and the 2021 Orioles will really suck.

Immediately after the trade I'd said Boston was on par for a 90-win team (per 162 games) in 2020, if they hadn't made the trade. I had assumed they were really somewhere between the 84-win 2019 squad and the 108-win 2018 team. In reality, in their 60-game season without Mookie in 2020 they performed only two games worse than their final 60 games with Mookie in 2019, which means in hindsight even 84 wins in 162 games was way optimistic. They were already a massively underperforming team with Betts, and expensively so. Now, the underperformance was not Mookie's fault by any means, nor was it the fault of his replacement in RF. The point is that the lousy team they were in 2020 is essentially the lousy team they were at the end of 2019, which is the lousy team they would have been poised to be in 2021 had they not done what they did. The difference between mediocre and lousy might be of no concern for you, but it is for me.

Letting Roger Clemens go was also poisonous to the fanbase. Hell, Darren's blood will start boiling again as soon as he reads this. The key, though, is that he will have to be reminded of it to get pissed. It's not like at the end of October 2004 Darren was saying "why are people still cheering for this team, aren't you still mad that they didn't keep Roger?"
   50. jmurph Posted: February 19, 2021 at 12:24 PM (#6005818)
I mean, without the trade the 2021 Red Sox would be without Mookie Betts. They would also be without most of the following players: Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, Connor Wong, Adam Ottavino, Garrett Richards, Kike Hernandez, Martin Perez, Hunter Renfroe, Marwin Gonzalez, Hirokazu Sawamura, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Andrew Benintendi. But they'd still have David Price. And they would downright suck. They might suck enough that the Orioles would project to 4th place, and the 2021 Orioles will really suck.

This is a series of negative assumptions and self-references in order to make your argument make sense. We have no idea if Mookie would have left in free agency, no idea who they would have signed the past two free agency periods, no idea what a salary-eating Price deal may have looked like, no idea what they would have sought in a potential Bradley or Benintendi deal, etc.

They definitely would not have the former Dodgers they received in exchange for Betts, point conceded! But they actually still would have been free to operate in the free agency and trade markets had they not traded Mookie, contrary to your post.
   51. jmurph Posted: February 19, 2021 at 12:27 PM (#6005820)
(Also I don't really understand the Clemens reference. Is the idea that that somehow led to 2004? Or just that the fans eventually forget as long as things go better at some point? I think the latter is likely to turn out to be true, with the strong caveat that Mookie's longterm reputation is likely to fare slightly better than Clemens's did.)
   52. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 19, 2021 at 12:50 PM (#6005832)
Because it's historically unprecedented?
Without getting into the broader absolutism of your position...come on, you know this is absolutely 100% not true. Hell, it's not even true just limited to the Red Sox.
   53. jmurph Posted: February 19, 2021 at 01:00 PM (#6005835)
A. It is true. If this is too narrow an argument for your liking, fair enough, but it's a strong case.
B. Please tell me you're not seriously referring to Babe Ruth, I beg you.

And ha! to the "absolutism" reference. All respect, I enjoy your posts across the site, but you're extremely committed to ownership making money and #### anything else, so you're not exactly without absolutism in your own position.
   54. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 19, 2021 at 01:31 PM (#6005845)
Let's be real here - there is absolutely nothing that would convince you that trading Betts was not a singular abomination of unprecedented proportion. And that's fine, I get it, you're reacting as an emotionally invested fan. Nothing wrong with that at all. Emotional investment in a team is a lot of the fun of the whole thing.

To Lindbergh's article, yes, it is a very narrow argument, and as much as I'm a fan of Lindbergh, an Effectively Wild subscriber, etc., he definitely has his ideology on these matters. Which is also fine, I see his point and I don't entirely disagree. But your statement was made in the broader context of "you don't trade future Hall of Famers in their prime in order to move salary." I interpreted you to say that that is historically unprecedented, and plainly it is not. Hall of Famers in their prime have been traded (or, yes, sold to the Yankees) for financial reasons since the beginning of baseball time.

If your argument is that the Betts trade is way worse because he put up 0.3 more WAR in the two seasons prior to the trade than Jimmie Foxx (but 4 WAR less than 30-year-old Pete Alexander), I think that supports my first sentence.
   55. jmurph Posted: February 19, 2021 at 02:29 PM (#6005863)
Right so the first two paragraphs there are dismissive of the idea that employing Hall of Famers in their prime is a universal good. That's not, actually, an emotional argument. It's valuing great players, particularly ones that are under contract to your team!

I interpreted you to say that that is historically unprecedented, and plainly it is not. Hall of Famers in their prime have been traded (or, yes, sold to the Yankees) for financial reasons since the beginning of baseball time.

Not an unfair interpretation. But I mean the combination of greatness/youth/etc. was actually unprecedented. And to your last sentence, if you're using an example (Foxx) that was essentially a sale, from the year 19 hundred and 36, in the middle of the Great Depression, that's a very clear admission that it really, really doesn't happen all the time! You want to dial me down to "practically unprecedented," "almost literally never happens," and "literally never happens with a rich team," then okay! I won't quibble.
   56. jmurph Posted: February 19, 2021 at 02:31 PM (#6005864)
Pete Alexander! An almost 31 year old. In 1917.

EDIT: To me the only really close examples are Rickey and Pedro. Both clear low revenue to high revenue moves.
   57. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 19, 2021 at 02:42 PM (#6005865)
I was just using the same examples cited in the article you linked to. The fact that they go back a long ways points to this being a regular part of baseball for more than a century - and the fact that while you can select and parse variables to make the Mookie trade look a little different in some ways (as Lindbergh did), even when you do that it doesn't make it look very different.
   58. jmurph Posted: February 19, 2021 at 03:58 PM (#6005894)
The argument in the article, one that I agree with obviously, is that there have been very few- perhaps 20 or so- remotely comparable trades in the more than 100 year history of the game, most of them decades ago, and further that he was either better or younger (in most cases both) than all other previous examples. To the extent it's "parsing variables," it's doing so with probably the two most important ones: greatness, and age.
   59. Darren Posted: February 19, 2021 at 04:46 PM (#6005903)
Letting Roger Clemens go was also poisonous to the fanbase. Hell, Darren's blood will start boiling again as soon as he reads this. The key, though, is that he will have to be reminded of it to get pissed. It's not like at the end of October 2004 Darren was saying "why are people still cheering for this team, aren't you still mad that they didn't keep Roger?"


To be fair, I did say the beer was warm. Then I peed my pants.
   60. Darren Posted: February 19, 2021 at 04:54 PM (#6005904)
I'm not sure how I missed the article JMurph posted the first time around. And I will admit that it does make a very strong case that trading a player like Mookie is fairly unprecedented. But I do think a couple of other points should be explored:

--Although it's been fairly rare to make such a trade, it doesn't mean that such a trade is a bad idea. If the Sox had dealt Mookie for Soto+ or Tatis+, it would be a good trade, regardless of how unusual it was.
--For most of baseball history, there was little incentive to trade a guy as good and as young as Mookie. Only in the last few decades has it made sense to even consider doing so. That's when you started seeing guys like ARod and Pedro get traded. In the current MLB climate, it's more common than ever. Just in the past 3 years, we've seen Machado, Lindor, Mookie, and Arenado dealt.
--In trying to understand what it means to make such a trade, we should also consider how teams have treated free agents in the same age/talent range. The Nats let Harper walk and the Orioles dealt Machado to the Dodgers, who let him walk.

I dunno if any of this is going to convince anyone of anything, but I find it an interesting part of the conversation.
   61. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 19, 2021 at 05:52 PM (#6005910)
Wasn't Steve Carlton traded from the Cards to the Phillies because he wanted too much money? Contract negotiations were apparently behind Seaver's trade to the Reds too. Griffey was perceived to be in his prime, although we know how that turned out. Miguel Cabrera...a little before his actual prime I suppose, but that's nitpicking. Gary Carter, a bit after his prime although he had a couple good years left.
   62. Darren Posted: February 21, 2021 at 09:29 PM (#6006149)
Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Martín Pérez, Nick Pivetta, Matt Andriese - that's your starting rotation. Add an injured Sale to the mix and it hardly screams of depth. Every single one of those guys, except for Perez - an average pitcher at best, is a huge injury risk. Tanner Houk is the only other pitcher in the system that may be ready to step in, every other starting pitcher the Sox may use is a complete "throw #### at the wall and hope it sticks" guy.


I don't know how I came to feel like they had good depth, but you're right, it's not really great at all.
   63. villageidiom Posted: February 22, 2021 at 02:47 PM (#6006234)
Right so the first two paragraphs there are dismissive of the idea that employing Hall of Famers in their prime is a universal good.
There is no universal good in baseball, other than winning and following the rules in doing so. Employing any specific future Hall of Famer in their prime usually helps with winning, but is not the only way to win.
Or just that the fans eventually forget as long as things go better at some point?
Yes. I mean, not strictly... Like, we all remember Clemens was let go, and everyone was pissed about it. But there's no evidence the team permanently suffered in popularity after Clemens left. TV ratings rose; the sellout streak at Fenway began (and with higher capacity at Fenway). It didn't happen right away, and clearly it didn't happen because Clemens left, at least not directly. But yeah, these things that suck in the short run end up not mattering in the long run, if the team wins.
We have no idea if Mookie would have left in free agency, no idea who they would have signed the past two free agency periods, no idea what a salary-eating Price deal may have looked like, no idea what they would have sought in a potential Bradley or Benintendi deal, etc.
While we don't know what the choices would have been had they decided Mookie was untradeable, we know that a salary-eating Price deal involved trading away Mookie ####### Betts and it still only ate half of Price's salary because Boston also wanted Verdugo and decent prospects in return. There is no salary-eating Price deal that doesn't involve pain for Boston. Maybe Bogaerts instead of Betts? Devers AND Rodriguez? I mean, if we change the actual Price deal in such a way that it doesn't involve Betts, but is roughly equivalent in what Boston gives up or gets in return, none of those deals are good from Boston fans' perspective. And what it accomplishes is we would get Betts for 60 more games in Boston putting up Verdugo-like numbers, and then he hits free agency and I'm told we can't know he'd return.

As far as I can tell from the numbers, if the Betts trade hadn't happened, and if Boston had still done their other offseason moves (e.g. signing Kevin Pillar as 4th outfielder), Boston would have ended up close to $40 million higher in payroll and CBT obligations than they wanted to be, and with a worse 2021 draft pick. About the only offseason move I think you could argue against (in the sense that they wouldn't have done the move had they not done the Betts trade) was signing Martin Perez, but because Price opted out of 2020 they probably would still have needed to acquire someone, and for convenience we might as well assume it would have been Martin Perez. Anyway, $40 million. That includes $14 milllion in CBT, due to being a 3rd time offender and being more than $20m over the threshold. If they didn't tender a contract to JBJ, sure, that saves $11m in salary and maybe $6m in CBT. Then they'd need another OF, which might cost them $8m in salary and $5m in CBT. Or they could simply activate Castillo, which doesn't change payroll but adds $8m to the CBT owed. None of that gets them below the threshold, which means they still get the draft pick hit unless they make more moves. It's all a mess.
   64. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 22, 2021 at 03:37 PM (#6006245)
It's all a mess.


Looking at 2020 as a single season, yes, it's a mess. THAT is what frustrates me so ####### much. Pretty much any deal done after 2018 should have been done with Betts in mind. Moreland and Pearce were resigned for $12+ million. Eovaldi for $17M per. JBJ was $11M last year. Right there, three positions, $40M. Not that hard. In all this Price's contract is off the books crap, let's not forget that the Sox are still paying for it, and still have a hole at SP. Eovaldi + 1/2 Price equals...more than a full David Price. For a lesser, more injured pitcher.

Other wastes of money:

Eduardo Nunez - $5M
Gorkys Hernandez - $1M
Andrew Cashner - $1.5M
Martin Perez - $5.7M
Jose Peraza - $2.85M
   65. Darren Posted: February 22, 2021 at 04:55 PM (#6006261)
Trying to just get through life in a pandemic and here comes VI bringing up Roger Clemens every. single. day. Okay just twice but still. STILL! :)


   66. villageidiom Posted: February 22, 2021 at 06:59 PM (#6006275)
We need more discussion of Rich Garces. He turns 50 this May.
   67. Darren Posted: February 23, 2021 at 03:05 PM (#6006406)
Since we're once again discussing the Mookie contract, can we talk a little about how people thought the Red Sox alleged offer of 10/$300 million, 2 years before FA, was an insult, and that Mookie went on to sign a 12 year/$306 million extension (all FA years)?

   68. dave h Posted: February 23, 2021 at 03:34 PM (#6006411)
Re:Clemens, if the Sox trade for peak Pedro in the next couple of years then I will probably regain much of my attachment to the team.
   69. villageidiom Posted: February 23, 2021 at 06:34 PM (#6006443)
Since we're once again discussing the Mookie contract, can we talk a little about how people thought the Red Sox alleged offer of 10/$300 million, 2 years before FA, was an insult, and that Mookie went on to sign a 12 year/$306 million extension (all FA years)?
Pre-pandemic vs. mid-pandemic. I suspect Boston's 10/$300m would no longer be on the table once MLB was going to be playing in front of empty seats, if playing at all, for an undetermined amount of time. Likewise, the notion of hitting free agency during a pandemic, or even surviving a pandemic, might change a player's view on negotiations.
   70. John DiFool2 Posted: February 23, 2021 at 10:41 PM (#6006465)
The only fly in the ointment there is that the point of departure (pardon the pun) on the decision wasn't the night before the trade, but 1-3 years before that. That the Sox had basically painted themselves into a corner financially and felt that they HAD to deal Mookie was the result of several prior bad decisions. I can't really give the Sox much credit by that point. Change those decisions and there is a solid chance he could have been signed and stayed.

At any rate I think that the only truly comparable trade in history was Rickey's in 1984-85. Yeah, they start winning again nobody here is likely to complain. The entire business just stinks, and you can't tell me that it doesn't. [Pedro is on the BBRef front page tonight, fwiw-he likely has an argument too, if you look to the following 2-3 seasons. Rickey had a strong MVP argument in '85, but of course his RBI teammate got it instead.]
   71. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 11:23 AM (#6006500)
Pre-pandemic vs. mid-pandemic. I suspect Boston's 10/$300m would no longer be on the table once MLB was going to be playing in front of empty seats, if playing at all, for an undetermined amount of time. Likewise, the notion of hitting free agency during a pandemic, or even surviving a pandemic, might change a player's view on negotiations.


Yup, and if the Sox still had Betts on their team they could have found out what he would accept in a pandemic world. Alas, they traded him so they could save some money. Turns out having an impending FA on your team does actually afford you some negotiated benefits.
   72. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 24, 2021 at 02:42 PM (#6006565)
That the Sox had basically painted themselves into a corner financially and felt that they HAD to deal Mookie was the result of several prior bad decisions.
I find it hard to believe that the Red Sox didn’t realize that signing the players they did made it certain they’d need to be over the luxury tax threshold for at least a few years to extend Betts. Nor does it seem possible that Dombrowski could have kept the sharpies in ownership in the dark on that. Certainly nothing in Betts performance could have caused anyone to change their mind about his commanding a top-level contract. Rather, it appears that a disappointing 2019 season caused ownership to overreact and completely change course - firing Dombrowski and making immediately getting under the luxury tax threshold an absolute priority, knowing that would cost them Betts. Seems like a serious misjudgment that will irk fans for decades, even while allegiances remain [mostly] unchanged.
   73. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 24, 2021 at 03:41 PM (#6006586)
Is no one really willing to consider the possibility that Betts just didn't want to commit to Boston for the rest of his career for anything short of an absolutely absurd offer, and made that clear? I guess Occam is growing a beard.
   74. villageidiom Posted: February 24, 2021 at 04:09 PM (#6006592)
I find it hard to believe that the Red Sox didn’t realize that signing the players they did made it certain they’d need to be over the luxury tax threshold for at least a few years to extend Betts.
I'm sure they realized this. One could infer that they were aware that the decisions they made on contracts prior to 2019 put them in the position that they couldn't extend Betts without going over the threshold for a few more years.
Nor does it seem possible that Dombrowski could have kept the sharpies in ownership in the dark on that.
I'm sure they were aware.
Rather, it appears that a disappointing 2019 season caused ownership to overreact and completely change course
See, that's where we differ. Up to this point we seem to agree that because of the choices made prior to the 2019 season they couldn't extend Betts without going over the threshold for a few more years. Ownership had also been clear since, oh, when they bought the team that they had no intention to stay over the threshold for long. You put those two facts together and their direction is clear. "Not staying over threshold for long" + "can't extend Betts without staying over threshold for a few years" = "can't extend Betts". You seem to think it's a radical change in course.

I mean, I touched on this all before JDM signed:
So when we think of J.D. Martinez, we should be asking two questions:

a. Of all the roles they need to fill in the next couple of years, is his role (likely DH) a priority to fill from the free agent market?
b. Is he worth roughly a 50% tax, plus worse draft picks?

I think you can make a compelling argument in the affirmative for the first question, if you focus on winning now. Keeping the roster together becomes untenable in 2019, unrealistic in 2020, and unpossible beyond that. The major hole to fill seems to be a power-bat DH, so if you want to win now that’s the priority. Still, I really don’t think you can make the case on the second question. He’s on the scale of $38-$45 million per year counting the tax hit, and stomping on draft picks along the way. One way he wouldn’t cost as much is if they sign him and then don’t spend on other players for the next few years. J.D. Martinez really isn’t the kind of player I’d do that for.
And I mean, I'm just some guy who looks at this stuff in his spare time. It was Dombrowski's full time job. He had a staff and a budget, and the decisions were his. In 2018 he went for "win now", and they won. In 2019 he tried to keep the roster together, staving off the most immediate departures, thereby painting himself into a corner.

That doesn't mean it doesn't suck to lose Betts and spend our time rooting for victory against the injured list. But it does mean Dombrowski deserved to be fired, and that the path to being fired could have been seen so easily a little more than three years ago.
   75. Jay Seaver Posted: February 24, 2021 at 06:20 PM (#6006618)
Is no one really willing to consider the possibility that Betts just didn't want to commit to Boston for the rest of his career for anything short of an absolutely absurd offer, and made that clear? I guess Occam is growing a beard.


Sure, that's the simplest explanation, but does it really have a lot to back it up besides simplicity? It relies on a presumption that Betts actively disliked it here, and I don't know that there's ever been much evidence presented that this was the case. The usual argument to back it up is pretty general "it's not a great place to be a young Black man" stuff, but without a whole lot of evidence that this was something that weighed particularly heavily on Betts. It might be, and he would have good reasons to keep that to himself - he's smart enough to look down the line and figure that not alienating the Boston fanbase even after he leaves may give him opportunities later - but there's not a lot of positive evidence for "Mookie Betts was always going to leave no matter what".
   76. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 24, 2021 at 06:42 PM (#6006628)
It relies on a presumption that Betts actively disliked it here,
I don't think so - it could be that he just wanted the opportunity to explore his options, or that he liked Boston OK but really wanted to play in California (or elsewhere), that his agent convinced him that he could get more endorsement money if he was in a market like LA, whatever...there are a ton of reasons why a player wouldn't want to lock into the only franchise he's ever played for other than actively hating it there.
   77. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 24, 2021 at 06:54 PM (#6006633)
Is no one really willing to consider the possibility that Betts just didn't want to commit to Boston for the rest of his career for anything short of an absolutely absurd offer, and made that clear?
I’m certainly open to beIng persuaded that opting to be a highly-compensated player for the Boston Red Sox is fate to be avoided, but I don’t see any compelling reason to assume that was the case for Betts. AFAIK, the Red Sox haven’t leaked that Mookie just wouldn’t sign at any reasonable price, which would be the usual M.O. in such situations. The only reporting I’ve seen suggests each side made an offer favorable to their own position, and left it at that, without any real effort to meet in the middle, or make a last, best offer.
   78. Jay Seaver Posted: February 24, 2021 at 08:30 PM (#6006648)
I don't think so - it could be that he just wanted the opportunity to explore his options


I don't think anybody is seriously arguing against that, and maybe I read #77 wrong (basically, as a more politely worded "Betts was never going to resign with Boston"), but we haven't really seen any indication that the Red Sox would have had to do something over and above what other teams would to sign Betts. That may not mean anything - as I said, I think Betts is smart enough to keep anything like that to himself, because he could very well find himself remembered more fondly by Red Sox fans than Dodgers fans when he's looking at a post-playing career down the road - but it seems like something solid would have come up if it were the case.
   79. Darren Posted: February 24, 2021 at 08:37 PM (#6006649)
Is no one really willing to consider the possibility that Betts just didn't want to commit to Boston for the rest of his career for anything short of an absolutely absurd offer, and made that clear?

That's my theory on the most likely reason for this.

Pre-pandemic vs. mid-pandemic. I suspect Boston's 10/$300m would no longer be on the table once MLB was going to be playing in front of empty seats, if playing at all, for an undetermined amount of time. Likewise, the notion of hitting free agency during a pandemic, or even surviving a pandemic, might change a player's view on negotiations.


Huge factor for sure. But there are factors. He was 2 years out from free agency for the first offer. He then signed with a team that he had barely been with over a team that he knew well.

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