The winter of 2020 has given us some terrible press conferences across the league, and the Sox added their submission on Monday with a humdinger starring John Henry, Tom Werner, Sam Kennedy and a half-eaten bowl of humble pie.
Henry again tried to “explain” the Mookie Betts trade, but his numbers don’t hold up under scrutiny. John Tomase had a largely correct piece about what the Sox should have said, and it tracks except for his contention the Sox are obviously going to spend big once they avoid more repeater penalties under the CBT, an outcome I think is by no means certain, especially because they didn’t say it, and history suggests otherwise. I certainly do not think Betts is coming back, because that would entail the Sox engaging him honestly and on that front they’re only a bit more reliable than the Astros these days.
Jason Mastrodonato had kind words for Henry’s statement, but I found it weird and lacking, like the others he and the team had offered — in a “less is more” situation, Henry couldn’t help but choose “more.” He said it was his “responsibility” to explain the rationale of the trade, an opinion I do not share. He has to be accountable for it, and not “the system” via an erroneous, anachronistic story about Stan Musial that ended more or less a declaration that “Santa’s dead, we killed him, and we’d do it again.”
That wasn’t as crazy as Kennedy saying that “kids” understand the success of the “Henry-Werner administration,” because it’s saying so little of the children it’s hard to know where to start, nor as crass as Kennedy’s VEEP-cringe-level season tickets pitch. “17 years of club control,” what Werner belched about, is the real prize. That’s particularly amusing because Henry spoke about the unjust system Musial had played under while his co-administrator was bragging about the ability to suppress the pay of players he had just acquired, for about three-quarters of the length of Musial’s career. Henry also said he made “legitimate” offers to Betts, but if 10 years, $300 million was the actual offer as reported we can all move on with a hearty laugh.
My truth — hopefully close to the truth — is that it does not matter what happens after this. The Red Sox look at this trade and see processes at work whereas I see them failing. I get the sense this is just the first of many trades the Sox will make for ostensibly underpaid players, but the numbers here are fraught. It’s almost entirely about flexibility, which is why the aborted deal didn’t grind the process to a halt. It doesn’t make a lick of difference if Betts or Verdugo wins an MVP, if Jeter Downs is an All-Star, if Price rebounds in L.A. None of it. Whatever happens after this will poison our memory, which is why we are getting it all down now.
Finally, those that argue the Sox are merely logical actors within a system needs to ask how the Astros weren’t, or steroid users weren’t, or the Black Sox weren’t. Logic is a closed system that can take you anywhere you want, but this trade was about right and wrong, even more so than the Isaiah Thomas trade for the Celtics, which was at least defensible for basketball reasons. This is only defensible in the most nihilistic view of baseball, and it has brought together fans from across previously unimagined divides in opposition. If there’s a silver lining here, it shows that most of us are on the same side. The rest of you? I still love you. I’ll see you when the season starts. Just not at the stadium.
I need to find the old study I did that found that merely singing free agents was associated with higher ticket revenues, holding actual wins constant. Fans reward teams that seem to be making an effort to be competitive and punish the ones that aren't. https://t.co/Sth8iwt8t2— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) February 17, 2020