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On service time manipulation

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It’s not just theirs. It’s yours.

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at New York Yankees
Ugh.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

A fun fact about Mookie Betts that tends to get lost in our various logic spirals re: The Trade is that the Red Sox could have simply paid him a market rate to stay with the team and he might still be here. The Red Sox, preferring to deal in certainties, traded him instead to lock up younger players for cheaper years, but not until they put enough chatter out there that Betts really gave them no choice.

It’s still terrifying how many people believe it, but this is the price of being a certain type of fan: total commitment. And so while Nick Pivetta is about as far from Betts as one can get as a player, that the possibility exists that the Red Sox may be making decisions to hold him in Rhode Island specifically to delay his service time is part of the same process of solidifying every low number they possibly can.

From the Red Sox’s perspective, this is a win at all levels. Pivetta is on the team for an extra year and wasn’t forced to pitch yet this year, which wouldn’t have helped anyway, because he’s not very good. Never mind the black hole at the core of this argument — that they’re cheating to secure bad players for longer — and focus on the long term, they say (whoever they are), because it’s the process that matters.

You want to talk about service time manipulation? This is it right here. The Red Sox are hoping that your commitment to the club will override simple judgments about what you should and should not expect from a dizzyingly successful big-market baseball team. It’s not just Pivetta’s service time they’re exploiting. It’s yours.

***

With 10 games left in this awful season, the Red Sox are 18-32. In a normal year this might be their record by the start of June. If anything, the short season has saved us as much heartache as it has caused.

What it has done for sure is show just how far the Sox have yet to go to be competitive, leastwise dominant like they were two years ago. The only thing more pathetic than their fall from grace have been the excuses for all of it. The best thing we can do as Sox fans is to not let them manipulate us.

If any of you think this sounds distressingly familiar, I apologize. I have written some version of this column about 10 times since February, and every time have been pushed back upon in comments, tweets and group chats by people who insist that third-party information that just happens to endorse the Sox’s path is the correct and actionable information, despite the slowly unfolding disaster.

I’ve also tried, to be fair, to inculcate Chaim Bloom from some of the Betts trade criticism, even if “just following orders” never really plays as well as it sounds. I even complimented some of his recent moves, because they were good and clearly his doing. This Pivetta nonsense, also his doing, is embarrassing. My only hope is that the people who defend his role in the Betts deal revisit that logic in the face of new information, but I’m not counting on it.

Mostly I’m just tired of it all, and I’m not alone:

I could go on like this, but I won’t. Unlike the Red Sox, I respect your time. I’m providing the service you want in a timely fashion. I haven’t earned a damn thing from you, and I don’t take it for granted that I have, I’m at least trying to be accountable. Would that this lodestar of regional culture do the same.