It would be easy to sit here and make fun of how defensive and slippery Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy was in a recent interview with the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy... and that’s exactly why I will do it. Low-hanging fruit is just as tasty as the hard-to-get stuff, after all.
Long story short: Kennedy is fed up with the haters. The way he looks at it, the 2018 title run came at a price that the organization is still paying, and the 2021 team reflects that debt. This sounds reasonable until you jump into the specifics, which paint a different picture:
“We cherish that title, and all of them, but the way we built that team came at a price, which included importantly a depleted farm system and some depleted draft picks.”— joon (@joonlee) January 20, 2021
Problem wasn’t ‘18 but what happened after: re-signing Eovaldi plus Sale extension before FA to push CBT https://t.co/h3PgA3NQxu
Joon is right. The problem isn’t what happened before 2018 but what happened after it, all of which gets to the larger issue: The Sox want to present themselves as a sober, responsible organization—and they may feel they are currently acting like one—but they’re always liable to change their minds and start acting like a rich kid in a candy store before whipsawing back to relative austerity when things get too tight. Put another way: a defined long-term plan would be their first in a very long time.
To hear Kennedy tell it, this has been the idea since before the Mookie Betts trade, but that’s not what he and the rest of the brass was saying at the time. He now admits that the Sox are building back toward contention, but John Henry scoffed at the idea, post Betts trade, that 2020 would be a “bridge year,” given the price tag under which the team was operating. He was right, of course, just not how he envisioned: The bridge collapsed into the Charles. Kennedy’s contribution at the time was to try and hawk family packs to see what would be a last-place team that, thankfully, no one could waste their money on anyway once it was all said and done.
I’d say “Now we’re supposed to believe they have a long term plan?!” but I won’t, because I feel like they actually might. Given how defensive Kennedy was about Shaughnessy’s suggestion that they want to be Tampa Bay north I’m pretty sure that’s precisely what they want to do, not leastwise because three-quarters of the league is trying to do the same thing, and, of course, the Sox hired one of the Rays’ former decision-makers. If Kennedy would just admit it, or if he or Henry had done so last year in the wake of the Betts trade, they could save themselves a lot of headaches.
First off: Of course you hired Chaim Bloom to do the things he’s good at! Why deny it? It just makes you sound absurd otherwise. Second, even if we take Kennedy at face value (do not do this), there’s an Alex Verdugo-sized hole in the logic here. If the Betts return was half as good as Kennedy et al said it was at the time, the Sox would be in much better shape right now. This was as plain a bait and switch as you get, played out in front of anyone, and Kennedy is out here taking umbrage with the mere suggestion that the sun rises in the East. You don’t have to hand it to him.
On the other hand, it is nice to finally get even a half-truth out of the Sox brass these days, so for as hard as I rolled my eyes at Kennedy’s answers and his tone, it’s better than the alternative of spewing complete and utter nonsense, which was Plan A for a year. Like Kennedy, I do not think the Sox are a top-shelf contender this year. Even if you ignore why not—a refusal to pay an ultimately affordable luxury tax, for one thing—it’s easy to confidently make this assessment, given where the team is right now. It’s sort of shocking to hear someone finally admit it, is all.
My final plea, then, would be not to screw it up, and to lie less about it in the future. I don’t know if Kennedy has it in him, frankly. It’s just nice to know, finally, he’s not completely full of it. The truth is in there somewhere.