Red Sox owner John Henry and upper management have been getting a lot of bad press (some of it from me) for a while now. I’d like to set that aside for a minute. Consider this an ode of appreciation to our owner, John Henry, because I’m thankful that he’s not putting us through the ringer in the way that John Fisher is doing to Oakland A’s fans.
I went to college in the Bay Area and lived in Oakland during that time. I was there when they won their 1989 World Series championship. I didn’t like them as a team (Bash Brothers, ugh) but I saw a lot of games there against the Sox. I attended Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox in 1990. I found their style of fandom more relaxed than I was used to in Boston, but there was never any denying their popularity. Everyone seemingly had an A’s jersey and hat. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that they will be missed in Oakland.
The A’s have always been unlikely to overspend (see: Moneyball) but Fisher reduced payroll to ridiculous levels and has created a wasteland where there was once optimism and damn good baseball. Fisher then amplified what was wrong with his own team and stadium in ways that many people called out as targeted moves to deter fans and force a case for moving away.
Here’s a brief and recent timeline of the A’s:
- Wild animals like cats and, famously, opossums that frightened broadcasters out of the booth, gave a Grey Gardens air to the stadium, but Fisher and the A’s acted as though there was nothing they could do. I suppose they don’t know how to ask an entry-level assistant to call Animal Control and have the animals safely rehomed. Absurd.
- After the 2021 season, the A’s held what could charitably be called a tag sale. They dumped stars but didn’t seem to recoup much value in prospects. They lost 102 games in 2022. By Opening Day 2023, they barely had a AAAA-level team to put on the field. Their payroll is the lowest in MLB, and so is their attendance.
- In the midst of negotiations with the city of Oakland, Fisher suddenly bought property in Las Vegas on which he planned to build a new stadium. Oakland’s mayor broke off discussions at that point, calling out Fisher’s manipulative tactics.
- Fisher set his sights on a different plot of land in Las Vegas, amid reports that the economic and attendance projections he circulated are impossible to believe. He asked for taxpayer funds, of course, a request which has been approved by the Nevada legislature and is expected to be signed by the governor in short order.
So the reverse boycott, where the fans demonstrated their love for their team and their desire for Fisher to sell it so that a new owner would keep them in town, ultimately didn’t work. If there were ever a more going-down-with-the-ship moment, I can’t think of one. Other people have written more eloquently about all of this: the silence of the stadium this year, the deep sense of grief and loss, the painful renouncing of fandom. This is one terrible, heart-wrenching breakup, but the loss is only being felt on one side. Imagine that heartbreak. I’m thankful that it’s necessary to imagine it, rather than living through it.
With that in mind, and sadness for my fellow fans in the East Bay, I’d like to review some reasons to be thankful for John Henry and our own ownership:
- He saved our stadium from being torn down.
- He added Green Monster Seats which are currently celebrating their 20th anniversary, and has continued to make improvements to the stadium.
- He made “Jersey Street” happen, filing the official name-change request with the city of Boston. John Henry made the case for confronting racism in a strong, articulate way, too. There is more still to be done, and I’d love to see him continue his leadership in this area.
- He hired Theo Epstein and Bill James. Genius moves.
- He brought us a championship, of course! The all-important one that broke the curse, and the one that Boston really needed when our hearts hurt, and a couple of others that were also freakin’ fantastic. [This praise is massively reduced due to space considerations, but you were there. You know how it was.]
So even though I’m frustrated as hell with John Henry and his guys at the top of the food chain over there, I’m grateful too. For now, I can almost forget about his habit of insulting players with insanely low offers and pushing them out the door, followed by signing a pricy free agent instead. I don’t mind as much that he’s turned his attention to the other teams he’s bought for himself. Of course, I still don’t love that he’s become tone-deaf, missing in action, and stubborn about spending in order to plug holes in the roster. And I just can’t forget that someone spread awful, hurtful rumors about Terry Francona after he left Boston.
But I guess that’s water under the bridge now. In the face of John Fisher’s betrayal of Oakland and its fans, my complaints are beginning to seem almost pedestrian to me. I can handle a little rough-and-tumble, I guess? For now. But with Rob Manfred’s support of Fisher and mocking of the fans’ genuine grief, I’m terrified of what could happen to us if Henry ever sells the Red Sox.