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The Red Sox in Free Fall

You can’t live in a delusion forever when the stakes are this high.

2024 Red Sox Winter Weekend
Boo these men. Boo them!
Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

I don’t think I’ve read a better breakdown of the Red Sox’s controlled demolition better than Dan Secatore’s recent screed, in these very pages, in which he said that the team doesn’t need John Henry and Tom Werner, no matter how good the owners have been over the last quarter of a century. If you haven’t read it yet, go do so. If you have, keep reading for more of the same — in style, tone and substance. I hate to be derivative, but there’s little more to say about this organization than they’ve become cheap and lazy because they think they’ve earned it. More to the point, they think they bought it — your loyalty, your patience and, above all, the undying support of your wallet. But we can’t be bought.

Has Henry been, as Dan states, the best owner in American professional sports since he took over? The results have been there, for sure, but the process hasn’t always been pretty or coherent and has, at times, been violent and reactionary. He’s got a case along with a few others, Robert Kraft notably among them. The difference here is that before the Tom Brady breakup, Kraft kept out of Bill Belichick’s affairs, at least publicly, having learned his lesson from the Bill Parcells experience. Henry can’t help but muddle, or couldn’t, until now, when he has basically disappeared altogether right when a steady hand is needed most. Most importantly, it’s obvious that Kraft still cares about putting a winning team on the field, whereas Henry does not.

Nor does he want to talk about it. He’s sent out the avuncular Tom Werner in his place alongside Sam “Salacious B. Crumb” Kennedy to deflect any and all questions of substance. Craig Breslow appears, for now, to be little more than a functionary, and at times he sounds like he’s drowning out there, trying to talk around whatever internal limits he’s facing while not telling bald-faced lies with ease, like his predecessor. You get the sense that, whie Breslow didn’t blink twice when offered the job like many others, he’s blinking twice now to let us know he’s in danger. He’s our everyman inside the building, and he seems scared by what he sees: A C-Suite in total denial that they have slaughtered the very team they fattened and have been feasting on it for nearly five years while the fans have gone hungrier and hungrier, thirstier and thirstier. The Sox deploy good news like Immortan Joe dispenses with drinking water in Mad Max: Fury Road. Don’t get addicted, he warns.

The Bloom era started all this. The Mookie Betts trade dammed the water, and the rationing began immediately. When it rained — poured — in 2021, the team took credit for the storm, but weather is not climate, and things dried up quickly after that, with last place finishes in 2022 and 2023. Eventually the Bloom mirage faded out, and the Breslovian reality doesn’t look much different. We’re still collecting magic seeds, five years on, promising that they’ll make all the difference if it rains again. If any team has firsthand evidence of building title teams in reality, it’s this one, but having having brought a fairy tale to life, they’ve decided to live inside of it. It’s the beanstalk they’re after.

I’d love to believe it, and that 2+2 equals 5, or that spending more than 10 percent below the salary cap is a smart way to operate for a group that makes protestations of competitiveness — “Full Throttle!” — and does nothing to back them up. I’d also love to believe that driving 10 miles per hour under the speed limit will get me to the same place at the same time, but I know better, just as I know better than to think Boston’s approach will work without a major overhaul and some strokes of good luck.

Which brings us back to the magic beans. The most cringeworthy part of Winter Weekend wasn’t Werner and Kennedy’s predictably awkward roundtable; it was when Kyle Teel, Marcelo Mayer and Roman Anthony took the stage together to a rousing reception. I hope all three of these guys work out, but the odds aren’t in their favor, and parading three minor leaguers out as the saviors of your very recently proud organization gave me, as the kids say, the ick. It’s ultimately unfair to them and undignified as a top-level baseball organization, which the Red Sox are. Right?

On a recent TV appearance with Red Sox legend A.J. Pierzynski, Ken Rosenthal, freed from the constraints of his bow tie, lashed out at Boston’s approach, stated flatly that they’re not trying, and laid out a damning case in the process:

Jordan Montgomery is literally in Boston, as Rosenthal notes, and he’s a perfect fit for the Sox, but the team won’t bite. Or it will, but more in the “reality bites” sense, because in the real world, everyone can see what the Sox are doing. Signing Montgomery would show the Sox living in something approaching the real world and they seem to have no intention of doing even that. At least a Justin Turner-type (off to Toronto) kept up appearances, but the masks are largely off now. Henry and Co. believe that the reality of the team is what they say it is, and not what’s reflected in the product on the field. Worse yet, they seem to believe it. They’re falling and telling themselves, as they pass floor after floor, they’re still fine, but it only ever ends one way, and the impact will be felt for a long, long time.