Last week, we learned that Theo Epstein is coming to Fenway Sports Group in an advisory role, ostensibly for all of the franchises in the portfolio but specifically, as reports have recently surfaced, for a Red Sox team that has been neglected by its owners for going on five years now. Today, we learned that the 2024 Red Sox will be featured on an in-season Netflix reality show, with Major League Baseball following the lead of basically every other major sport into the annual docuseries business.
Both of these moves are obvious gambits designed to win back fans in the absence of a “full-throttle” approach to winning on the field, and... I’m fine with that. Of course I know that FSG is not maximizing the team’s inherently competitive position in the MLB firmament, but that’s been true for a while now. I’m more sick of being lied to about it, over and over, by bad liars. In comparison with Tom Werner, Sam Kennedy and Chaim Bloom, I think Epstein and Craig Breslow are either better liars or people who will tell the truth, and I think Netflix can make even the most uncompetitive product — see virtually ever F1 season it has covered, save one, on the wonderful Drive to Survive — incredibly compelling, given enough tape to make it all up. They’re not just good liars. They’re great ones.
All that said, the truth about this team, the one that plays the games, hasn’t changed one bit, though, and these PR moves will only buy so much time. Is this team a year away from contending? It seems possible, but it seemed possible last year and the year before that, though there are reasons to think this year could be different, largely depending on the performance of Triston Casas, Marcelo Mayer, Kyle Teel, Roman Anthony and Vaughn Grissom. It sure seems that, with the Netflix deal, the Sox are counting on these guys to become the faces of the franchise in and out of Boston, and they want to get them in front of as many eyeballs as possible.
I’d say it’s a dangerous game, but is it, really? The last two seasons have been so depressing, on the whole, that a better question than “Why did the Red Sox go to Netflix?” is “Why did Netflix come to the Red Sox?,” but I don’t think it’s much more complicated a case than “brands gonna brand.” It’s ultimately free publicity for the team, which is to say free money, and there’s nothing FSG (or much anyone) likes more than free money, nor Netflix another high-profile sports association. And, again, it’s likely to be quite good. I’m mostly glad something finally is, especially when there’s a real “sunlight is the best disinfectant” potential, even if, more likely, all of this is meant to keep us in the dark. (I was born in it, I’ll be fine.)