TUCSON — Picked-up pieces while contemplating an Opening Day lineup of Yoshida, Hernandez, Devers, Story, Verdugo, Casas, Hosmer, Arroyo, and Wong.
▪ A lot of you went to bed Wednesday night feeling better about the Red Sox. They’d picked up a legit closer in Kenley Jansen and spent some real money to acquire outfielder Masataka Yoshida from Japan. There was even word from the Winter Meetings of new contract talks with Xander Bogaerts.
Then, while you were sleeping, it was reported that Bogaerts agreed to an 11-year, $280 million deal with the Padres.
An abused and enraged Red Sox Nation awoke to soul-crushing news of another cornerstone player gone with little coming in return. The notion that ownership cares more about money than winning was reinforced.
The Red Sox can afford to keep their best players. They just won’t do it anymore.
The last of the Sox sycophants will insist, as they always do, that the Sox are smart not to pay all that money . . . that the Padres are stupid . . . that Bogaerts is on the decline and that he was going to leave anyway.
But we know that none of this is true. Just as it’s not true that Bogaerts was the Sox’ top priority this offseason, as Sam Kennedy and Chaim Bloom repeatedly stated.
This did not have to happen. This was a result of ownership/front office malpractice. The Sox erred when they insulted their loyal, four-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion with a lowball contract extension offer in spring training — just as they did with Jon Lester in 2014. It was never right after that and the Sox were never truly serious. The Sox wound up at six years and $160 million, but that is not 11 years and $280 million. That is $120 million less. It is not competitive. And the intrepid Peter Abraham reports that three or four other teams were willing to go higher than Boston.
So the Red Sox, a team that has quadrupled in value since John Henry and friends bought it 21 years ago, are no longer competing with the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Phillies, or even Padres. They are charging you the highest prices in baseball to go to a game at Fenway Park, but they won’t go big on talent anymore. No more splashes. The Sandoval-Hanley-Rusney-Price-Sale mistakes damaged ownership and in 2019 a new philosophy was born: sell “the illusion” of contention. Try to win 85 games and maybe you’ll get lucky and hot in September/October. Tell the fans you are all about draft and development now — like the Rays. Tell them you want to win every year. Not just some years.
And now the Red Sox have lost Bogaerts . . . after losing Betts and Benintendi. And they have so little to show for those prized assets that were signed and drafted and developed in the Boston system. The only player left from the starting lineup in Game 5 of the 2018 World Series is Rafael Devers. And the clock is ticking on Devers. His contract extension looms as the Bogaerts-level distraction for next season.
Here’s what Pedro Martinez said in October: “If Xander opts out and leaves the team, and J.D. [Martinez] leaves the team, I think Devers is most likely going to head the same way. Those guys are going to go. They’re not going to have the essence of the franchise that we left. The culture that we left is going to be lost. And we don’t know when we’re going to get it back and how we’re going to get it back.”
Bogaerts was the noble, de facto captain of the Red Sox through these last few difficult years. He is top-shelf, no-dust. He’s been part of your organization for 14 years. He was the Patrice Bergeron of your 122-year-old baseball franchise.
And now he’s gone because the Red Sox didn’t value him the way other teams value him.
Boston baseball fans deserve better.
Fenway Sports Group is contemplating a full or partial sale of its Liverpool Football Club. A lot of my readers are suggesting FSG look into doing the same with its baseball team.
▪ Quiz: Name four quarterbacks who started Super Bowls for two franchises (answer below).
▪ Hall of Fame leftovers. The fact that Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds failed to get as many as four of 16 votes from the Contemporary Era Committee (which included six Hall of Fame players) indicates that the men in the Hall feel the same way the writers felt about steroid stench. Perhaps even more strongly. Bonds, Clemens, and Rafael Palmeiro won’t come up for consideration for another three years. There’s also Curt Schilling, who got 71 percent of BBWAA votes in his penultimate year on the ballot, only to go backward (54 fewer votes in his final turn) after insulting scribes as “morally decrepit” and “bad, bad people.” That’s when Schill asked off the ballot and stated, “I’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player.” Turns out Schill’s peers think much less of him than the writers. He got only 44 percent of votes cast by the Contemporary Era Committee.
▪ New Hall of Famer Fred McGriff minced no words when asked what happened to the strong Padres team he was part of in the early 1990s. “We just had a great team and what hurt was, Tom Werner was the owner and he said baseball ain’t going to work and they traded everybody away,” McGriff said Sunday night after he was elected by the Contemporary Era Committee. McGriff was traded from the Padres to the Braves in 1993 for three “prospects” who never amounted to much.
▪ Jacob deGrom is one of the most overrated, overpaid players in baseball history. DeGrom signed a five-year, $185 million deal with the Rangers and is regularly discussed as a future Hall of Famer. No. He’s 34 years old and has a career record of 82-57 with a 2.52 ERA. He has one World Series start, a loss to the Royals in 2015. He makes Chris Sale look like Warren Spahn. DeGrom is a four-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young Award winner, but his body of work is incredibly thin for a guy who makes this much cash and gets too much Hall love. DeGrom started 26 games over the last two seasons. Where does he rank among all-time Mets greats? Tom Seaver is forever No. 1 and Mike Piazza made it to Cooperstown. DeGrom is probably behind Dwight Gooden and David Wright.
▪ University of Arizona football coach Jedd Fisch, a former Patriots quarterbacks coach, is lending his facility to the Patriots this coming week. Former Arizona and Patriots star Tedy Bruschi serves as a senior adviser for Fisch and the Wildcats. Nick Folk and J.J. Taylor also played at Arizona. The Arizona Republic reported Thursday that Patriots practices “will not be open to the public.” Big surprise there.
▪ Fraud Deion Sanders’s first act after being named head coach at Colorado was to suggest that current Buffaloes hit the transfer portal. He also told them he’s bringing his son to Colorado to be the starting quarterback. And he’s still going to coach Jackson State in the Celebration Bowl. Deion can ride the Calipari wave right up until he inevitably vacates a national championship appearance.
▪ Doug Flutie: strip-sacked in Georgia.
▪ NESN and the Bruins need to stop the greedy and wildly distracting, rotating board ads that make it a real challenge to watch the Bruins on TV. Bruins vs. Avalanche should not be the experience of an acid trip, “as the ceiling flew away.”
▪ I don’t watch Army football on TV. Same for Navy football. But like Bill Belichick, I’ll watch the Army-Navy Game every year.
▪ RIP Sal Durante. Ever famous to baseball fans as the young man who caught Roger Maris’s 61st home run ball (off Red Sox righthander Tracy Stallard), Durante was in the news again this year when Aaron Judge chased Maris’s Yankees home run record. Unfortunately, Durante suffered from dementia and was not aware of Judge’s season or the renewed interest in Durante’s story. Durante died last weekend at the age of 81. As Bob Ryan could recite, Durante’s 1961 companion at the record-breaking game at Yankee Stadium was sweetheart Rosemarie Calabrese. In exchange for the ball, Durante received $5,000 from restaurant owner Sam Gordon, who gave the ball to Maris. Durante and Calabrese were married a few weeks later and Gordon paid for their honeymoon in Palm Springs. In 2022, Cory Youmans, who caught Judge’s 62nd home run ball, rejected $3 million and that ball is soon to be sold at auction.
▪ Kudos to Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth, who played at Pentucket Regional High School with Reid Garrant, who died from leukemia in 2018. As part of the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative, Freiermuth last weekend against the Falcons wore cleats promoting leukemia awareness for the Reid Landry Garrant Foundation. The Steelers were Garrant’s favorite team when the boys grew up in Merrimac. Freiermuth will be wearing the special shoes again Sunday against the Ravens.
▪ How long can Holy Cross (12-1 after Saturday’s FCS quarterfinal loss to South Dakota State) hold on to football coach Bob Chesney? Were the Crusaders the best team in New England this year? Maybe, but I still don’t want to see them play former rival Boston College. The Crusaders — who haven’t beaten the Eagles since 1978 — play at BC Sept. 9, 2023. The schools did not play one another in football from 1986-2018. The only meeting since 1986 was a 62-14 BC win in 2018 that was not as close as the score suggests.
▪ Quiz answer: Tom Brady (Patriots, Buccaneers), Peyton Manning (Colts, Broncos), Kurt Warner (Rams, Cardinals), Craig Morton (Cowboys, Broncos).