Red Sox Mookie Betts blame game is nearing conclusion

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 30: Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox rounds third base after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 30: Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox rounds third base after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /

The conclusion of the Boston Red Sox and Mookie Betts drama is coming (hopefully) to a resolution, but the blame has to fall somewhere.

The Mookie Betts blame game or finger-pointing has been in full swing. Just a gander at this site is indicative of that. As with any loss, it will be necessary to blame someone and there is certainly a nice laundry list of candidates.

The current Betts situation is the result of decades of baseball owners and executives ignoring the obvious and that is the structure of player contracts. The age of servitude has vanished and now collective bargaining agreements have resulted in the eventual free flow of merchandise – players. But enough of the history and now to migrate to the present.

Blame Betts

Betts is now in some quarters a villain who has tied the franchise to the railroad tracks waiting for the express to finish the job. Betts is greedy. Betts is overrated. Betts leaves the toilet seat up. Any potential negative – personal or statistical – is fodder for this scenario. I tend to dismiss this outright.

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The idea is to maximize your value in the context of the labor market you exist it. Just how many five-tool star players are available? If the pickings were not so slim the market would deteriorate. Betts has been honest and quite upfront about free agency with the risk of an injury a possibility – think Dustin Pedroia – to prevent a cash in and cash in he will if he stays 100% healthy. Nary a negative word has surfaced from the Betts camp regarding negotiations with discord from the past (arbitration) apparently a non-issue.

Blame John Henry

Owner John Henry has created a gold mine by parlaying the Red Sox brand into a conglomerate that includes other sports entities, real estate, a newspaper, a value now measured in billions. Henry has the money and certainly a history of a willingness to spend. The Red Sox list of dead money over his reign shows the ability to absorb mistakes and not be fiscally gun-shy.

Henry has given mixed messages on payroll with a want to get under the luxury tax threshold and later statements that somewhat contradict that. The team has the money and so does Henry. But you don’t get rich and successful with continual stupidity and getting burned on long-term contracts makes one wary.

Blame Dave Dombrowski

Freewheeling and certainly free-spending by Dombrowski succeeded in bringing two items to the plate: The first is a World Series flag and the second is the very payroll situation that may have Betts in another uniform. Ill-advised contracts have consequences and a series of them have resulted in Dombrowski being chopped from the corporate Rolodex – if they still use them.

Dombrowski does not or did not operate in a cone of silence since contracts such as that dished out to David Price, Chris Sale, and Nathan Eovaldi need the blessing of upper management and the upper is Henry himself. I cannot recall an owner firing him or herself over failures of underlings who had already received the blessings to go forward. DD did what he had to do and either Henry was oblivious or gave his tacit support. Was there an argumentative discourse over decisions? That may surface in the future, but Dombrowski took the hit.

Blame Steve Veltman

Just who is Veltman? Veltman is Betts’ agent and the go-to person in negotiations. Veltman and his client do not run in a vacuum and are well aware of the intricacies of the market. Just what a Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, or Manny Machado get as compensation sets the bar. And as with any team, there is communication and that is the Betts-Veltman corridor as the final decision is the clients.

Veltman rejected a significant offer from Boston and countered with their own figures. A schism? Not necessarily as it is part of the haggling process be it a princely contract or trying to get a trinket a few bucks less in a village market in Tanzania. The idea is the have the high side go lower and the low side goes higher.

From the outside looking in, one can understand the rage as Johnny from Burger King will have difficulty feeling any remorse for Betts when the salary number floating around that would make the one-percent class envious. Veltman, just like Scott Boras, is doing exactly what he was hired to do and that protect his client and maximizes his client’s value.

Blame the Fans/Media

The Betts situation is becoming a house divided in a baseball sense. Both have succumbed to the siren song of Red Sox history and that is utilize buying power. The high ticket prices expect the product on the field to be highly competitive with a healthy sprinkling of star attractions. Losing Betts diminishes that and plays into the local psyche. Betts may become another Roger Clemens or Johnny Damon – I doubt it, but cannot dismiss it.

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Society and sports are celebrity-driven and their actions provide fodder for TMZ, local media, and this and other endless missives on – in this instance – all things Mookie. Is it over presented? Of course, but it sells and has an attention appeal that only magnifies and intensifies the drama.