Are the Red Sox drifting or playing chess this offseason?
The machinations of the Red Sox management this offseason have run the gamut of the human psyche. The masks of comedy and tragedy, or possibly the Roman God Janus, depict war and peace. A turmoil of emotions that explicitly is a driver of all things Red Sox. I may now feebly attempt to organize some conflicting points on the latest Red Sox approach, representing what I have seen on social media. I will stick with yin and yang.
Management has drawn a line in the sand regarding exorbitant spending. After a long and questionable history of contracts with suspicious returns, the veering is in a different direction. Weaning off past behaviors as the fan base is now coming to grips with a fiscal detox program. Management knows best. To paraphrase Patriot fans, “In Chaim we trust.” That represents one faction regarding the state of the Red Sox. Implicit trust in baseball management.
There is a flip side to the management coin; I go into my past on management trust. In another life, I worked for an enormously successful company. Still, senior management implemented strategy changes that left my fellow worker drones wondering if lobotomies were part of the last corporate outing. Within five years, the company was a shell of its former shelf. Management is not all-knowing, especially in sports where the human factor is paramount.
Spending is a topic with the Red Sox, especially with the specter of the Luxury Tax. With free agents of notoriety going elsewhere and the Red Sox management exploring purchasing a National Hockey League team, what does it mean for the Red Sox?
Is exorbitant spending necessary? The Red Sox brand is a baseball powerhouse as a drawing card and a fine-tuned money machine. The team has become the driver for expansion into other sports acquisitions, media purchases, and real estate. The entire conglomerate is worth well into the $5 billion range and expanding.
Association with success means the loot box grows, and success is the Red Sox. The expansion is linked directly to the centerpiece, the Red Sox. The movie “North Dallas Forty” has a scene where the team owner shows his business empire on a pyramid. The top of the pyramid is the football team representing a tiny fraction, but it is why he is on Time Magazine’s cover. The other enterprises generated income, but football generated ego.
The Red Sox have an exquisite history of star players. Retention stabilizes the brand, and one generational player is now gone. In the wings are two others. If you buy into star power, then you must pay the freight. Broadway or community theater? You do everything possible to retain the best.
Conversely, a productive farm system, strategic trades, and free agents’ due diligence can accomplish the same. Create a new generation of stars relying on player development, selective deals, and a pile of luck. Is that the management approach with Chaim Bloom executing the new game plan? Will the Red Sox again be “players” within the volatile free-agent marketplace? That is still a lingering question to be answered.
The Red Sox fan base is spoiled. Success is expected and is mandatory. The path of failure could return to the dark and sinister days of the 1950s and the mid-1960s—empty seats. Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Lewis took on a series of opponents soon known as “The Bum of The Month Club” for their lack of pugilistic talent.
Are the Red Sox recent signings the baseball answer to that club? Is excitement generated by signing a lame James Paxton, ancient Rich Hill, and trading a power bat? Far too many perceive that is precisely what is transpiring with limited spending. The gold is going elsewhere, and we get the pyrite. Or is that gold Pablo Sandoval, David Price, and Carl Crawford?
There is a matter of trust in scouting and player development. In assessing players, baseball management must show one quality of significance – patience. This is most certainly applied to the top draft picks. Should we use the same standard for Red Sox management? Are fans playing the short game and management playing the long game?
The long game focuses on the recent trade of Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr. On a purely even swap, it is nonsensical. But equal takes a vacation when prospects are included. Do the Red Sox evaluators see something special? Is there a reverse of Jeff Bagwell somewhere within the wheeling and dealing?
Is the Red Sox management implementing a plan with a lockout now a reality? There are union issues that are being negotiated, and one that is near and dear to the hearts of Red Sox fans is spending. Will the Luxury Tax and arbitration be tweaked? That can impact spending priorities, especially if the team chooses to accelerate spending once the LT is lifted or changed?
Revenue impacts spending and fans will say, what am I paying for? Why not just go to Worcester to see almost the same quality of talent? Could it migrate into that depressing territory? Where the attraction becomes not your team but the other team? I care not to take this point seriously.
What I have written is not new science. Similar questions and opinions surface on social media whenever the Red Sox trade a player or remains silent in post-season adventurism. Fans are angry, patient, or could care less when looking at responses. One thing is inevitable, no matter what management does or does not do, the fans will be opinionated.