The signs for the Boston Red Sox 2024 season are unmistakable, an inescapable conclusion to an off-season where management has done little to vacate the desolate abandonment of a fan base whose loyalty will be severely tested.
The success of the beginning of the millennium continues to fade as Red Sox Nation finds itself locked into the same mindset of New York Yankees fans relishing the glory of their 27 titles of the past. 2018 may take on the same status as 1918 and the great baseball famine that followed. John Henry has given us four titles that will soon wear thin with an inpatient fan base.
The proverbial straw that could break Red Sox fans' backs is now the investment by Fenway Sports Group in the PGA. Just what are they thinking? What type of Bizzaro world is the organization living in? They toss dimes at just what got the money train rolling.
Twenty years ago, the cash-poor team failed to dump Manny Ramirez. Then came 2004, and it all started — the real estate empire, Liverpool FC, NASCAR, hockey, and more titles to solidify the fan base. Now, the team is being operated like a loss leader at a supermarket.
This last straw has taken the joy out of the approaching season. The product on the field may be more pleasant than the 1899 Cleveland Spiders (20-134), but it is an excellent target.
The Winter (Wilted) Weekend turnout should've told ownership all they needed to know about how fans see this team and its management. Henry and Co. have created expectations and not met them, only insulting fans' intelligence and baseball acumen with "full throttle" statements. Deception and rising ticket prices have become standard corporate policy.
Fan and media focus on Red Sox management will intensify during the season
Craig Breslow is Boston's new chief baseball officer, and with the change comes a duty of new management — pad the payroll with loyalists. The current corporate chart has all the influence of MassPort, the MBTA, and other Massachusetts entities. Andrew Bailey is the new pitching coach, and I don't expect Dave Duncan or Johnny Sain, but the deflection is a nice drift off management's off-season inability to address pitching. Breslow is just a rehash of Chaim Bloom with the directive to manage payroll and keep hopes alive that the 2024 team can be competitive.
The drama will not center on players since no one with the caliber of Xander Bogaerts will be viewing free agency on the horizon. Rumors have surfaced about a potential sale of the team that has risen with the sale of the Orioles and the apparent disinterest by ownership in the product on the field. The issue of whether or not the team should be sold will continue to gain steam.
Of secondary interest could be the status of manager Alex Cora, who is in the last year of his contract. Cora would be a prime target for a team on the hunt for a managerial replacement, and with Boston's reluctance to spend, it doesn't seem like the Red Sox will be getting him back.
For players, a fading team means a concentration on personal achievement. Fans would have players' accomplishments as a fallback-for-joy if the squad slithers around the .500 mark. However, there likely aren't any batting champions or Cy Young candidates surfacing on Boston's current roster.
If 2024 starts to shade 2023, the vociferous fan base and ever-present media horde will pounce. Support of ownership is waning, and the criticism is on an uptick — both will intensify if the team continues to falter. Team failure, the "meh" offseason, and bonehead statements by management can create the perfect storm for empty seats.
The drama of 2024 will jump further with the addition of Theo Epstein as a part-owner. Is Epstein the front man for a sale? Is he assembling a group behind the scenes to purchase the Red Sox? Or is he just a deflection? Time will tell.
When Tom Yawkey died, the team went into a long phase of darkness, including machiavellian maneuvers (Buddy LeRoux), contractual stupidity (Haywood Sullivan), and racial foolery (Elks Club) that further stained the sagging reputation of the franchise. Henry saved the day and possibly the team, as Yawkey had done in 1933.
Harry Frazee is vilified, and rightfully so, for dismantling a championship team, but before that, it was another story. Henry's reign brought a broken curse and four flags, but now he appears on a historical track to join Frazee.