17 October 2011

Reality Check

Reality Check:

While we'd much prefer to speculate on the future of the Red Sox on the field, it is unavoidable that the off-field circus that has transpired these last two weeks are part of the discussion. Some general thoughts:

The rumors that Theo Epstein could move the the Cubs came as early as the All-Star break, and were fleshed out thereafter. Buster Olney addressed the possibility on August 24th, citing friends of Epstein who said Theo, "in years past", thought the Cubs situation a great challenge. Pardon me for being a cynic, but that's a trial balloon if there ever was a trial balloon. Gordon Edes wrote a column in late August addressing this issue. It was out there, in strong fashion. Pete Abraham wrote yesterday that "Epstein's top assistant, Ben Cherington, has been operating as the de facto general manager for several weeks and is expected to swiftly be named as his replacement.". Several weeks?! Is this just another Ownership leak to make it look like Theo checked out? Who put each of these out there? Epstein, his agent? Jon Henry? The media? Does it matter?

Another thing: we are pretty tired of the indignance of sportswriters with great access to the clubhouse editorializing about this supposed trainwreck of a team. Guys who were in the clubhouse every day, intimate with players, watching baseball 5-7 hours a day from the sidelines and the locker room, who now act like they had the wool pulled over their eyes? If these writers are as talented, hard-working, intrepid as they think they are, they would have been discussing this throughout the year since the friction was not even remotely sub-text. If they didn't notice it, it is an indictment of their own skills as reporters and writers, a testament to their laziness or lack of critical ability. Or they are simply complicit, and have no right to their indignance. This situation is a testament to the adage that everyone loves a winner. Losers, however, aren't forgiven.

One last item caught our eye, a story on ESPN's Soccernet (we are footie junkies) about John Henry's purchase of Liverpool, and we found it both unastounding and incredibly cynical. Henry says in response to a question about what he knew of that storied team (the Yankees of the EPL before Manchester United became the Yankees of the EPL), he states that he "knew virtually nothing about Liverpool Football Club nor EPL [the Premier League]". Henry may be playing dumb here, but in our mind there is a bit of revelation in this admission, and it should inform our view of this ownership: the Red Sox is not a sentimental holding for him. It is a commodity. When Henry perceives that maximum value has been extracted, he will move on. He will sell. The team is primarily a vehicle for revenue generation (and secondarily a vanity toy, of course). Henry is a financial tool, and we ought not think he is a fan like we are. He will do what he can to make the most money and he will move on, and whatever wreckage he leaves in the wake of that revenue extraction will be ours to inherit as fandom's collateral damage. Our trust has to be that Henry sees successes on the field as inextricably linked to revenues, but that may not actually be the case now or in the future. At some point maximum value will be reached, and at that point we are guessing Henry will look for another investment. We cannot expect or rely on the idea that John Henry cares about winning. He cares about money. For 8 years those two cares have been entwined. Those years will surely end.

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