By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
The once glowing embers of the hot stove that used to serve as fuel to get Red Sox fans through the dark and dank New England winters have now become a hot, steaming mess as the franchise that calls Fenway Park home heads into spring training as baseball’s version of the headless horseman.
It’s bad enough that majority owner John Henry came out and declared after a pathetically poor World Series title defense last October and told the fan base that he would be giving instructions to former team president of baseball operations replacement Dave Dombrowski to slash the club’s payroll in order to get under the luxury tax figure of $208 million for the 2020 season.
Late in September when the Sox had already sunk like the Titanic, the soft-talking self-proclaimed steward of the fabled organization – that for more years than not have been known for their foibles in their nearly century and a quarter existence – stated clearly that cutting costs on major league contracts was the primary goal this winter.
“This year we need to be under the CBT [competitive balance tax] and that was something we’ve known for more than a year now. If you don’t reset, there are penalties, so we’ve known for some time now we needed to reset as other clubs have done,” said the often silent Sox owner.
When faced with a follow-up inquiry, Henry added, “I want to answer by saying our real intention is to be competitive every year and we’ll do whatever we have to do to do that. The solution to that isn’t always having the highest payroll in baseball.”
Yet this is the same guy that let Dombrowski grossly overpay for a clearly damaged Chris Sale (5 years, $145 million) while he still had a year left on his existing contract and had yet to throw a regular-season pitch in anger after his arm looked like it was falling off in the second half of the 2018 season.
Even worse, he let Dealin’ Dave succumb to the natural high of winning a championship a little over a month before and ink the chronically injured Nathan Eovaldi to a four-year deal worth $68 million in December and just like clockwork, the two-time Tommy John surgery DL stint waiting to happen got hurt before he could speak the words “lottery winning” last spring.
Now just days before “Truck Day” – perhaps the most foolishly covered event in professional sports – Henry’s already listing team had a hole the size of Rhode Island shot through the already unstable bow when manager – and man who was portrayed to walk on water – Alex Cora was sent packing due to his sign-stealing scandal that happened in Houston on the team’s way to their first World Series win in franchise history in 2017.
But according to the Red Sox ownership and front office, Cora left his dirty tricks in Texas when he became the manager of the Olde Towne Team in December of that same year when the club set a franchise record for wins and pounded their way through the postseason, on the way to the fourth championship in the last two decades.
Pardon me if I don’t reserve judgment on this one.
And despite chief of baseball operations – whatever the hell that is – Chaim Bloom’s declaration just a couple of weeks ago that he fully expects free agent to be Mookie Betts to be part of the team when the season begins, reports have surfaced that the Sox are in talks with the San Diego Padres that would send the right fielder who is seeking a history setting contract to southern California for Wil Myers and change.
According to those who are supposedly in the know, the 1B/OF who is basically Jackie Bradley Jr. minus the defense – and is owed $66 million over the next three season – will not be grouped with any of the top prospects in the rich San Diego farm system.
Again, pardon me if I reserve judgment on this one.
I hate to be the one to break it to you Red Sox fans, but if you are lucky, you will be watching a .500 ballclub who will be looking to sell anything that isn’t tied down when the MLB trade deadline comes in late July.
And unless Bloom is even more brilliant than he has been portrayed to be, the rebuild will be one that is more distant than instant.