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Lack of Ownership From Ownership

John Henry listens to a question during a press conference.

Winning starts at the top, but so does losing. Where is the accountability from the Boston Red Sox’s ownership as the losses have added up?

The Boston Red Sox are mired in yet another lackluster offseason. Another end in the AL East basement for 2024 is appearing more likely by the minute. Anyone else remember when the joke used to be that the Baltimore Orioles were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs before the end of April? Now that joke is more fitting on the Sox. However, this should be no cause for concern because after all, the Sox are still the only team in baseball to have won four World Series in the 21st century. Well, this is at least what Sox ownership wants fans to think. 

The Question

 When must the competitiveness of the owners of a sports franchise be called into question? After a dominant 2018 season ended with another Duck Boat parade in Boston, the Sox have now had two seasons over .500, with one playoff appearance, and three last place finishes. Boston has been spoiled for much of this century, so this is not a boo-hoo about losing. This is about the reasons behind the losing. This includes the sudden shift in the culture of the franchise. The hiring of Chaim Bloom in 2019 revealed that the owners of the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Sports Group (FSG) but more specifically John Henry and Tom Werner, became businessmen instead of competitors. 

The bottom line started to matter more than winning baseball games. The passion and spirit that led to them buying the Red Sox in the first place has withered away in a storm of content and diversification of their assets. The purchase of the Pittsburgh Penguins by FSG in November of 2021 revealed this even more so than the hiring of an intelligent but clearly flawed, penny-pinching general manager that embodied what they hoped to do. By going out and buying a controlling interest in another team in another sport, ownership quit on the Red Sox. They still rely on the team for revenue, but instead of spending the offseason mired in the failures of the franchise, they can say “we’re onto Pittsburgh” instead. To put more salt in the wound, a FSG led investment group recently ponied up $3 billion for a share of the PGA Tour. 

The Problem with the Change

When a team loses, or lets down the fanbase, the players and coaches have the offseason to make adjustments. Those players have time for other hobbies, but at the end of the day, they still are focused on improving for their team. When owners diverge their interests to multiple teams in multiple leagues, they can escape the reflection and focus they should have on one team. Ownership does not need to make the same investment of time that the front office does. They do still need to be as bought in as the rest of the franchise, but in other ways.

In other words, being busy is another form of procrastinating. Going seamlessly from the end of baseball into hockey means the important decisions can be put off longer and longer. It seems like the owners of the Red Sox are no longer fans of the team. If you ask me (not that anyone ever does), any true Sox fan is a Bruins fan as well, not a Penguins fan. This deal distanced ownership from the first fanbase that they bought into. A distance they continue to increase much to everyone’s chagrin.

For the Sox, there have been two notable signings this offseason, neither of which is a player. Technically, new Chief of Baseball Operations Craig Breslow was a player. However, last I check he discontinued the phone plan that could reach him in the bullpen. The biggest offseason signing is clearly that of Theo Epstein returning as a senior advisor. This is a good sign because I “Trust in Theo” almost as much as I used to “Believe in Bill”.  Unfortunately, Theo’s never thrown a pitch or had an at bat at the Major League level.

What’s Next

The next step for this group is to sell the team. Ownership’s passion is gone along with their pride. Only a demoralized fanbase is left. If you love something, you have to know when to let it go. They clearly loved the Red Sox at the start of the century, but that love is no more. As owners they owe it to the fans to sell the team to someone that has the passion and competitive spirit they once had. Look across the division to Baltimore to see what a new, hungry ownership group does. Trading for an All-Star starter on Day 1 is the right attitude to have.

Baltimore was just bought for $1.7 billion. The Sox are worth $4.5 billion. Doing loose math means the Sox should be spending somewhere in the ballpark of three times as much as Baltimore. As things stand today, the Sox are not spending twice as much as the Orioles. Keeping a franchise in the basement to make yourself money is no better than a coach sitting a player to throw a game they bet on. Ownership is at the top, and their decisions directly impact the product on the field.  A coach who doesn’t love the game would be fired. Sadly, owners won’t fire themselves. Instead, fans have to trust that they will do right by us and know when the time to go is.

A Pitiful Plea

John Henry, Tom Werner, and all of Fenway Sports Group, do right by the fans that have paid the highest ticket prices in baseball for a lackluster product. Sell the team, enjoy the Penguins, the PGA Tour, Liverpool, and whatever else piques your interests. Let a new, hungry owner have the opportunity to return the Sox to baseball’s top tier. It probably sounds like I’m beating a dead horse here, but the situation continues to get worse. Ownership hasn’t listened to the pleas of well-known journalists, so maybe they’ll listen to me instead. 

Or say it ain’t so Jo(hn Henry) and allow Craig Breslow to take decisive action that will improve the Sox before Spring Training begins. In a rare media appearance, Tom Werner promised a “full throttle” offseason back in November. If the past few months have been full throttle, the engine is broken beyond repair, and needs to be replaced. 

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