Boston

Red Sox Ownership Defiant in the Face of Fan Backlash

Boston.com – Red Sox fans are not at all happy, and the team knows it.

Well before the Red Sox traded away one of the best players in Major League Baseball, fans had begun to tune out, either by turning off NESN or not filling the seats at Fenway Park toward the end of last year’s 84-win, playoff-whiff of a season...Kennedy said last fall that attendance over 79 games at Fenway Park last season was down 0.7 percent, while NESN ratings dropped 23 percent.

The day after the Betts trade, Kennedy said overall ticket sales were behind last year’s pace by more than 15 percent, and that the renewal rate of season-ticket holders was down from the usual percentage in the high 80s to the low 80s.

Ticket sales are down. Season ticket renewals are down. Ratings were *significantly* down already last year. THEN the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts and David Price. I wrote extensively about the trade and how I’m not losing any sleep over it, but Betts was a fan favorite and arguably the best player in the game so a little fan backlash was to be expected. Yet, Red Sox ownership somehow still looked wildly unprepared for the heat. John Henry, Tom Werner, and Sam Kennedy had their annual picnic table presser down in Fort Myers this morning and it went about as well as a Jeb Bush pep rally.

Henry then released a statement on the team’s twitter account that compared trading a former MVP to the time they traded a burnt out, broken down player in Nomar. Not exactly the same, John.

“I know many of you – particularly our youngest fans – are angry or disbelieving or sad about it. I know it’s difficult and disappointing. Some of you no doubt felt the same way when we traded Nomar in 2004.”

I am amazed at how poorly the Red Sox handle the media year after year. Few organizations in America would benefit as much as the Red Sox from a complete PR overhaul. Henry was not only glib to the reception of the Mookie trade, but he openly scoffed at legitimate criticisms.

Kennedy said nobody has asked for a refund – “I think you underestimate our fans,” said Henry at the suggestion – and that the team will not roll back the ticket price increase, another idea that amused Henry.

“As a result of making trades?” he asked.

Red Sox fans don’t complain about paying one of the highest ticket prices in the league, but thats only because they expect the team to compete and spend, every year. It may not be fair to expect the Sox to have the top payroll in the league every year, but it is fair for fans to be upset when the team raises prices (again) and subsequently dumps two of their best players to shed payroll.

Henry can continue to spin tall tales every time he denies this trade was a salary dump, but thats exactly what this was. As I said in my blog about the trade last week, I am an adult and I understand there are budgets in business so while fans may not be happy about it, I get it. But when Henry continues to outright deny it after saying it *himself* just a few months ago is a bad look for the team.

Both Henry and Kennedy wanted to alter, by almost 180 degrees, the prevailing and understandable perception that the Betts trade was made for purely financial reasons. It’s a line of reasoning that was launched last September by Henry himself when he told reporters “This year we need to be under the [competitive balance tax].”

Henry downplayed the notion that financial tailwinds steered the trade.

“…It’s surprising that anyone would think we would outspend every other team in baseball every single year. To me, that’s a little surprising…it has nothing to do with CBT.”

To be fair, this could still be a very good Red Sox team heading into the 2020 season. With young studs like Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Eduardo Rodriguez and veterans like JD Martinez and Chris Sale (if healthy) – it would not shock me to see this team in the mix for a playoff spot. Boston fans aren’t stupid though. This team could be pretty good, but this trade was still a way to shed payroll while recouping assets. Both can be true.

Henry and co. tried to stump on their track record of spending, which includes leading the league the last two years, and never being outside of the Top 5 in terms of payroll since they took over.

Guys, thats what you’re supposed to do.

The Red Sox and Fenway Sports Group as a whole are one of the most valuable franchises on the entire planet. You don’t get credit for acting accordingly.

Not to mention, A LOT of that spending that Henry and Kennedy are fond of pointing to is littered with horrific contracts that nearly sunk the team for years at a time. Carl Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, Rusney Castillo, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi etc. etc.

So we are now just 38 days away from Opening Day, but it seems like the noise surrounding the team is only rising. This is before we even get into Alex Verdugo’s stress fracture in his back and the troubling allegations against him, injuries to Sale and Eovaldi, the term “Opener” being thrown around a bit too much for my liking, and the fact this team still doesn’t have a real closer.

It seems like 2020 could be quite the rocky ride for the Red Sox as they prepare to cross what ownership doesn’t want to admit this is; a bridge year.

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