Mookie Betts And The Complexity Of Fandom

In February, Mookie Betts was traded. I was furious. People told me it was a good thing. I became more furious. Some fans sold themselves on the Red Sox being smarter than they actually are, that Mookie was merely a rental for the Dodgers in their never-ending pursuit of a World Series title and that with this new found tax relief the Sox would be in prime position to re-sign Betts. These are the same people who also believe that Betts never wanted to be here despite offering zero evidence to support that claim, so I’m not sure how trading him to the other, warmer side of the country was going to show him that Boston was the place to be. We’re not that far removed from doing the same shit with Lester, I don’t know why anyone thought this would be different.

But I can’t completely fault those who held out hope. I appreciate those fans who tried to envision a world where the Red Sox were able to reset the luxury tax threshold in order to re-sign Mookie Betts to a fair market value contract this winter. Because at the end of the day they wanted the correct thing: keeping one of the best players in baseball in Boston for the rest of his career. They are not the fucking morons plaguing my mentions defending this dumbass, short-sighted, narrow-minded move because one day Mookie will be old. These people exist. They have families. Their vote counts same as yours. It’s depressing.

I wouldn’t have traded Betts. I said as much in February, and the 12 months prior as this idea hung ominously over the entirety of last season. You know, the season where the Red Sox were defending World Series Champions. Somehow only one season’s worth of baseball games have taken place between Chris Sale ringing up Manny Machado and today. It feels like it’s been approximately a quarter century since that October. Mookie won MVP that season. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting last season. As he has every year since his first full year in the Bigs. Everything, literally everything, about Mookie Betts’ career up to this point signifies that he’s on the fast track to the Hall of Fame. That’s who the Red Sox punted for cap space. You know who does that kind of dumb shit? The fucking Knicks. They at least have a salary cap to deal with. The Red Sox do not. They have the luxury tax, which makes me angrier every time I write it. 

If you care about the luxury tax and you don’t work in the front office, you’re an asshole. I don’t think I can say it more plainly than that. It has no bearing on your life. The concessions won’t go down now that the Red Sox aren’t above the threshold. Ticket prices aren’t going to be a nickel like they were when your grandfather used to watch the game through a hole in the outfield fence. The Boston Red Sox, believe it or not, are one of the most lucrative organizations in all of sports. That’s true. I know around Boston right now the Red Sox front office is acting like panhandlers on Melnea Cass, but it’s all a front. They played this entire Mookie situation both poor and scared. They lowballed him publicly by leaking that 10-year, $300 million deal and they traded him because they wanted to “get something in case he didn’t re-sign.” I can’t even make fun of the Lakers for taking out a small business loan during this pandemic anymore because I’m sure the Red Sox filled out the same forms, they were just too impoverished to afford the stamps to mail in said forms. Maybe if they had sent those in they could have afforded to keep a home grown, top five talent in baseball. 

The home grown part is what really hurts. Ever since landing Manny Ramirez 20 years ago I’ve gone into every offseason believing it to be more than feasible that the Red Sox could sign nearly anyone they wanted. Why they feel more comfortable paying top dollar to players who accomplished things for other organizations rather than lining their own guys’ pockets is beyond me. “Why won’t Mookie just take a hometown discount?” Maybe because his brain works. The Red Sox, according to the Red Sox, offered Mookie $300 million. Mookie, according to the Red Sox, countered with 12-years, $420 million. The Red Sox never re-engaged those negotiations, according to the Red Sox. They traded him, Mookie signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for - and you’re never going to believe this - 12-years, $365 million. Which is, according to my eyeballs, directly in the middle of what the Red Sox offered and what Mookie countered with. It’s almost as if Mookie was trying to negotiate while the Red Sox were trying to make themselves look good while painting Betts as the bad guy. It’s almost as if this is the same group of people who made David Ortiz play out the last decade of his career on perpetual one year deals despite him being the most import Red Sox player since they opened Fenway Park. It’s almost as if these are the same people who fired Terry Francona, the greatest manager this team has ever employed, and called him a drug addict on the way out of town. 

While I’m mostly pissed off that one of the best players in baseball no longer plays for my favorite team, that’s really just the tip of this shit-infested iceberg. Because while this trade really sucks in a vacuum, it isn’t much better outside of said vacuum, either. Trading Mookie Betts is Exhibit A of a fundamentally broken power structure at the top of the organization. I had no problem with paying Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi at the time because I was working under the assumption that the Red Sox wouldn’t start crying poor 12 months later. I had no problem signing David Price, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Rusney Castillo, or anyone else because money has never mattered in Boston… until now? This is the player you draw the line with? Did Mookie’s contract expiring sneak up on you when you paid Sale and Eovaldi? Speaking of paying those two: why give Dave Dombrowski any power to negotiate if you knew he was going to be fired several months later? You take their money off the books and you instantly have that luxury tax problem magically solved. You have a new problem with your rotation, but considering how the rotation looks today I’d argue you have the same problem whether or not these fine gentlemen are employed by your baseball club or not. And again, I love Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi. I would have paid them, too. I also would have paid Mookie Betts. I wouldn’t have signed either if it meant I couldn’t keep the better player, but that’s just me. 

Now we wait until August 31. If baseball is played through that date the Red Sox luxury tax resets and then they can… throw a bunch of money at a worse player than Mookie Betts! This is a thing people are excited about. George Springer! 31-year old George Springer is who people are more comfortable giving nine figures to than MARKUS LYNN BETTS. Again, these are your neighbors. These are your coworkers. These are people you go to Church with. It’s deeply disturbing and extremely unsettling. George Springer is fine. Good player. Undoubtedly one of the baseball players alive today. If the plan is to fill the void left by trading Mookie Betts to fix the luxury tax problem by giving out another albatross contract to an undeserving player then why don’t I just take a big knife and swallow it whole? Is that what people want? Because I feel like I’m in the fucking Twilight Zone here. You want to fix the problem by doing the same shit that got us into this mess in the first place? Also… where are the people who told me Alex Verdugo was good? Isn’t he our right fielder? Wasn’t that the prized return? Now he’s just a stopgap to pay another right fielder and.. do what with Verdugo? Trade him again? Make him your fourth outfielder? Let Jackie Bradley Jr., 2018 ALCS MVP and best defensive center fielder to ever don a Sox uniform, walk and put Andrew Benintendi in center? How much worse do people want to make this team? Don’t even get me started on how imperative retaining J.D. Martinez is to both the short-and long-term future of this lineup. If he walks there might as well be a complete teardown and rebuild for when Blaze Jordan is ready to make his debut in four years. 

I’m angry. I’m angry because I care. Where I’m from that’s called being a fan, which is the crux of why I’m writing this. I had more than a couple people tell me yesterday, “Why even complain you’re just going to keep watching and supporting the team?” Fucking HUH??? Is that what you do, Detroit Pistons fans? Houston Texans fans? New York Mets fans? You just blindly support your team no matter what the fuck happens and keep some docile stupid smile on your dumb-dumb idiot face all the while? What the fuck are people talking about? Something dumb happens, I disagree. Loudly. Sometimes I disagree with something and it turns out, GASP, I was wrong! Crazy! What a world in which we inhabit, where people make decisions and then we form opinions based off said decisions. I could have sworn that was what fandom was all about but apparently I’ve being doing it wrong this whole time. So let me try out the correct way of doing things: Trading Mookie Betts was actually good. I’d trade any player looking to make money. Every single player will eventually get old and die. Dying on my dime? What do I look like, a fucking moron? I don’t think so, friend.