This was just over a month ago. When Red Sox fans dragged themselves out into the cold of late January and took up part of their days off to a Red Sox PR event to vent their anger and frustration with the direction of the most expensive team in Major League Baseball to be a fan of. To demonstrate, in Monty Python's words, that all right thinking people in this region are sick and tired of being told that ordinary decent people are fed up in this region with being sick and tired.
Or a chorus of loud, anger-fueled boos to that effect. Despite how John Henry wants to spin them:
Well if Sox ownership and management want to try and convince the world that the people who pay the bills are really not hacked off about the state of things, or worse, that they have no right to be because everything is going according to plan, they're in for an extremely rude awakening. First, because at a time when Spring Training has started and it's school vacation week, there are more players than fans in attendance:
When these workouts have been a prime vacation destination for generations of snow birding Massholes, but now look like a scene from The Last of Us, that's a bad sign. But an unpopular, insanely wealthy, insulated, socially awkward twit like John Henry can easily ignore the great unwashed. Dismiss the lack of crowds as just us poors being too ignorant to understand there's a master plan at work here, and once it starts to take shape, we'll all appreciate the 5-D chess being played and come crawling back.
What's harder for Sox management to look past is what MLB executives think of the job they're doing running this once-proud franchise right off the rails:
Source (paywall) - Another spring training is up and running.
So here, to help us zone in on the big storylines of spring, is an insightful panel of 29 executives, former executives, coaches and scouts. They just took part in our annual spring preview survey, and were granted anonymity so that they could speak freely. And there’s nothing we’d enjoy more than passing along their always-revealing thoughts.
For starters, it can't help matters on whatever they're calling Yawkey Way now to find out that, according to this survey, the GM who had the best offseason is the one they fired two years ago. The one who's now getting credit for the best free agent signing of 2023, Trea Turner:
MOST IMPROVED TEAMS ( NL)
Phillies: 23 …
[O]ne voter after another waxed eloquent about what a “perfect fit” [Turner] was for a Phillies team that chased him hard from Day One of the offseason, then reeled him in for 11 years and $300 million.
There was also lots of praise for the depth added by Dave Dombrowski’s bullpen shopping spree [and] this panel made it clear it views the Phillies as a vastly more legit powerhouse than last year’s surprise World Series invader:
• “Trea Turner is so good that when that team gets (Bryce) Harper back, I think you could argue that’s the best lineup we’ve seen in the game since the ’90s Indians, with their combination of power, speed and average.”
Now to the Red Sox, who ranked fourth on the Least Improved American League Teams list, with 11 votes. But they did rank No. 1 in a different category. The kind of superlative where you don't want your classmates writing your name down:
WORST FREE-AGENT SIGNING
Masataka Yoshida (Red Sox): 10 …
Boston’s five-year, $90 million signing of Yoshida felt like more of a commentary on the team than either the player or his contract. One voter’s review: “$105 million, including the posting (fee)? Really?” … And here’s another: “I don’t like that one, especially considering the team it came from. You mean that’s where you’re going to extend yourself? That’s a head-scratcher.”
When the most impressive addition to your roster, the one you're trying to sell to your dwindling fanbase as proof you're still striving for excellence, is getting "Really?"s and "I don't like that one"s and making heads itch across the league, while the guy you fired is getting "lots of praise" for his offseason, justifying all this will take more mental gymnastics than Livvy Dunne does in a season.
Pause for a quick Livvy Dunne gymnastics post:
Thanks for joining me on that journey into college athletics. And we're back.
The survey also listed Henry's team as the third most intriguing story of the upcoming year. But not in a good way. In the "Red Sox drama" way, with four votes. Presumably referring to the high octane, heart-pounding, adrenaline filled excitement of watching a big market team continue to dump talent to get under the salary cap. What the survey calls "life-after-Bogaerts turmoil."
But the one guy getting it worse than the team itself is the guy who's been tasked with carrying out Henry's plan. The other MLB execs are least kind to him:
Who’s feeling the heat?
There’s no more illuminating section of this survey than the part where we ask our voters to name the teams, front offices and/or managers who are under the most pressure this spring. Most years, there are multiple contenders. But this year’s leader was basically Secretariat in the 1973 Kentucky Derby.
CHAIM BLOOM/RED SOX FRONT OFFICE (20 VOTES): Pretty much everyone in baseball likes Chaim Bloom, the beleaguered chief baseball officer of the Red Sox. But when a guy rakes in this many votes in a survey like this, we think it’s safe to say this isn’t going well! The fan base is in rebellion. The rest of the industry is generally confused about why a money-making machine like the Red Sox would lowball a local hero like Bogaerts, then turn around and overpay an unknown quantity like Yoshida. But the conclusions were the same: If this team doesn’t win … uh-oh. “Here’s his problem,” said one voter of Bloom. “When (principal owner) John Henry is feeling the heat and (team chairman) Tom Werner is feeling the heat, they’ll throw anybody under the bus.”
So the most "illuminating section of this survey" is the one nobody wants to be mentioned in. And ends up being the one that Chaim Bloom "wins" by 27 furlongs. All because Henry, who owns Liverpool, the Pittsburgh Penguins, a racing team, a prime piece of real estate near Kenmore Square, and a private yacht that costs more than your town, can cut costs. Not the costs of tickets, food or beer mind you. Just of the payroll of the team you presumably go to watch.
The good news for Henry, aside from the increased profits from turning his team into the Oakland A's, is he actually won't get booed as much this year. You can't get booed by empty seats.