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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: July 12, 2024 6:20 pm PDT

Tale of Two Teams

BY KEVIN KERNAN

The Yankees traded for Juan Soto.

The Red Sox acquired Garrett Cooper.

That’s pretty much all you need to know about the difference between the Red Sox and Yankees these days. The Yankees are going for the gold. The Red Sox have made it abundantly clear under the ownership of John Henry they are now okay with mediocrity.

John Henry seems more excited about the Savannah Bananas these days, who sold out Fenway Park on successive nights, than his extremely mediocre Red Sox, who hope to have a shot at the wild card.

The real story here is that this is just another example of elite owners treating devoted, lifelong fans like garbage.

Henry, who doesn’t talk to the media much anymore, gave a rare comment to the Financial Times recently that started this firestorm. He said that the Red Sox fans expectations are way too high.

“Because fans expect championships almost annually,’’ Henry recently wrote to reporter Sara Germano in an email, “they easily become frustrated and are not going to buy into what the odds actually are: 1-in-20, 1-in-30.’’

Odds are, with that mindset, Red Sox fans are not going to be shelling out their money to see their team at Fenway. Fenway used to be one of the best home-field advantages for any team, but now Henry and his Financial Cheap Times ways have turned Fenway into a haven for the visiting team. Phillies fans took over the place and now Yankees fans are making themselves at home.

I’ve spent so much time at Fenway through the years that it’s hard to believe this is happening. Red Sox fans are so devoted they used to give me crap at Fenway Park knowing I worked for a New York tabloid. And it was fun. It made covering a Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway something special and I will never forget those ALCS Championship games in 2004 and the energy in that building when the Red Sox came back from the dead.

Just wondering if John Henry knows the odds of a team coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS against the mighty Yankees.

Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees, left, and Jamie Westbrook #73 of the Boston Red Sox run into each other after Judge slides into second during the ninth inning of a game against the .Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 14, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jaiden Tripi/Getty Images)

Just overall poor messaging from and it is wrong because as one math expert told BallNine: “It’s a totally inaccurate statement to make from a probability perspective. Many permutations of variables impact the probability of winning. It’s not a simple 1-in-30. Every competitive environment is different – he’s not really competing against 30 teams. It’s really a much smaller subset.’’

I had a close relationship with Larry Luchino, president and CEO of the Red Sox, and always felt Larry was the driving force behind the Red Sox success and winning those world championships in 2004, breaking the Curse of the Bambino, and in 2007, 2013 and 2018.

Larry was the one who knew how to feed the beast too coming up with the Yankees nickname: “Evil Empire.’’

Red Sox fans are already in a foul ownership mood this year because of Tom Werner’s comments that the Red Sox going “full throttle’’ in trying to acquire the talent needed to compete for a championship. And then they essentially did nothing.

I know a lot of people in the Red Sox organization who want to go full throttle, people like manager Alex Cora, but ownership is really not on board with that concept with the acquisitions they have made. It’s not easy to work under those conditions but no matter what you have a job to do.

And when it comes to baseball ownership, it is never about what they say, it is about what they do. Henry has gone one step further throwing salt into the wounds of Red Sox fans, essentially mocking them since they care so much about winning.

And the great irony here, of course, is that the Yankees are back to being the Yankees, acquiring talent that is needed to build a championship since not winning a title since 2009. Aaron Judge has the ear of owner Hal Steinbrenner and that has made all the difference. Soto has been the perfect wingman to Judge, whose numbers are in another baseball world. Then there is the fact that Judge was the driving force in getting Alex Verdugo from the Red Sox. Verdugo absolutely embarrassed his former team on Thursday night with a home run and four RBIs in the 8-1 win in Verdugo’s Please Come (Back) to Boston victory.

By the way, that was the seventh straight series opener at Fenway the Red Sox have lost.

That loss put the Red Sox at 35-35, a full 14 games behind the Yankees.

Ever since John Henry did not think the Red Sox needed a superstar in Mookie Betts and traded Mookie to the Dodgers in February of 2020, this is a fading franchise. You have to respect the talent and keep the talent.

Just because you care less, the fans should not be penalized for caring more than ownership.

First it was baseball boss and numbers cruncher Chaim Bloom, a Henry hire, running them into the ground and giving Mookie a ticket out of town to LA, and now it is Craig Breslow in charge. He is the one who handed Verdugo over to the Yankees making their rival that much stronger. Verdugo came to the Red Sox in the Mookie trade so this is a double whammy.

You know who should care a little more about the Red Sox?

John Henry should care more about his team, but his Fenway Sports Group is spread thin in the toy department with the Pittsburgh Penguins, soccer across the pond, other sports as well and now a PGA partnership.

Just because you care less, the fans should not be penalized for caring more than ownership. The bottom line here is that this is just another elite billionaire telling the serfs be happy with what you got.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few MLB owners like John Henry who don’t really care one iota about their team’s fans. It happens a lot in baseball and as I wrote last week in my Dead Sea Baseball column that received an incredible response, fans are being treated like fools because the system they have put in place is hurting the game across the board.

Back in September of 2020 when most of the world was stuck at home, I was the first to write about the excitement of attending a Savannah Bananas game live and in person for BallNine. Here we are four years later and John Henry is aboard the Bananas Express because he got two straight sellouts at Fenway with their popular brand of Showtime Baseball.

What Henry fails to grasp is that fans do care, and yes they want to win every year, but they also are realistic and understand it really doesn’t work that way anymore. No team has won consecutive World Series since the Yankees did it in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

But why can’t you be in the race more often when you are a big market team.

Henry saw that in 2004 where so many Red Sox fans were just happy that their team had finally won. How many times did he hear people say they can die happy now because their Red Sox fans finally won a World Series.

John Henry had the proof right under his nose about how much they care and why they care and still couldn’t see it. Fans live for the hope of winning. Take away that hope and then there is the reality of why am I being a fan of a team that does not have hope?

Why should I care about a team when the owner says there is only a 1-in-20 or 1-in-30 chance of winning it all?

Boston Red Sox owner John Henry watches his team from his box. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

There has to be more to MLB than just betting games, betting parlays, betting on betting. There has to be a heartfelt reason to be a fan that does not include betting. Imagine an NFL owner telling his teams’ fans they are unrealistic and care too much about winning.

The question Red Sox fans need to be asking themselves right now is why should they care about a team where the owner himself said they realistically only have a 1-in-20 or 1-in-30 chance of winning.

Why should you care when John Henry has clearly moved on to other sporting ventures.

The answer is simple.

You care because you care and that is something John Henry and his ilk will never understand.

The absurdity of everything being related to numbers with these heartless owners is beyond belief. I remember talking to my good friend Hall of Fame baseball writer Nick Cafardo, who covered the Red Sox for decades and passed away in spring training in 2019, about how the new numbers-oriented owners just don’t get it and Nick said this to me about the numbers and stats and computers taking over the game:

“They are taking away the romanticism of the game.’’

As he often did, Nick nailed it in his unassuming way.

And with his latest comments, again, essentially mocking fans of his own team for caring too much about his Red Sox, John Henry is tearing away another layer of the romanticism of being a Red Sox fan. Generations of fans in New England have cared too much and have wanted to win a championship, they went to their graves wanting just one championship.

They went forever with not winning a championship, but it was the hope that someday they would win that kept them going as fans.

No one who plays professional sports aspires to be mediocre. And these comments by Henry were a gut punch to Red Sox players who immediately went into, “We’ll show him,’’ mode.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who I’m sure will be working somewhere else in 2025, had the perfect response telling WEEI “Jones and Mego’’ show, “I think every fanbase has the right to dream big.’’

Alex, who I have known since his playing days, is one of the most competitive people in baseball. He then trudged out the old “Agree to disagree’’ line just to make sure fans know which side of the fence he is standing on.

Alex Verdugo #24 of the New York Yankees reacts after hitting a two run home run during the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 14, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jaiden Tripi/Getty Images)

I am really curious to see what team Cora will be managing next year or what front office he will be working for next season. In Alex Cora and the Marlins Skip Schumaker, MLB has two experienced managers ready for the open market in 2025.

John Henry, who also owns the Boston Globe, is dreaming big about his other sports entities, not his Red Sox.

That’s his right. That’s what billionaires can do. Every spring training I would be there when John Henry used to do his state of the Red Sox press conference in Ft. Myers, sitting on the bench outside the clubhouse and every spring training I came away thinking, geez, this guy is a wet blanket. He was passionless and there was always a hint of AI in the house when he talked.

As the years have gone on Henry has stepped away from those state of the team addresses. With his latest comments to Financial Times you can see why. The more he talks or emails about his Red Sox, the more he gets himself in trouble.

With these comments, in both the Red Sox clubhouse and with the fans, John Henry has turned himself into the real-life owner Rachel Phelps, played by Margaret Whitton, you know the Las Vegas showgirl who inherits the Cleveland Indians in the 1989 movie “Major League.’’ She wants to move the team from Cleveland to Miami.

“Going somewhere, meat?’’

Henry owned the Marlins and parlayed that into the ownership of the Red Sox and four World Series titles and so much more.

Three of the last five years they have finished in last place and already are 14 games back in the competitive AL East as the Yankees and Orioles dominate the division. Sure, the Red Sox are a big market team, but the fans shouldn’t expect too much.

John Henry does not feel your pain.

And why should he. He has other sports interests.

In his baseball world, World Championship Ball has been replaced by Banana Ball. That’s cool. In John Henry’s world, a sellout is a sellout.

Good luck Red Sox fans. With the Yankees back to being the Evil Empire, may the force, and odds, be with you.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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