The Providence Journal
April 7, 2012
The great Red Sox Championship teams of 2004 and 2007 are sadly gone — slowly picked apart by ego over the years, and then finally dismantled in a panicked off-season of finger-pointing. This year the team is so unrecognizable, and so unlikeable, that 100-year-old Fenway Park will be the featured star instead of the spoiled rotten players and diffident management.
The unseasonable spring of 2012 aptly features the highly mislocated personality of Bobby Valentine as the new Red Sox manager. Bobby V! Like a hummingbird seen in March — but worse, a hummingbird with an ego problem — the Machiavellian Valentine is better suited to the brash, outspoken climes and culture from which he came.
Who hired a New Yorker to be the manager of the Boston Red Sox, anyway?
Oh, that’s right, the brash outspoken-and-still-standing president and CEO of Fenway Sports Group, Larry Lucchino, the last ego standing.
Long gone or recently departed are the icons and heroes of an era: Theo Epstein, Terry Francona, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez and many others. They all got paid, they all got rich, and fame tumbled down around them. They were once the Kings of New England, but their egos got the better of the team.
Many of the players grew up poor in America, or very poor in the Dominican Republic, yet, after a few successful seasons in Boston and at a relatively young age, they left the team — in one instance, to make the difference between making $42 million and $50 million. Others stayed, but for a price, specifically an absurd, obscene ticket price. In 2012, after eight years of winning baseball and rising ticket prices, a night at Fenway Park in good seats for a family of four will cost in excess of $1,000.
Soon, you will need a 401(k) just to pay for sporting events.
The average baseball player makes $3 million a year. So what if he can’t eat in public, in peace? David Ortiz has made roughly $84 million in the last eight years, enough to open his own restaurant, Big Papi’s Grill.
As they say in Washington, “That’s your money!”
This increasingly unseemly exchange is about to get much worse in the unseasonable season of 2012. The Red Sox are not projected to do well, and an annoying manager will probably exacerbate their public-relations problems and threaten their profitable sell-out streak.
Although the Red Sox are not a publicly traded company, they are big business, and the players and their big salaries are under a microscope worthy of Wall Street. (If only Wall Street itself were this thoroughly scrutinized!)
There aren’t many windows into the super-rich, and that’s exactly what the Red Sox and their players have become. Most highly paid business executives or rich individuals operate behind walls of secrecy and security, at work and at home. The fortunes of the Red Sox play out daily in the pages of The Providence Journal, and the merciless WEEI sports-radio talk shows, among many other media outlets.
In the end, most of the players cashed in and went their own way because of team success. Greed and ego trumped modesty and honor. There are a few exceptions. Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jon Lester signed “team” contracts for notably less money, but the Red Sox way, articulated by Theo Epstein, eventually gave way to the free-agent way embodied by the salaries of Adrian Gonzalez ($21 million per year), Carl Crawford ($20 million a year) and John Lackey ($16 million a year).
They are now too big, and will fail.
The fans have the championship memories and costly paraphernalia, and a creeping feeling that it is all so very hollow. These guys did something special together that we were all a part of, but that success led to a thousand roads out of town and away from the team that made it all possible. Again, the individual trumps the collective. America.
There is no $ in team.