The Providence Journal, March 6, 2021

The Red Sox are building the first farm-to-table baseball team!

Owner John Henry, always the pro’s progressive, has committed to sourcing players locally from the team's farm systems in Portland, Salem and Worcester, and to using organic methods to build out the 2021 roster of homegrown players. The wonky owner likes to win championships but hates the idea that they were bought and paid for through unfair capitalist business practices like free agency. In 2018, the sheepish CEO, with the biggest payroll in baseball, practically apologized for winning the World Series against the Dodgers, citing the “unity and diversity” of the team instead of free agents J.D. Martinez and David Price and their $223-million payroll.

Building a farm-to-table baseball team is a first-world baseball team problem. Mr. Henry’s $7-billion Fenway Sports Group is the most successful organization of its kind in the world, winning many championships not only in baseball, but also for Liverpool soccer and Roush NASCAR, which are part of his company. It’s clear the man is looking to go beyond just winning.

We are in a necessary new age of political correctness, but John Henry has been out in front of this for years. In 2015, the Red Sox put a 7,000-square-foot organic garden on the roof of Fenway Park, and in 2018 revised the name of their street address — from Yawkey Way to Jersey Street — the way progressive Democrats want to rename Southern military installations.

Mr. Henry has come a long way from changing, and possibly ruining, baseball through analytics and big money. Now, he wants to remake the Red Sox into a politically correct sports team, and more. To do so, pre-pandemic, he hired Chaim Bloom, the vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays, who for years could only afford farm-to-table players and built organic teams that were good but not great. Then, the Sox traded their best player, Mookie Betts, to the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom the Red Sox chairman, Tom Werner, then criticized for giving Mookie a $365-million contract extension. 

The smartest people in the room are gathered yet again at Fenway to see if they can, ironically, do it the old-fashioned way, as many organic methods always are. This time it’s going to be different!

Getting the horse back in the barn for the sake of farm-to-table principle has proven to be an oft-impossible free market challenge. Can we develop our own pitchers and relievers? Or do we need the conspicuous free agent signings of Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel to beat the Yankees? 

Mr. Henry is a leader, and he once again will try to do the right thing for the right reason. Then there are the fans, who will have a say in how long a righteous effort can continue. Can Red Sox Nation tolerate losing in the short term, and perhaps the midterm, for a chance at higher ground, and maybe an organic World Series championship?

On the Thursday following the Daytona 500, Roush Fenway had the pluck to announce that they will be the first carbon-neutral NASCAR team. Leading the way for Southerners, sports fans and citizens everywhere, in the twilight of a great career, will be John Henry.

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