Mazz: Pay attention, Red Sox, because spending is desire
Hopefully, the Red Sox are spending their time wisely this offseason. As the Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers head for a collision, they have one thing in common: money. And, therefore, desire.
I know, I know … payroll doesn’t guarantee anything. But it’s hard to win without it. Understand the difference? Teams can win at a relatively high level without high spending, which works in many places. But if you want the whole baloney, you have to pass the hernia test.
Translation: turn your head … and cough up the cash.
Let’s hope the Red Sox understand the correlation between spending and desire.
According to spotrac, know where the Rangers and Phillies rank in major league spending this year? Fourth and fifth, respectively. That shouldn’t surprise you. In 2022, World Series finalists Houston and Philadelphia ranked eighth and fourth. The year before, Houston and Atlanta ranked 10th and fifth. In baseball, those last two might actually qualify as upper middle class, which means they stretched their spending.
Now let’s examine what the Phils and Rangers did during the offseason. In 2022, the Rangers signed infielders Corey Seager ($325 million) and Marcus Semien ($175 million) to contracts totaling half a billion dollars. The Phillies opted for Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber ($79 million). for a total of $179 million. Both ultimately teams fell short. While the Phils lost in the World Series to the Astros, Texas went a wretched 68-94, analysts, nerds and small-market supporters to thumb their noses at the spenders (See?!) as if they had just had their personal wallets picked.
So you know what the Rangers did in response? They signed Jacob deGrom, who got hurt. (Bwahahahahahaha!) They also signed Nathan Eovaldi (from the Red Sox) and Andrew Heaney, then traded for Max Scherzer at the deadline. Meanwhile, the Phillies went out and dropped $300 million on Trea Turner, who has been arguably the best player on the planet over the last two months.
Were all of those deals smart? No. But that’s the thing with spending in baseball. It’s not the stock market. As much as spending is about winning championships – and it is – it’s more about the mindset it validates. The Phils and Rangers, indisputably, are serious about winning the title. Their fans and players all know it. They believe. Ditto for the Astros, who picked up Justin Verlander at the deadline. For that matter, the same is true for the Mets, who tried. The failing isn’t ultimately what mattered. Fans in New York certainly were disappointed this year, which should fuel the franchise further. In Boston, Red Sox fans were apathetic. They never believed. Neither did the players or, for that matter, the manager.
At the end of the day, only one of the spenders this year is going to win the championship. But that doesn’t mean the others fail to be rewarded. This year, after a 2022 World Series loss in Philadelphia, attendance increased by a half-million fans. You know why? Because they believed in the franchise.
Look, it’s obviously easy to spend when I’m not talking about my money. But it’s not yours, either. Thanks to fantasy sports, many fans long ago started to root for front offices instead of focusing on the uniformed personnel. Somewhere along the line, people started celebrating shrewd moves instead of moves designed to do the one thing that matters – win – which is precisely why Chaim Bloom ended up on the street. The objectives all got twisted and misunderstood. Nobody throws a parade for the teams with the lowest cost per win. (The Arizona Diamondbacks, who are currently getting schwacked, are among the frontrunners for this. And no one cares.)
Here’s the point: if you’re waiting with waited breath to see whom the Red Sox hired as their next chief baseball officer, don’t. I mean, the move might tell you something about the Sox’ intentions for 2024 and beyond, but Theo Epstein or Dave Dombrowski isn’t walking through that door. What you should be focused on is who’s in uniform next year. And that begins with ownership’s willingnss to get back to who the Red Sox were in the early part of this millennium, when they were hell-bent on doing one thing and one thing only.
And winning at most any cost.