Fenway Sports Group no longer seems to care about the success of the team whose ballpark was the inspiration for their company name.
The disastrous winter weekend was poetic in a way, symbolizing a large majority of the post-2018 era we have experienced. Most importantly though, it told me this: Fenway Sports Group does not seem to care about the fans.
The circus started when Principal Owner John Henry and Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom took the stage alongside Manager Alex Cora and President/CEO of the Red Sox Sam Kennedy and were welcomed in by a sea of boo’s directed mainly at Henry and Bloom. The town hall opened up with a series of questions created by NESN (the Red Sox broadcasting channel), to which the group responded with some incredibly rehearsed answers.
Our first highlight came when Chaim Bloom was formally introduced as boos rained out from the crowd. Chaim used this moment as an opportunity to reflect on the last 3 years. Before we get into Chaim’s speech let's take a look back on those 3 seasons. In 2020, the Red Sox go 24-36 and finish last in the AL East. 2021 was a very surprising year, the Sox went 92-70 good for a wild-card spot, eliminating their division rivals the Yankees in the wild-card round, and the Rays in the wild-card round and eventually lost in the ALCS to the Astros. In 2022, the Red Sox go back to last in the AL East with a 78-84 record.
Now back to Chaim’s speech. For some god damn reason, Chaim starts his speech off by talking about the decision to trade Mookie Betts as an opportunity to acquire young talent to build around the staple pieces the Red Sox had on the team at the time. The real nail in the coffin was Chaim trying to use a funny play on words referring to the Mookie Betts trade as a bet. I’ll give Chaim this though, he does admit that the trade did not work out. Verdugo has been subpar at best, Jeter Downs was just DFA’d, and Connor Wong has bounced between AAA and the majors.
Chaim does not talk at all about the long-tenured SS and unofficial captain of the team Xander Bogaerts, who left the Red Sox for the Padres this offseason. The speech ends on the high note of extending Rafael Devers through 2033, which is huge, but still makes you wonder what could have been if we kept the core of Mookie and Xander around him.
All of this to say, yes I was not impressed with Bloom’s speech, but Chaim is not the problem, the problem lies within ownership. Chaim can only do so much with the resources that he has been provided with. It was clear before Chaim was brought in that Mookie Betts would not be re-signed, and it was clear that ownership did not want to give Xander the money he deserved to be given.
Let’s move on to the rest of the townhouse, in particular a fan question that came in asking about the rise in ticket prices from the 22 to the 23 seasons after a disappointing 2022. John Henry responded simply by saying it is expensive to run a baseball team and they need the money to invest in the team. This is bullshit, the Red Sox have always been one of the most, if not the most expensive ballpark to attend a game at. When you look at the track record of investing in their players lately, these two don’t add up. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, JD Martinez, Kyle Schwarber, hell we can even go back to Jon Lester in 2014. The Red Sox have not had a good track record of investing in their stars lately. Yes, we re-signed Chris Sale after the 2018 season (which has been a disaster by the way), and yes we brought in Trevor Story (who again has been a disaster so far), but something isn’t adding up.
It is unacceptable to charge for a premium experience when you aren’t consistently putting a premium product on the field and investing in your homegrown superstars. As of the start of the 2022 season, the average price for one fan to attend a game at Fenway and purchase 2 beers and a hot dog was $101.36, the third highest behind the Cubs and Yankees. Compared to the 14th-highest team payroll and something isn’t adding up with Henry’s answer.
The real highlight for me was when Jared Carrabis asked John Henry if the Red Sox are still a top priority for Fenway Sports Group. Henry, seemingly flabbergasted, couldn't even answer the question deferring to Sam Kennedy, President and CEO of the Red Sox. To me, Henry’s silence told me all I needed to know.
As Fenway Sports group continues to grow its portfolio which already contains the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, the Premier League’s Liverpool, and Nascar’s RFK Racing, the team subsiding in Fenway Park will become less of a priority.
You can follow Jay Rooney here: Twitter: @jvr1210