Sports fans around the country must really hate Boston right now. I’ll be the first the admit that I’ve been seriously spoiled in my professional sports fandom. Not only do we win more often than not and possess money to dump on free agents, but we are wonderfully obnoxious about it all – think Bill Belichick deciding to get an extra touchdown rather than kneeling the ball. The last two days have been a spectacular microcosm for the relative power and arrogance of Boston sports that I hope never ends.
To recap, the Patriots routed the NFC North-leading Lions 34-9, doing Patriots things like sitting Sports Illustrated cover boy Jonas Gray for being late to a practice with no consequence at all and running up the score with a needless touchdown. I love that Bill Belichick left Gray active for the game even though he had absolutely no intention of playing him. It may have left the Patriots with one fewer player, but he made the Lions, TV announcers, and millions of fantasy owners wait the whole game to see how long the in-house suspension would last. And how annoyed must Steelers fans be, not to mention fans of any team needing a good running back, that LaGarrette Blount wryly worked his way back onto the Patriots with a serious of childish acts that ultimately will carry no consequences?
At the same time, we had our much overlooked New England Revolution playing in the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Red Bulls and taking the first leg 2-1 on the road on a dubious Jermaine Jones goal. Hate us for scoring goals like that. Hate us for acquiring World Cup star Jones on a literal coin flip. And hate us for not caring one bit that we have a legitimately great soccer team right now – even the owners of the team, the Krafts, couldn’t be bothered to watch the Conference Finals.
There was a Celtics loss in the evening – we have to have one bad team, right? – but before the night was over there was news that the Red Sox had landed Hanley Ramirez for 5 years and 90 million dollars. Given their pursuit of Pablo Sandoval, the move was surprising, but maybe they’d gotten impatient with Sandoval, or believed his price was too high.
Wrong. We all woke to the news that Sandoval too was headed to Boston, for 5 years and roughly 98 million. Wow. The Red Sox spent almost $200 million in twelve hours on a pair of third basemen when the biggest need on the team is very clearly pitching. Somehow, Ben Cherington went in and stole the two best hitters on the market before everyone’s eyes. And it can be argued that he didn’t need to. You can sure hate us for that.
Cherington seemingly sold Ramirez on playing left field, a position he has never played in his big-league career. This is the same player who put up a stink for having to move from shortstop to third base not too long ago. Ramirez also will join an absurdly crowded outfield, although he won’t be the one worried about that. So what convinced him then that this was the place for him? The answer has to be money. Most teams can’t afford to spend money on superstars they need, but the Red Sox do it for players they want.
Sandoval on the other hand chose Boston over similar offers from two other teams, including the Giants, for whom he’d won three World Series titles and become a cult hero. He chose a worse team in a city with notoriously harsh critics in a more challenging league over his home team that didn’t try to undercut him. I can’t begin to understand why he’d make that decision, but I’m sure glad to have his switch-handed hitting bat in the lineup.
On a quick tangent, the Red Sox now have to sort out the mess in the outfield and acquire frontline starting pitching. I think it has to start with Jon Lester. Wouldn’t that be the cherry on top of this month if he signed? And then go after Cole Hamels with a package that includes Deven Marrero (whose path is now blocked for at least two years) and a couple other top prospects. Yoenis Cespedes probably has to go somewhere, so if the Phillies want him, he could be a chip. Next, trade some combination of outfielders for a second-tier pitcher.
I think out of the outfielders left, I want to keep Betts, Victorino, Nava and Castillo. We can’t bank on Victorino being healthy, but if he turns out to be anywhere near what he was two years ago, he’d be a valuable piece in right. And Nava’s left-handed bat and versatility could come in handy as a fourth or fifth outfielder. That leaves Craig, Holt, Bradley Jr., and Cespedes on the outside looking in.
At one point early Monday morning, 4 of ESPN’s top 6 headlines were Boston related. And frankly, although it was a pretty great day to be a fan, it wasn’t particularly out of the norm. We’ve had many days like that in years past. You should hate us for being obnoxious and arrogant. But I hope this run of excellence across the Boston sports never ends.
I don’t know if I necessarily believe that a culture of winning breeds winning, but I believe that a culture that expects winning demands winning. And as fans, we more than any other fan group won’t put up with losing at this point. Lose and we won’t accept it.