After months of speculation and rumors, the bad news was finally announced by the Red Sox a few days ago: After on again off again negotiations with a few stumbles and false starts, their superstar outfielder, hitter, MVP and Gold Glover Mookie Betts would be traded to the Dodgers, along with pitcher David Price, pending conclusive medical examinations of all the players involved.
Loyal fans were aghast. Outraged. How could this be? Mookie was the franchise … the future of the team … the young All Star with the incredible stats. Say it isn’t so was the cry from Red Sox Nation. Trade anyone else, but not our beloved Mookie.
But the business side of baseball prevailed. Apparently, there were several financially based reasons to trade the young hero. First, team management wanted to reduce player compensation to get under the luxury tax limit which was considered too costly. Second, Mookie had clearly demonstrated in earlier talks that he was interested in testing the free agency waters when he becomes eligible after the next season. His aspirations were pretty high: he was reported to have sought some 400 million or more for a 12 year contract whereas the Red Sox had dug in their heels at $300 million for no more than ten years. This is a pretty wide gulf to cross. If the Sox kept him for the 2020 season, according to the argument made, they would only be prolonging the inevitable. He would probably be leaving at the end of the season.
Finally cold hearted reason and financial considerations prevailed over the fans’ preference to keep the 27 year old “pheenom” who had been with Boston for four full seasons and contributed mightily during that time. After all, baseball has morphed from a sport of loyalty, intuition, and family like cohesiveness, to a business of analytics, big data and worshipping the financial bottom line. Long gone are the days when stars such as Ted Williams were with a team for their entire careers. Nothing personal here anymore ... it’s all business.
Sure, the Sox have let other valuable players go. Roger Clemens is one often mentioned by the pundits and so called baseball experts. He was let go in free agency after a dozen years of stardom. And the world didn’t end when he left, we are told.
But memories are often too short. There was once another superstar who seemed to be the face of the franchise and future of the Red Sox. George Herman Ruth was his name and he was known as the Bambino, the “Sultan of Swat” or just plain “the Babe.” His sale to the New York Yankees was also influenced by financial considerations. One hundred years ago, early in 1920, then Red Sox owner Harry Frazee( who was active in the theater world in New York City and became known for his hit show No, No, Nanette and brought us hit tunes such as Tea for Two) in a substantial cash only deal let the impressive Ruth --who could both pitch and hit-- go to the Yankees. His departure made a difference, a big difference. In a negative way for the Red Sox and a major positive way for the Yankees. Some have said that it was Ruth’s trade which came to be known as the “Curse of the Bambino” causing the Red Sox to suffer through an 86 year drought before they would see another World Series victory. Only the turn of a new century proved to eradicate the “Curse” with the Red Sox going on to win the World Series in 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018.
A curse? Silly? Maybe not.
Let’s only hope that trading Mookie, (whose given name is Markus) will not cause history to repeat itself.
Let’s hope we are not entering the era of the “Curse of Markus.”
It would be terrible if the Red Sox have to wait another 86 years for their next World Series title.
Harry Mazadoorian is an attorney and resident of Kensington.