Sam Kennedy

Red Sox ownership takes heat for comparing Mookie Betts trade to Nomar deal

Red Sox ownership takes heat for comparing Mookie Betts trade to Nomar deal

Boston Red Sox principal owner John Henry tried to get ahead of the criticism Monday by reading a prepared statement about the team's decision to trade Mookie Betts.

Instead, he opened the door for more criticism.

Here's Henry's full statement:

Here's what Henry is taking heat for: After empathizing with Red Sox fans who feel "disbelieving or angry or sad" about Boston trading away its 27-year-old superstar, Henry compared this situation to the team's trade of All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra at the 2004 trade deadline.

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"Some of you no doubt felt the same way in 2004 when we traded Nomar, who like Mookie was a hugely popular, homegrown player," Henry said. "All of us in the organization hoped we could avoid ever having to go through something like that again. But most clubs face similar dilemmas from time to time."

Henry added that Boston lost several star players -- specifically Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Manny Ramirez -- while winning four World Series titles over the last 20 years. Red Sox chairman Tom Werner also referenced the Garciaparra trade in Monday's press conference from Fort Myers, noting the team has "been in this situation before."

... But was it really the same situation?

Garciaparra was entering his ninth MLB season in 2004 and already had dealt with several serious injuries. He didn't make his 2004 debut until June 9 due to an Achilles injury and turned 31 just before the deadline.

Yes, Garciaparra was a highly popular player on the final year of his contract. But Betts showed virtually no signs of wear and tear through six seasons with the Red Sox and is very much in his prime. (He's the current favorite to win National League MVP.)

Critics were quick to call out the Red Sox on Twitter for shoehorning Nomar into the Betts trade discussion.

You get the idea.

The Red Sox went on to win the World Series in 2004 after trading Garciaparra in return for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz.

The 2020 Red Sox? Don't expect them to compete for a World Series title after they traded their best player (and a key member of their rotation in David Price) from a team that won 84 games last season.

Red Sox release official statement on Mookie Betts, David Price trade

Red Sox release official statement on Mookie Betts, David Price trade

It's official. Mookie Betts and David Price have been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Boston Red Sox announced the deal on Monday in a press conference with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and general manager Brian O'Halloran. They also released the following statement on the trade:

“Mookie and David have written chapters in our history that will last forever. They are special both on the field and off, and we are so grateful to them for the joy that they’ve brought to Red Sox Nation,” said Bloom. “Our overarching goal is to maintain a talent base that puts us in position to win as much as possible for years to come. That goal was front and center for us as we considered this trade. We have a talented major league roster, and we fully expect to compete for the postseason in 2020. By adding Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong to the organization, we are in better position to sustain that competitiveness in the years ahead. We are excited to welcome all three of them to the Red Sox family.”

“In trading a great player, a beloved player, we recognize how incredibly difficult this is for fans who fully understand just how special Mookie is,” said owner John Henry. “While the organization in its entirety very much wanted to see Mookie in a Red Sox uniform for the length of his career, we believe in this decision as we are responsible and accountable for both the present and the future of the Red Sox. We thank Mookie for his incredible contributions, both on and off the field.”

“David’s arrival in Boston paved the way for a historic chapter for the Red Sox,” Henry added. “His presence at the top of our rotation was critical to winning three consecutive division championships, and his 2018 Postseason performance put both his talent and tenacity on full display. We appreciate what both Mookie and David brought to our club, and are grateful that they will forever be Red Sox World Series Champions.”

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“Today’s trade illustrates the difficult decisions necessary to achieve our goal, which has remained unchanged since we became stewards of this franchise nearly two decades ago: to bring multiple World Series Championships to Boston,” said chairman Tom Werner. “Ultimately, we believe that this will set us up for sustained long-term success. I want to express our enormous thanks to Mookie and David for the impact they had on our club and our community.”

“Both David and Mookie earned legendary status in Boston in 2018,” said President and CEO Sam Kennedy. “Mookie, becoming the only American League player to win a World Series, MVP, Gold Glove, and Silver Slugger in the same year, and David, with his memorable postseason run as the winning pitcher who clinched both the AL pennant and the club’s ninth World Series Championship. Their time in Boston will always be remembered as historic.”

Red Sox want it both ways on Cora dismissal, and other thoughts from a surreal day at Fenway

Red Sox want it both ways on Cora dismissal, and other thoughts from a surreal day at Fenway

For more than an hour on Wednesday afternoon, the Red Sox asked us to embrace two essentially incompatible ideas.

On the one hand, they repeatedly requested that we withhold judgment over any cheating they may have committed in 2018 until Major League Baseball completes its investigation. On the other hand, we were only sitting there because they had already rendered a seemingly ironclad verdict on the matter by dismissing manager Alex Cora.

Ownership claims that Cora had to go solely because of his actions in Houston, which were detailed in a bombshell nine-page report on Monday that left little doubt about his central role in the scheme to steal signs.

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Still, considering that he is being accused of conducting the exact same behavior in Boston, minus the trash can, it's hard to see how the team can play the innocent-until-proven-guilty card when it is suddenly conducting a managerial search less than a month before the start of spring training.

"We have not rendered judgment on 2018," said team president Sam Kennedy. "We've rendered judgment with respect to 2017."

That sounds like having it both ways, to me, but in any event, here are my other takeaways from one of the stranger days I've seen at Fenway Park in the past 25 years.

* MLB has boxed itself in on this issue. What started as an attempt to lay down the law in order to deter future sign-stealing is in danger of starting a chain-reaction conflagration that torches multiple franchises.

The Red Sox and Astros are in the market for new managers. As I type, the Mets are wavering over the future of the newly hired Carlos Beltran. The last thing commissioner Rob Manfred wants is eight more press conferences like Wednesday's, with teams detailing why they fired their decision-maker(s) under the cloud of scandal.

The idea is to make an example of the Red Sox and Astros so no one ever crosses this line again. But if more media-driven revelations keep appearing, Manfred and Co. will have no choice but to act, except this time they'll be rendering judgments in the middle of the season, when a forced managerial change could be particularly destructive to a contending team.

Baseball's attempts to clean up this mess could create an even bigger problem.

* So where do the Red Sox go from there? The front office's search will naturally start internally, since the shortest path to continuity is hiring from within. The problem is, the team really can't name a successor from Cora's staff until the league produces its report on 2018, and that could be two months from now. 

The nightmare scenario would be receiving assurances from a current coach that his hands were clean, elevating him to manager, and then seeing his name all over a damning report. The Red Sox can't take that chance, unless they want to conduct another managerial search after Opening Day.

If they want to start with an experienced, unemployed manager, they've twice interviewed former Tigers and Angels skipper Brad Ausmus, who has reached the playoffs once in five seasons. Just-retired Giants manager Bruce Bochy would be another possibility, except he reiterated in a recent interview that he plans on taking 2020 off before considering a return to the dugout.

One man who deserves a look from someone, somewhere, is 70-year-old Dusty Baker, who has won at least 90 games in five of his past six seasons helming the Nationals and Reds.

* What impact might this have on the rest of the offseason? The Red Sox have been surprisingly quiet despite assumptions that they'd have dumped payroll by now. They could take the Cora news in two directions, either viewing it as an opportunity to just blow everything up and start over, or as a mandate (there's that word again!) to build the best possible team in 2020 to avoid further alienating the fan base.

Considering their obsession with PR, it's hard to imagine they choose option A at this point, but it's too late for them to make any big moves that significantly improve the roster, which means their most likely course of action is to hope that everyone who underperformed last year (i.e., everyone in the rotation not named Eduardo Rodriguez) finds a return to form.

Good luck with that.

* One final tidbit: Kennedy would not reveal, as part of the "mutual decision" to part, whether the team will pay Cora either his salary or a settlement. It wouldn't be a shock if the Red Sox take care of Cora in some way, since ownership clearly remains fond of him, and he's probably going to be out of a job for the next two years. A settlement would also help ensure that he goes quietly without fighting his dismissal.