Wednesday, August 29, 2012

One Thing That Bugs Me About the Big Red Sox Trade

From a baseball standpoint, the Red Sox freeing up salary and roster space makes sense. Fixing the problems with this team required more than just a few tweaks and some small additions. And to build a new foundation, the old rotting foundation needed to be completely removed.

From a business standpoint, the move made sense. The fans were sick of this team losing, and utterly disgusted with their attitude. So much so that a Facebook group with over 11,000 likes has been spawned, urging fans to boycott the team after only 4 current players attended Johnny Pesky's funeral. The fans were fed up, and the Sox were in danger of losing customers.

It's the business standpoint that bugs me. Lucchino and the Sox made this drastic move in order to keep people interested in the team, not to win. So while I wholeheartedly support and celebrate the decision, the motivation behind the decision irks me.

The goals of winning and selling aren't mutually exclusive. But when the primary goal of a team is to sell a brand, then things can go wrong. You wind up signing Carl Crawford for too much money. You go nuts and bid $51.1 million on a Japanese pitcher. You make bogus lowball offers to popular free agents, then leak stories to the press after they sign elsewhere. You fire a manager and do nothing else, and declare the team's problems solved with a new disciplinarian skipper.

Look at the Patriots. They're not afraid to make unpopular moves. They'll let Wes Welker sit out, they'll say goodbye to Richard Seymour, trade Randy Moss in the middle of the season, and give absolutely nothing to the media in a press conference.

And when they make these unpopular moves, they don't trash their former players. They don't wage PR wars. They don't try to present themselves as wanting to keep those players.

It's all about winning in Foxborough. Personnel decisions are made with winning as the only goal. Not the case at Fenway. Fenway includes selling and spinning in the equation, making decisions in an effort to build a winning ballclub AND market the brand. And that's a problem. That should be handled by marketing and promotions staff. Not baseball operations.

Could you imagine Bill Belichick or Cam Neely, or Danny Ainge trying to balance winning games/titles with building a brand? Why do Larry Lucchino and the Red Sox attempt this unprecedented and unsound balancing act?

As the Red Sox rebuild themselves, they need to do so with winning as the only goal. Sign players to win. Make trades to win. The goal of winning should be handled by the baseball side of the organization, and should be the only goal. And the goal of selling should be handled by a completely separate wing. There should be no overlap, no meeting point, no Larry Lucchino.

The Red Sox have pushed the reset button, but if they continue to play the same way it'll once again be "Game Over."

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