Red Sox ‘reset’ tweet showcases fundamental flaw in baseball’s priorities

Sixteen of baseball’s teams are going to celebrate a postseason berth at the end of this month. One storied franchise, though, chose to celebrate a different “accomplishment” for its 2020 season, and in doing so showed a huge problem baseball needs to deal with.

This tweet, from the Boston Red Sox, went out around noon ET.

The “pressing reset” is a reference to resetting the Competitive Balance Tax (aka luxury tax), a months-long prioritization by the front office to shed payroll — current and future — while willingly decreasing its chances of fielding a competitive team for 2020 and beyond.

You know what they say: Tweets celebrating resetting the luxury tax live forever. (Let’s be clear: The purpose of this column isn’t to roast the Red Sox social media team. Was it a bad idea? Yes. But the social team didn’t choose profits over playoffs, the ownership group did.)

The Boston fire sale happened before Monday’s 4 p.m. ET trading deadline — the Red Sox traded away five players from their big league roster in the days and hours leading up to the cutoff — but in reality started when the franchise chose to trade franchise icon Mookie Betts to the Dodgers instead of re-signing him to a long-term, lucrative deal. Betts signed a 12-year deal with Los Angeles in late July before ever playing a game with the Dodgers. 

Ask Red Sox fans how that news felt. At least they’ve got this? 

According to the indispensable Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Red Sox paid the CBT tax in 2015-16 (a combined total of $6.3 million), then didn’t reach the threshold in 2017. In 2018 — when they won the World Series, remember — and 2019, they paid roughly $25.3 million in CBT taxes. 

It sounds like a lot, until you remember that the Red Sox are valued at $3.3 billion, third in the majors behind only the Yankees and Dodgers. Oh, and John Henry, the Red Sox owner, also owns Liverpool Football Club (valuation $2.183 billion), the Boston Globe and is a co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing. Henry’s personal net worth exceeds $2.8 billion.

Yeah, a couple of million in CBT tax is a pittance to Henry and the Red Sox. So, seeing the club celebrate a few million in savings, with the realization that the club won’t be competitive for the near future, didn’t sit well with Boston fans — or anyone else. 

The follow-up tweet, after the original was deleted, didn’t do much better. 

Again, though, this isn’t about a bad tweet. It’s about a bad approach to baseball, one that incentivizes teams not to try. 

When a franchise with the resources and history of Boston is content not to compete, baseball has a problem. A “system is broken” problem. 

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