The Red Sox actually paid someone

Did booing John Henry lead to Boston extending Rafael Devers?

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Rafael Devers isn’t leaving Boston any time soon.
Rafael Devers isn’t leaving Boston any time soon.
Image: Getty Images

At Monday’s Winter Classic, John Henry appeared, as the hockey team he owns (the Penguins) was playing the Boston Bruins at the ballpark he owns (Fenway Park, as owner of the Red Sox as well). Henry is more reclusive than a lot of owners, so it’s hard to know if he’s as deluded as some billionaires about what his public perception is. Perhaps he just doesn’t care, as you’d figure every billionaire would. Still, he is the only owner to provide Red Sox fans with four World Series winners. There has to be a part of him that assumes that would have bought him everlasting adoration from the Boston faithful.

Of course, that would be severely underestimating the Boston faithful, or overestimating, I’m honestly not sure which, and I’m sure it hinges on what your opinion of Boston is overall (I’ll keep mine in reserve this time). Anyway, it’s not that Henry was making an official appearance, but he was there, he was in sight, and it apparently did not go very well.

It’s understandable. Henry is the one who ordered a downsizing of the Red Sox payroll and roster, a completely unfathomable call for a team that is supposed to be one of the three biggest monsters in MLB. Or at least it would be unfathomable if baseball hadn’t become what baseball has become. Mookie Betts was traded, Xander Bogaerts allowed to walk in free agency, and a few other lower-level players either moved or not re-signed before they were going to make serious money. Henry had decided to cash in his chips, rest on the glow from the parades of 2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018, and simply let that MLB, Fenway, and NESN money roll in.

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Red Sox fans haven’t taken kindly to it, and let him know. Whether that played a factor in the Sox actually stumping up the money to keep Rafael Devers around for the next 11 years, we’ll never know. But it does seem a departure from how FSG has operated the ball club for the past few years. Funny enough, it’s more than Betts will ever be paid, but instead of looking in the past in anger, the Fenway supporters probably just want to soak in an actual homegrown star being kept around for once.

Devers isn’t a player, under normal circumstances, that any team should ever let go. He’s a premier hitter who is only 26 and doesn’t figure to have to move positionally for a long time. You could squint and see how keeping Bogaerts around long-term might have presented a problem when he can’t play short anymore, but that used to be filed in the “figure it out later” folder.

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Boston has a couple of prospects who could take up roles in the upcoming season, but had Devers been allowed to exit after 2023 the Sox would have been pissing up a rope regardless. There are also not too many other players making serious bank, and they had to put the money somewhere.

Still, it feels like the modicum for a team that finished last and is still very much staring up at the Yankees, Jays, Rays, and even the Orioles given the depth of their pipeline. They’ve still lost Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez, and only arguably have just replaced them. There’s hardly a step forward. Henry can take the relief of the headlines for a couple of days, but the reality is still he’s fielding a 78-win team that doesn’t look like it’s improved that much.

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Maybe he just doesn’t want to get booed while walking the dog.

A final word on U.S. Soccer

Can’t really sum it up better:

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There are a lot of twists and turns to go with this, and U.S. Soccer didn’t give any answers when they met the press yesterday afternoon, hiding behind the “ongoing investigation” obstacle. But that’s not really that big of a deal, because this all seemingly landed on them.

The real shame here is that Rosalind Berhalter didn’t get to tell her own story, and she should have been the only one doing so. Whatever the Reynas may claim, they took that from her, all in the service of merely bitching about how their son was treated at a tournament where team and winning are all that matters. They can claim they were just venting to close friends, but it’s curious that the close friends they chose, Ernie Stewart and Brian McBride, just happen to be employees of US Soccer. All of it was a stretch from their part, and their son was forgiven by both coach and teammates. This was retaliation, nothing more. It does nothing beneficial for their son either, only providing temporary and needless solace to parents who shouldn’t need it. But that’s the story of youth sports in this country a lot of the time, isn’t it? Why shouldn’t it spread to the top level?

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Speaking of soccer…

It’s not a huge story, yet, but one wonders if this kind of thing won’t keep happening to the NWSL:

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This isn’t the first time the league has lost a sparkling young talent to Europe, and with their salary caps and roster rules, and with the women’s game in Europe growing at a pace, it’s starting to feel like a trend. Can NWSL settle as not the top league in the world? Will it change its ways to stay at the top? Can it? Worth watching over the coming years.