Tomase: Red Sox feed an MLB-wide problem of devaluing … everything


Baseball is the only sport where every advance in strategy and win efficiency comes at the direct expense of entertainment value.

The NBA embraces the simplest math -- 3 > 2 -- and the most wide-open game in its history is born. NFL teams spread the field so mobile quarterbacks can create, and the product has never been more compelling. The NHL recognizes that even though the neutral zone trap won the Devils a bunch of Stanley Cups way back when, it's killing the game; goals are now at their highest levels since 1996.

But baseball continues moving in the opposite direction, and I've finally realized what I hate most about the trend -- it's nihilistic. Call it the Era of Nothing Matters.

Tomase's 10 early Red Sox observations: Suzuki the one who got away?

Starting pitchers? They don't matter. Just throw five innings and let the bullpens do the rest, no-hitters be damned.

Closers? They don't matter. Everyone back there throws 97 mph and anyone can take the ninth. The most important outs probably came in the sixth or seventh, anyway.

Proven veterans? They don't matter. Versatility is the name of the game, and those guys represent an inefficient use of the payroll. Cost-controlled youth is king; good luck in your future endeavors, Brock Holt.

Setup men? They matter, but they don't matter. They're essential and expendable. Throw your arms out and then step aside as the conveyer belt churns. There's plenty more where that came from.

Home runs and strikeouts? It's not that that they don't matter so much as they've lost all meaning. We used to pay to see them. Now they're the primary drivers of inaction that's ruining the game.

Big payrolls? They definitely don't matter. Look at the Rays. They win with nothing. Nimble organizations that recognize bargains while maintaining fiscal flexibility are the real winners, because they can theoretically be in on everybody. Or nobody. It really doesn't matter.

Winning? It sadly doesn't matter, not when tanking has become an established path to greatness. Just ask the Cubs and Astros, and maybe one day the Orioles, too.

And this brings us to the Red Sox. They played an entertaining brand of baseball last year en route to the ALCS. Their mix of established stars and bargain finds produced beyond the sum of its parts. They play to win. No issues there.

But Boston is nearing a crossroads. Stalwarts Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, and Nathan Eovaldi will be free agents this fall. Young slugger Rafael Devers has one year left. Meanwhile, baseball operations intimates that it can live without any of them. They pointlessly lowballed Bogaerts. They're reportedly $100 million apart on Devers. They haven't even engaged with Eovaldi.

Tomase: Let's end the charade; Bogaerts isn't re-signing with Red Sox

Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has already proven adept at unearthing diamonds, from Kiké Hernández, Garrett Whitlock, and Hunter Renfroe last year, to Michael Wacha and Matt Strahm this year. He spent big on Trevor Story and that's starting to bear fruit, too.

In Boston, stars matter. Or at least they used to. Now they feel disposable. One clear aspect of Bloom's tenure is the overriding desire to maximize payroll efficiency. That's how a pitcher like Eduardo Rodriguez, whom the team might've valued at, say, $65 million, can be allowed to leave for Detroit for only $12 million more. It's how Bogaerts doesn't get anything close to a fair-market offer, but Whitlock can sign for a mere $18 million. It's why MVP Mookie Betts had to go during Bloom's first spring, and Devers might eventually follow him out the door.

Losing those kinds of players gnaws at the rope connecting the fans to the team. Knowing that Red Sox-Yankees meant David Ortiz vs. Derek Jeter for over a decade raised the stakes. Watching Bogaerts grow from precocious 20-year-old to grizzled veteran forged a lasting bond between player and city. There's a reason fans wildly cheered the return of Jackie Bradley Jr. on opening day, and it's not because he hit .163 last year.

But what does that matter? The Red Sox seem to be calculating that all fans care about is a winner, and that as long as they deliver on that front, the names on the back of the jersey won't matter nearly as much as the Boston on the front. I'm frankly surprised they didn't sell high on Eovaldi this offseason, a la Renfroe, in order to maximize an asset.

Here's the problem with that approach. When you signal that nothing matters, that everyone is replaceable, that you can turn over the roster every two years in the name of value, the fans might believe you.

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