Two words for anyone who wants to charge John Henry with reckless abandonment because he just agreed to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins: Grow up.
If there's a downside to the region's unprecedented 20-year run of championships, it's that it has bred an entitled fanbase of trust fund proportions. We reside at the center of the sports universe, and we do not share.
So when the news broke that Fenway Sports Group will take controlling interest of the Penguins and extend its reach into the NHL, Boston fans threw a tantrum.
The Red Sox just aren't important to him anymore! He's not spending on us because he's buying them! They're just another line in his portfolio, like his yacht, or hanging with LeBron! Only the Red Sox matter, because we demand it!
This is how the world works. Big businesses buy other businesses. When Facebook hoovers up Instagram and WhatsApp, no one says they're spreading themselves too thin. It's a natural step in their desire to dominate cyberspace, and about the only thing that can stop them is an act of Congress.
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Boston Red Sox
But when Henry adds Liverpool to FSG's holdings alongside Roush Racing, and then joins forces with LeBron James, and then strikes a deal to buy the Pens with the NBA reportedly next in his sights, the news is met with a romanticized angst that denies reality.
Henry bought the Penguins to make money, just like he bought Liverpool to make money, and the Red Sox. He has every incentive to put winners on the field/ice/pitch, because when those teams win, they make money. There's enough for everybody.
And his teams win. The Red Sox won two World Series before FSG bought Liverpool in 2010, and they've won two since. The soccer club claimed its first Premier League title in 30 years on his watch and is one of the 10 or 12 most valuable brands in the world. The Red Sox just reached the ALCS. I confess to not following auto racing so you tell me if Roush is any good. What more do we want?
Saying that Henry won't spend in free agency because he's saving his money for a hockey team effectively lets him off the hook. One has nothing to do with the other, and our proof is in the fact that Henry hasn't been spending for three years now. Is that because he knew he might one day buy another team and needed to squirrel away every nickel? Maybe. Or maybe it's because he's caught the efficiency bug that's sweeping similarly analytics-minded front offices across baseball.
There's a reason a bunch of teams, including the Red Sox, lined up to offer nondescript starter Andrew Heaney -- whom we once would've uncharitably labeled "a bum" -- $8 million. He represents "value" belying his sky-high ERAs because he strikes out a lot of people and doesn't walk anyone.
The Red Sox wanted a piece of that value, instead settling on Michael Wacha of the Six Week Intriguing Changeup and Otherwise Cruddy Track Record. Even as free agency largely passes Boston by in the race to beat this week's CBA expiration, the bulk of spending is being conducted by a handful of teams trying to escape the second division -- the Tigers, Rangers, Mets, Angels.
Missing, so far, are heavyweights like the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox. Is this because they all plan to buy hockey teams? Or are they simply following the same statistical models of value? The Rays spending big on 20-year-old wunderkind Wander Franco just reinforces this point; Tampa doesn't pay for anything except youth, the most valuable currency in the game.
I'm no Henry apologist, and I believe he'll be as militant as any owner about protecting his profits in the next CBA, which could make him a problem. But we should take a step back and ask what we really want. Is it Mark Cuban berating umpires from the box seats and shilling garbage on Shark Tank? No thank you. Is it the fantasy of the beloved local steward who cares about nothing more than the sanctity of the public trust and blah blah blah? Because we had him and his name was Tom Yawkey, and all that got us was 70 years of Elks Clubbing and zero World Series titles.
If you want to label Henry a bit spectral or weird or withdrawn, no argument here. But this idea that he's not committed to Boston doesn't withstand even mild scrutiny. He bought a bleeping newspaper, for God's sake. Nothing says public caretaking at the expense of profit better than that.
We'll just have to live with the fact that we're not the only apple of his eye. That's life. That's what rich people do. If he doesn't want to spend recklessly in free agency because he's been burned by John Lackey, and David Price, and Hanley Ramirez, and Pablo Sandoval, there's an argument in his favor. As long as the Red Sox continue to build on the success of 2021, who cares how they get there?
So, yes, I will take the guy who just bought the Penguins, imperfections and all. If Boston fans stamp their feet about anything, it should be that he didn't buy their hockey team.