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Karma Finally Bites Boston

Sports karma is a bitch.

And in this year's Super Bowl, Boston fans received their second heaping helping of the last year-plus. This would be karma as it is experienced by people in their current lifetime, by the way. We are not getting into reincarnation.

First, there was baseball: Six-billionaire Red Sox owner John Henry dumped (in a lopsided trade) his team's best player, Mookie Betts, before the 2020 season and then watched as the Los Angeles Dodgers easily signed Betts to a big contract extension. Betts then led his new team to its first World Series championship in more than 30 years, causing much cursing and gnashing of teeth among Red Sox Nation.

The Red Sox could have allowed Betts to play out his contract and then bid for him on the open market. And the massive revenue team (always in the top three in Major League Baseball with the Yankees and Dodgers) could have easily topped anyone else's offer. But Henry chose not to do it. He cared more about his team's bottom line than about continuing to win championships.

During the 2019-20 off-season, the final one in which the Red Sox had contractual control of their star rightfielder, Betts had refused to sign an extension with his original team. He was motivated in part by a feeling that he had not been treated particularly well by the organization that had drafted him and developed him into a star. Remind you of a certain Cubs former MVP? Minus the injury prone last several years that have featured sharply declining offensive production, of course.

Kris Bryant is heading into his final season of club control. And if anything, he is more displeased with the organization where he grew into a star than Betts was with the Red Sox.

Bryant and Betts know what all savvy athletes know - you don't maximize your earning power unless you put yourself up for sale on the free market.

Then there was football. The NFL season ended with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers giving the defending champ Chiefs a serious thrashing in Super Bowl LV. Leading the way for the new champs was veteran quarterback Tom Brady, who recorded his seventh Super Bowl championship. He had earned his first six with the New England Patriots, of course.

This all seems to be happening in response to the fact that prior to 2020, Boston fans had enjoyed a seemingly unprecedented run of success over a 19-year stretch, with the Patriots winning six Super Bowls (2002, '04, '05, '15, '17, '19), the Red Sox winning three World Series' (2004, '07, '13), and the Celtics (2008) and Bruins (2011) each grabbing singular championships.

The Red Sox fans probably have plenty more suffering to do. After all, when the team sold Babe Ruth in 1919 it so offended the cosmic balance of the universe that it went 86 years before finally returning to the winner's circle. Henry at least received major league outfielder Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong in return for Betts. But the Red Sox also made sure to dump highly paid pitcher David Price on the Dodgers for "cash considerations," i.e. the trade was more about saving money than getting players.

Virtually all Patriots fans believe that if Brady had wanted to come back, owner Bob Kraft would have made it happen. And Brady made it clear that one thing he and his supermodel wife wanted was to say goodbye to winters. There was nothing Boston, or Chicago for that matter, could do about that. So perhaps there will be less suffering on the gridiron. And the Celtics and Bruins are both legitimate contenders (though not favorites) for championships in the spring/summer.

My guess is - having experienced a bit of suffering myself as a lifelong Chicago fan - the Red Sox fans have only begun to pay the price. Henry's actions are unforgivable in every way, shape and form.

Owners need to start to figure out that if they can't hang on to home-grown superstars, they are the problem. When they realize they probably can't sign (or at least make competitive offers to) guys like Betts or Bryant, they shouldn't trade them, they should sell their teams.

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Comments welcome.

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Posted on May 13, 2021