FORT MYERS, Fla. — What occurs in the event that they maintain spring coaching and nobody comes? Does it nonetheless exist?
After they weren’t pondering the existence of God or the character of affection, philosophers have wrestled with that thorny query for the reason that daybreak of Dodgertown. However they’ve by no means been capable of take a look at the speculation, as a result of followers have at all times descended on even the remotest Grapefruit League outposts in droves.
Based mostly on the primary couple of days of exercises at JetBlue Park, nonetheless, the Red Sox might lastly present the reply.
The scene on Thursday was jaw-dropping. Even accepting that faculty trip would not begin till subsequent week, and even acknowledging that full-squad exercises do not begin till Monday, the dearth of followers on the again fields whereas pitchers and catchers started plying their craft upfront of a 2020 season that is nonetheless going to be performed regardless of Mookie Betts sporting Dodger Blue was noticeable.
“There isn’t any (expletive) folks right here,” noticed one of many many retirees who present a genial type of safety.
Attendance was sparse sufficient that a couple of observer puzzled if the exercise was closed to the general public. The Pink Sox estimated that about 500 complete followers have attended the primary two days of exercises, which isn’t dramatically decrease than years previous, per a crew official. Nevertheless it definitely felt totally different. On one area, new Pink Sox supervisor Ron Roenicke oversaw a hitting drill underneath the watchful eyes of three followers. On one other, new baseball boss Chaim Bloom moved about in close to complete anonymity, a far cry from the 2003 rock star days of Theo Epstein.
It was the primary tangible proof that the crew’s demoralizing offseason, which consisted primarily of buying and selling Mookie Betts with the intention to facilitate a wage dump of David Price, has left a mark. These are the Pink Sox, so it isn’t like followers will abandon them for good, however the group should not take their devotion as a right.
The followers that did attend in the end crowded a area the place a number of the membership’s extra recognizable hitters had been taking BP. However the concession stands had been useless, the walkways clear, the secondary fields empty. Presumably the crowds return subsequent week when households make the journey south, however whereas as soon as you can assure a packed advanced earlier than the video games even began, now we’ll be genuinely curious to see who arrives and in what sort of numbers.
Coupled with CEO Sam Kennedy’s current admission that tickets gross sales are down (after ticket costs went up) — to not point out the Betts commerce, a dishonest scandal, and questions on possession’s willingness to spend — and the Pink Sox might be getting into a part of brand name disaster.
They’re the group that appears to undergo probably the most from Not Being the Patriots, which is unusual, given their 4 titles and all-around Curse smashing since 2004. However they’ve a behavior of alternating unimaginable highs with embarrassing lows — gorilla fits, hen and beer, Bobby V., signal stealing scandals — and it lastly seems like followers are holding them at arm’s size.
Profitable them again will not be as straightforward as rolling the ball out for opening day and counting on a bunch of Fenway sellouts to obscure any enthusiasm gaps. It is attainable the Pink Sox underestimated the recognition of Betts, a homegrown famous person who merely wished to be paid his worth, however was as an alternative shipped out on the verge of spring coaching.
(I’ve argued it was the right long-term move, even if it hurts, and I nonetheless really feel that manner. However I additionally perceive why followers see it in another way, for the reason that Pink Sox have the assets to afford anybody they need, and so they selected to not pay the previous MVP.)
Possibly this finally ends up being a large bag of nothing, and the followers swarm JetBlue subsequent week and pack Fenway and provides NESN file rankings whereas the Pink Sox overachieve and win us over. However simply two years faraway from a 108-win season and World Sequence title, the group has some actual work to do to rehabilitate its picture with a fanbase that appears extra prepared than ever to remain house.