Xander and his mega-deal
If one simply looks at the cold hard numbers that Xander Bogaerts has produced during his years with the Boston Red Sox, he profiles as a very good, though not quite great, ballplayer. Offensively, he has a lifetime average of .292 and has hit 20 home runs a year, certainly nothing to sneeze at, but nothing comparable to the back-to-back batting titles that Nomar Garciaparra won in 1999 and 2000 (.357 and .372, respectively). He strikes out more than a hundred times a year, but then, so does almost everyone else these days. On the defensive side, his range is good but not spectacular, though he seems to reach everything he has to get to. He has a good, but not elite, throwing arm, but it gets the job done.
It is the intangibles that set him apart. He is, and always has been, completely dependable, he shows up every day and does his job, he is a great role model for other players, he never causes a problem in the clubhouse, he never makes a mistake, he is a great teammate. Those are the things that will make him so hard to replace with the Red Sox.
They are the reasons the team, no matter what else it does this offseason will not be quite the same next year. It didn't have to end this way. He wanted to stay in Boston. This is where he started and where he wanted to play out his career. The Red Sox forced his hand by low-balling him last spring, setting the wheels in motion for free agency and an eventual landing in San Diego.
The Padres are where the Red Sox were two decades ago, setting their sights on the big, bad, neighbors from the big, bad, town nearby. Only two decades ago, the bullying neighbors were the New York Yankees, and this time, they are the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Red Sox eventually chased down their nemesis, beat up the bullies, and won four World Series championships in 15 years. But the Yankees never did go away. They are still in their old bullying ways, and the Red Sox are once again their fall guys. Times change. The priorities at Fenway Sports Group (the Red Sox parent company) have changed. They seem no longer to be solely about the baseball team; but are looking to expand into the NFL or the NBA.
Meanwhile, out west, the Padres are after the Dodgers. They are spending boatloads of money to do it. In recent years, they have signed Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis in addition to Bogaerts to huge megadeals. If, when he becomes eligible for free agency, they sign Juan Soto, they could be on the hook for more than a billion dollars in salary for just those four players. I don't know a thing about high finance -- heck, I don't even know anything about low finance -- but I think that's crazy. Ten years from now, Bogaerts will be 41 years old and the others will be in their late 30s, and they'll all still be drawing down those huge salaries. That looks to me like a long-term recipe for disaster. Peter Seidler, for one, does not agree. Seidler is the founder and chairman of Seidler Equity Partners, a firm estimated to be worth THREE BILLION DOLLARS. So I will grant that he knows more about money than I do.
Did I also mention that Mr. Seidler is the chairman and chief owner of the San Diego Padres? And that he is the grandson of Walter O'Malley, the man who is credited with -- in Brooklyn the term used would be "vilified for" -- relocating the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles 65 years ago, and convincing Horace Stoneham, owner of the-then New York (baseball) Giants to move to San Francisco, thus making baseball a true national game. Before he came along, MLB stretched only as far west as St. Louis and only as far south as Washington, D.C. So Seidler, in addition to knowing about money, has deep baseball roots.
He is committed to winning championships for the Padres. Sounds a lot like the Red Sox of 20 years ago, doesn't it? Back in those days John Henry, the-then new owner of the Red Sox, delivered on his promises to make the Red Sox winners and then some. The Sox won four World Series titles in the next 15 years. They were the toast of the baseball world. Remember? Now, though, those days seem to be over, but they were great while they lasted.
All that having been said, is Xander Bogaerts worth $280 million over the next 10 years? The answer, I think, is no. Not in the real world. The thing is that professional sports are not the real world. They are just a fantasy for the great majority of us who have no particular talent for hitting a baseball, for throwing or catching a football, or for shooting a basketball, or firing a hockey puck. Good for those who do have such talents. They bring us unending hours of entertainment and joy. Nobody forces them to take those millions of dollars they are paid. People who have even more money stand in line to bid for their services. They just happen to be in the right place at the right time. We should salute them, not resent them for being paid so much for playing children's games. Well, maybe just a little bit.
- Dick Flavin is a New York Times bestselling author; the Boston Red Sox "Poet Laureate" and The Pilot's recently minted Sports' columnist.