By Ted Gay – @TedG63
Sports have become a 12-month endeavor. The offseason is obsolete. The NFL has a rigid set of dates including workouts, the draft, the combine, and free agency to make sure the sun never sets on the Goodell empire. The NBA has their draft and then the season of mercenaries where top players scramble to create their own championship team. The MLB has the winter meetings which usually sparks trades and free agent signings, until this season when, after a tremendous World Series the league lost all momentum by crawling into a foxhole and waiting for spring.
Dave Dombrowski has been hiding there most of the winter. Sixteen months after David Ortiz retired the silver-haired GM has still not replaced the Hall of Fame caliber bat that carried the middle of the Sox line up for more than a decade.
The only gift Dombrowski left wrapped under the fans’ Christmas tree this year was the same old Mitch Moreland that he threw out in October. We hoped we were getting JD Martinez or Eric Hosmer. An older version of the slow, sporadic hitting, sweet fielding first baseman did not fulfill anyone’s dreams. The rush to sign Moreland was mystifying. Were there teams salivating for him and if so did any of them play in the continental United States? Tying the Sox to Moreland before Eric Hosmer, Yonder Alonso, Lucas Duda, or a movable Mike Moustakas were signed was the equivalent of committing to a safety school before hearing from your top choices. As opening day trickles closer the more productive Hosmer may have to accept a contract less than the one Dombrowski rushed to give uninspiring Moreland.
The Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes kicked off the free agent season with intrigue, but his the appeal lost luster when his main reason for choosing a team was revealed to be how close the stadium was to a beach. An elbow injury reduced the Japanese equivalent of Babe Ruth to a spring training sideshow. The Halos also added a quality bat in Zach Cozart, but the Reds have been in the MLB winless protection for years, and Cozart’s signing created no buzz. Milwaukee fired up its fanbase after trading for Christian Yehlich and signing Lorenzo Cain, but the rest of the country stopped caring about Milwaukee when Fonzie jumped the shark.
Most of the moves made this year have been to reduce a team’s chance of winning. Dedicated Isis militants could not have done a better job of obliterating the Marlins than Derek Jeter did. The Pirates have joined them in destroying any hope their fans had by sending Andrew McCutchen to play for the desperate Giants and made the rich richer by dealing Gerrit Cole to the world champs.
The shining jewel of the offseason should have been the Giancarlo Stanton trade. Unfortunately, the deal was left in the hands of the artist formerly known as Derek Jeter. After weeks of speculation and rumors every team who had dreamed about the slugger hitting clean up this summer, save two, found out the entire production had been a ruse. Stanton would only be dealt to the Yankees or Dodgers. Still, given that these were the two most powerful teams in the league witnessing them duel could provide weeks of drama. Instead, Jeter dealt Stanton to the Yankees like a petulant child who didn’t get what he wanted and handed over his prized possession then ran to his room to pout. It was as if the Cavaliers had traded Kyrie Irving to the Warriors for a second-round pick.
We are on the cusp of spring training which brings it’s on buzz. Any signing after pitchers and catchers report does not have the same effect on the fan base as acquisitions in the offseason. Baseball completely surrendered the spotlight during the winter months and with the NCAA tournament approaching and the NBA red hot it is going to have a harder time regaining it.
If baseball attendance and ratings free fall this spring the front offices should take a long look in the mirror when they search for the reason. But first they need to climb out of the foxhole.
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