The “Tampa Bay” Red Sox?
Is this still 2007?
What’s next, 12 more books on the “Curse of the Bambino?
No. John Henry’s Boston Red Sox have nothing on Tampa Bay, or the Rays.
“Champa Bay” is the new Holy See for sporting success.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski found the Fountain of Youth and another Super Bowl ring inside Raymond James Stadium. The Tampa Bay Lightning have now won twice as many Stanley Cups as the Boston Bruins since Gerald R. Ford was president. But who’s counting. And the Rays are, of course, defending American League champions. Even the Tampa Raptors are feeling the mojo and would make the NBA playoffs if the season ended today despite playing their home games 1,330 miles away from Toronto.
Boston should be so lucky.
The one-time City of Champions has devolved into a series of fiefdoms immobilized by weather, mediocrity and apathy. There’s nowhere to go but further down. Boston Celtics President and GM Danny Ainge confirmed Thursday what the rest of us already knew when he told 98.5 The Sports Hub that the Celtics’ current roster is “not” good enough to win the NBA title.
“This team, where we are, 14-14, if there’s somebody to blame, this is Danny Ainge to blame. This is not Brad Stevens. It’s not Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. It’s not good enough right now. And we all know that. And, you know, we need to get better,” Ainge said on “Toucher and Rich.”
The 10-2-2 Bruins (before Thursday night’s game), meanwhile, remain one phone call away from losing their goalie in the middle of the postseason.
The situation has gotten so desperate in Foxboro that the Patriots posted a generic hype video about “The Quest” a day after Super Bowl 55 drew a higher TV rating in Greater Boston than in any other American TV market except Kansas City. Even worse, we’re now being force-fed the narrative by certain members of Patriots State Run Media that Cam Newton could be an acceptable option at quarterback next season.
Boston’s express lane to commonplace has crossed into the real world. The home state of MIT and Harvard can’t even launch a website to register people for COVID-19 vaccines without it crashing like the Hindenburg. Meanwhile, the Bay State’s governor just realized that airborne viruses cannot tell time.
These days, when you tag something with “Tampa Bay,” it is highest of compliments. “Tampa Bay” is praise only reserved for the best. “Tampa Bay” is the Bitcoin Standard.
For example, “Tom Brady is the Tampa Bay of quarterbacks.”
Or “Milky Way is the Tampa Bay of candy bars.”
Or “Massachusetts is the Tampa Bay of coronavirus ineptitude.”
The standards of basic journalism demand a correction, if not full retraction, if calling Boston’s American League franchise, the “Tampa Bay Red Sox” is meant as an insult.
You have to earn “Tampa Bay” status in 2021. The Red Sox just completed their worst season since “Bonanza” and “Bewitched” dominated the airwaves. You can call them the “Pittsburgh Red Sox,” the “Colorado Red Sox” or the “Baltimore Red Sox.” But you can’t call them the “Tampa Bay Red Sox” until they win the American League East. Or at least beat the Yankees by seven games in a 60-game season (that’s 18.9 games over a 162-game season).
The Tampa Bay Rays won the 2020 American League pennant amid a pandemic and with the 28th largest payroll in the majors. Tampa — St. Pete may have added a 2020 World Series crown to its civic trophy case if Kevin Cash allowed Blake Snell to throw more than 75 pitches in Game 6. Instead, Mookie Betts helped the Los Angeles Dodgers claim their first World Series crown since 1988. Red Sox GM Chaim Bloom is doing his best to slash payroll, but Dave Dombrowski left a fiscal mess worthy of a government bailout.
Your 2021 Boston Red Sox are stacked with no-name players snagged on the cheap. But they have nothing on the Rays when it comes to financial acumen — despite having a GM who once worked in Tampa Bay. Boston’s adjusted payroll against the luxury tax stands at $169,020,000, according to Spotrac. The Red Sox have the seventh-highest payroll in baseball. Of the 16 teams that made the expanded playoff field in 2020, the Red Sox have a higher payroll than 13.
As pitchers and catchers reported across the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues this week, the Rays payroll stood at $55,316,666.
The Red Sox are paying more than $30 million in salaries to the dearly departed — including $16 million to David Price, $12.1 million to Dustin Pedroia and $2.8 million to Andrew Benintendi. Price was dealt to the Dodgers last year with Betts. He sat out 2020 due to coronavirus concerns. Pedroia retired two weeks ago. Benintendi was traded to the Royals on Feb. 11.
Not to be outdone, Henry is also paying more than $2 million to Manny Ramirez which is — thankfully — not counted toward the infamous luxury tax threshold.
If you need any more data to debunk the lazy “Tampa Bay Red Sox” trope, our “friends in the desert” can help. Despite having 32.7% of Boston’s payroll, oddsmakers peg the Rays twice as likely to win the World Series and 2.7 times more likely to win the AL pennant. The Rays are +2500 to win the World Series at DraftKings — which, yes, is based in Boston — and +850 to repeat as American League champions. Your Red Sox are +5000 and +2300, respectively, at the same site.
The high-tech types at Fangraphs are kinder to the Red Sox. Boston is projected to win 87 games this season on that site, while Tampa Bay is set for just 83.
For those who wish to call Alex Cora’s team the “Tampa Bay Red Sox,” that’s a good first baby step.
Bill Speros (@RealOBF) can be reached at email@example.com.