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Sandoval, Ramirez Deals Remind Us What Red Sox Are All About

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The Red Sox are, at their root, another form of entertainment. Team ownership knew that when it came to terms with Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez Monday.AP Photo


The Red Sox have made themselves relevant again.

Spending $190 million to win the internet for a day, or whatever passes for a "news cycle" in 2014, isn't quite as crazy as it seems.

Now, if the Red Sox can get back Jon Lester, they might even be competitive again.

The Red Sox got a one-week jump Cyber Monday. Instead of landing a bargain, they paid a hefty markup for their stuff. By reportedly dropping $190 million combined on Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, the Red Sox reminded us and everyone else what they're all about.

These deals weren't about baseball. And neither are the Red Sox. They are a unique form of entertainment that enjoys a special emotional and historic hold on their audience. The Red Sox are back on our radar. The Hot Stove has been turned up to about 375 degrees. John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Luchhino and Ben Cherington can enjoy a group high-five.

Christmas at Fenway must be just around the corner.

Let others break down Ramirez's OPS vs. left-handed pitchers on Tuesday nights inside domed stadiums. Or the dollar-value of Sandoval's contract vs. the luxury-tax threshold in 2017.

The only question that matters with any of these signings is this: Do these players make the team better and more-compelling to watch?

The answer is a simple "yes" and "hell, yes."

You just know that Panda heads will be the new Pink Hats.

Poor Blades over on Causeway Street. He's got to be crushed.

Watching the most-recent version of the Red Sox was the baseball version of water-boarding. By July 4, the focus had shifted to next season. This is something that had never happened during the reign of the current ownership group.

The 2012 last-place Red Sox and Bobby Valentine kept things interesting right up until that season's merciful end. The 2011 Red Sox missed the playoffs, but went minutes into Sept. 30 when the season ended on Sept. 29. Perhaps the 2006 team came closest to 2014's malaise, but David Ortiz hit 52 home runs that year to keep folks tuned into NESN.

The Red Sox were neither interesting, entertaining nor competitive. The best thing on NESN last summer was "Behind The B."

The highlight of the 2014 season turned out to be Jerry Remy losing his tooth in July. Last spring Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. were being hailed as the second-coming of Rice and Lynn. They turned out to be latest incarnations of Kevin Romine and Lars Anderson.

We've been burned by the "hot prospect" label often before.

Just two years ago, Will Middlebrooks was being lauded as the team's right-handed slugger of the future. Middlebrooks opted not to play winter ball for the Red Sox this year. It looks like he won't be playing spring ball, summer ball or fall ball with Boston, either.

Some believe some players on the current roster - starting with Bogaerts - should be considered "untouchable" and "untradeable." As the 2014 season regressed, we saw that Bogaerts couldn't hit, couldn't field and couldn't run. Other than that, he's a solid ball player.

This team finished about 826 games out of first place, or so it seemed. The only thing that saved the summer of 2014 sports-wise was the start of Patriots training camp. This isn't 1964. No one is going spend their money and/or another summer, or another 10 minutes, watching Red Sox develop "the kids."

Baseball games, even the good ones, are too long with too much inaction. Especially in today's world of immediate everything. This past season, fans got the Pawtucket Red Sox at Boston Red Sox prices. One must wonder how many season-ticket holders are holding back on sending in their invoices with those four- and five-figure checks until the pitching arrives.

The Red Sox know that adding Sandoval and Ramirez is not enough. They alone cannot make the team a contender. Nor is having 14 third-basemen and 12 left-fielders a guarantor of success.

The thought of Clay Buchholz or Joe Kelly as the Red Sox opening day starter in Philadelphia next April 6 makes one pray for an extended winter and a longer and deeper Polar Vortex.

The 2015 Red Sox remain a work in progress. Or at least they'd better be.

On a macro level, the Red Sox do not compete with the Yankees, Blue Jays or Rays.

They compete with Netflix, "Avengers - Age of Ultron" - coming to a theater near you in IMAX on May 1, Candy Crush, on-line gambling and porn, the TV sweeps period in May, the return of "Mad Men," the NFL regular-season, the NHL and NBA playoffs, and every other form of entertainment designed to separate us from our time and money.

The salary issue is always overblown. First, the Red Sox and every other baseball team will have $25 million or more to spend next season thanks to new network TV revenue. Secondly, the team has about $60 million to spend in 2015 before reaching the luxury-tax limit. Thirdly, you have to spend money to make money. The Red Sox and their ownership know all of this. If either of these purported deals becomes too much in three or four years, the Red Sox will dump the players and work out a deal with some other club to pick up part of their remaining contracts.

It starts as our money, but it's theirs to spend. All we can do it not give it to them, which is what thousands of would-be tickets buyers would certainly do without substantial and dynamic change this off-season.

To survive and thrive, the Red Sox must put asses in the seats and bring eyeballs to NESN's telecasts. It's that simple, folks. That makes the addition of Sandoval and Ramirez a plus for the team, but not the final answer.

Stay tuned.

The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Bill has written and reported for ESPN, CBSSports.Com and was a sports/deputy sports editor at several metro daily newspapers. Reach Bill on the OBF Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
OBF email Address
. Thanks always for reading.

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