Iconoclasm clearly has reached new levels in New England. Logan Mankins is gone. And he is just the latest in a long list of those jettisoned by the owners and operators of Boston’s four major sports franchises, teams now operating with a level of boldness that should take away your breath as swiftly as it has your heroes.
Before we proceed further, let’s get this out there: I hate the Mankins move. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Despise it, actually. The Patriots have questions on their offensive line to begin with. They could have acquired Tim Wright with a draft pick. Mankins is gone largely because the Patriots deemed his base salary to be excessive, no matter what gets spun in the fallout, and that is simply a difficult thing to accept as the clock ticks on Tom Brady entering what felt like a make-or-break season.
For the last several hours, we have debated the value of this move. We will continue to do so over the coming days, weeks and months. As always, time will be the judge.
In the interim, let’s all acknowledge that the ownership and management of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics feel more empowered than ever. (Winning will do that.) In essentially the last year, Boston has now traded, in no particular order, Mankins, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Tyler Seguin, even Tim Thomas. With the exception of Mankins, who played in two Super Bowls and five AFC Championship Games, all of them won titles here. Seguin was the No. 2 pick in the draft and finished fourth in the NHL in scoring, fifth in goals. These were organizational centerpieces and cornerstones, anchors and building blocks. And for an assortment of reasons and factors, they were all sent packing.
Don’t let the door hit you in the hip pads on the way out.
Want to cast the net further? During their tenure, Bill Belichick and the Kraft family have now traded Mankins, Deion Branch, Richard Seymour and Randy Moss. The Red Sox have dealt Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, among others. The Bruins and Celtics have recent lists that are decidedly shorter, but their title windows have been considerably smaller.
Here’s the point: if you want championship-caliber ownership and management – and that’s what we have here now – there are tradeoffs. Sentimentality is one of them.
The best owners and managers make the difficult and unpopular decisions, and they generally do not let players rot in their uniforms. They operate swiftly, decisively and proactively, and they really don’t give a single hoot about your feelings or those of their employees.
They just act like they do.
Cold, right? Calculated, too. But such is the surgical precision with which teams now operate – at least the good ones – and rare (or entirely extinct) is the fan who places the individual before the team. Maybe you loved a guy like Mankins. Maybe you even bought his jersey. But his departure isn’t likely to keep you from watching games on television or making the trip to Gillette Stadium. In fact, it’s far more likely to lead you right back into the Pro Shop, where you can further fill the coffers of the people who just traded away your favorite player.
You see? Assuming they are not complete disasters, trades are good business, too. They pique your curiosity and renew your interest, at least once you get over them. And you always do.
Does that mean the trade of Mankins was indisputably a good football decision? Hell no. Many of those who will champion the move never once spoke of Mankins “slipping” in the passing game. (But they will now.) Before yesterday, most would have never thought to consider targeting Tim Wright or comparing him to Aaron Hernandez. (Yikes.) Those are the people who will defend most anything the Patriots do, who have a blind faith in franchise ownership and management as great as their love for the uniform.
With regard to Patriots owners and administrators, in particular, they obviously possess a long-term vision for team success on the field. The same is generally true of the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins. Players come and players go. As fans and followers, we like to operate as if the teams belong to us, as if the owners and operators are merely caretakers and keepers of the flame, as if men like Robert Kraft, John Henry, Wyc Grousbeck and Jeremy Jacobs have an obligation to give us what we want.
The teams are theirs, not yours or ours.
And the more possessive and downright authoritarian they are, the more they generally care.