(Photo courtesy of Overthemonster.com) “John Henry, Sam Kennedy, Chaim Bloom, and Alex Cora sit and talk during the winter weekend.”
On January 20th, Red Sox fans from across country travelled to Springfield, Massachusetts where the Red Sox hosted their annual Winter Weekend event at the MassMutual Arena. Due to both the pandemic and a lockout of MLB players imposed by the owners last year, this was the first Winter Weekend event since 2020.
Although Winter Weekend is intended to be a casual and fun celebration of the team and its fanbase, this year’s event will be remembered for the chilly reception given to Red Sox leadership during the opening Town Hall event.
The event began on a positive note, with the introduction of the current members of the Red Sox. The biggest ovation of the night undoubtedly went to third baseman Rafael Devers, who made his first appearance before fans since signing an 11-year, $331 million contract extension. This was followed by a brief interview with former Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and third baseman Will Middlebrooks, both of whom were members of the 2013 championship team which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
This led to the long-awaited interview with Red Sox leadership. Principal owner John Henry, CEO Sam Kennedy, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and manager Alex Cora were interviewed by NESN host Tom Carron and Draft Kings analyst Jared Carrabis. This marked Henry’s first public appearance since February 2020 and he was greeted by loud boos from the crowd.
While Henry was long considered one of the most beloved owners in baseball, especially as the Red Sox have won four championships since he bought the team in 2002, public opinion has soured on the team’s ownership group in recent years.
Bloom and Kennedy were also booed, while Cora received loud cheers.
Bloom attempted to open the segment with a monologue justifying his controversial decision to trade star outfielder Mookie Betts in 2020. However, it took him nearly four minutes to stifle the loud boos and finish his prepared remarks.
“We didn’t sign [Betts] because when you make those bets, they’re big bets and … they are much better up front than on the back end. We know that and every team knows that, but if you want to make that type of bet, you better be ready to back it up and surround that with a whole lot of talent, a whole lot of young talent, or you’re not going to win. You see it all the time in this game. I don’t think anybody would disagree where the organization was, we just weren’t ready to back up that bet,” said Bloom.
Bloom’s remarks were met with controversy for his continued use of the word “bet” while referring to the Betts trade.
Throughout Bloom’s comments, a fan in the back of the arena continuously shouted “Fake Dombrowski”, a reference to former Red Sox President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski. Bloom was hired to replace Dombrowski after the latter was fired in 2019.
Some fans were also allowed to ask questions to the panel, but they were pre-written by the team.
Ironically, one of these questions, directed at Cora, asked what it was like to manage games during the 2020 season, where fans were not allowed in the stadium due to COVID. Cora, who was initially hired by the team in 2018, resigned in January of 2020 and did not manage the team after being named as a key contributor to an illegal sign stealing system while coaching the Houston Astros. He returned to the team in 2021, after serving a one-year suspension.
At one point, Carrabis asked Henry if he is still invested in the Red Sox. Kennedy attempted to answer the question while Henry stared at his watch, amidst more boos.
Perhaps the most controversial part of the event came when a fan asked Kennedy and Henry to justify the team’s decision to raise season ticket prices despite a last place finish in 2022.
“Baseball players are expensive,” said Henry, in one of the only times he spoke directly.
Kennedy took over after this, assuring fans that tickets to games are affordable at almost any level. This was also met with loud boos.
The night wrapped up with each participant giving their final thoughts. On a tense night for Red Sox Nation, Carrabis summed it up the best.
“Thousands of Red Sox fans drove out to Springfield in a snowstorm to talk baseball in mid-January. Say what you will, but that’s pretty cool.”