World News/Sports

Published on July 31st, 2020 | by Jerry Doby

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Why All the John Henry Hate? He Called Mookie’s Bluff

Henry celebrating the World Series win in 2013 Photo by Alicia Porter

Let’s set one thing straight right from the off – Mookie Betts will be missed, but the reasons for his departure are pretty much entirely of his own making. However, the recent news that the LA Dodgers have offered him a contract extension has seen fans direct a large part of their ire towards the owners, and John Henry in particular. Why didn’t he just give him the money? Surely the owners can afford it? Are they lowballing players to get them off the wage bill? 

They’re all valid questions, but here’s the thing. John Henry runs his businesses like a poker pro plays the tables. And yes, in his eyes, the Red Sox are first and foremost a business. He’s a shark and we mean that as the highest compliment. The fact is that he didn’t get where he is today by paying his employees whatever they wanted. 

Mookie was never going to sign

There are a lot of fans that still have the blinkers on and can’t seem to understand that it was Mookie’s actions that initiated the trade in the first place. It was clear as day that the player decided that he no longer wanted to live or play in Boston and that it would take an astronomical offer change his mind. So when the owners offered him $300 million on a ten-year deal, it was really no surprise that he turned it down. 

Reports have stated that it would have taken $400 to get him to sign a contract. The very fact that he asked for double the money the owners had offered him in 2017 says something about his mindset. It’s not that he thought he was worth that, although he may have. It was that he knew what John Henry’s reply would be.  

And yes, Henry did exactly what Mookie expected him to do – he said no. But the funny thing is that Henry didn’t know then what he knows now. Like most of us, he thought that Mookie just might stay given the right offer. 

Henry made a decision based on logic

A sight we’ll miss forever (Photo by Keith Allison)

Like any good poker player, John Henry knows that one of the fundamentals of poker psychology is that you don’t trust the gut. Sounds weird,right? But the truth is that to win at poker you need to make the majority of your decisions based on logic. Yes, your instincts can help sniff out an opportunity or two, but not for major decisions that could see you lose your bankroll.

Any fan who loves the Sox would have paid Mookie anything he wanted, but not Henry. He knew that he had to trust the numbers and not any gut feeling that may have been swayed by the player’s obvious talents. The numbers didn’t add up and when that happens, you certainly don’t go all-in.

If the owners were to agree to a contract of that size, it would have eclipsed the $217 million seven-year contract handed to David Price back in 2016. In fact, it would have topped the $330 million 13-year contract the Phillies gave Bryce Harper. Like we said, Henry knew that the numbers didn’t add up and this was one poker hand he was going to have to fold on. 

And he was right

Now, before you say it, yes this is all speculation, but there’s one cold hard fact that is impossible to deny. It’s also the one fact that vindicates Henry’s hardline poker tactics. So what is this one fact that we speak of? 

Well, it’s the news that Betts has signed a $365 million 12-year contract that will see him spend the remainder of his career at the Dodgers. Yes, that $365 million which is ‘just’ $65 million short of what Henry had put on the table earlier this year. But get this — Mookie won’t even get all of that during his playing career. According to reports, the contract terms means that he will only have received the full value of any monies owed to him by 2044. That means he’ll be approaching his 52nd birthday when he finally gets all his $365 million. 

The details of his contract add further weight to the argument that he just wasn’t interested in staying. No matter what the owners offered, he was on his way. But yes, it’s all Henry’s fault for not paying him $400 million because he asked for it. 

So should we praise Henry? 

Yes, we absolutely should praise him or, at the very least, the people who were involved in the negotiations. Neither Henry nor any of the Red Sox employees were to know that Mookie would never sign a contract and so they made what they felt was an exemplary offer that would have been one of the biggest contracts in MLB history. It also would have been the largest contracts in the history of the franchise. 

By not offering Mookie the arbitrary figure he asked for, Henry sent out a message that he was in complete control of the situation. Even though the player would have likely rejected any contract with the Red Sox, the effects of making such a huge offer would have been felt in future player contract negotiations. Henry had made it clear; no matter who you are, you will be paid what we feel is an acceptable salary. While there may be some wiggle room at the negotiation table, it’s the franchise that makes the final decision on contract value, not the player. 

So yes, we should be praising John Henry and lauding his negotiation skills. There’s no room for sentiment at board level. And if it takes a cutthroat attitude and some hardline poker skills to get the job done and protect the long-term future of the franchise, then we should be happy that we have John Henry to do it for us.



About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and internationally published arts & entertainment journalist. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as well as the United States Press Corps.


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