Eight years ago, at my first job out of college, I was grilled by an elderly co-worker about the Patriots’ weak attempts to re-sign Adam Vinatieri.
“I hate when these guys leave!” she said. “It’s like pro sports is all about money! I don’t know why I even watch. You get attached to these guys, and then they leave!”
Yup, it sucks, Gertrude. But here’s the thing: The only reason you care about these guys in the first place is because they’re winners. I didn’t hear you complaining about the Patriots when they couldn’t come to terms on a new deal with Hugh Millen in 1993. Do you know why, Gertrude? Because the Patriots went 2-14 when Millen was the QB here. And even if Hugh happened to be as cute as Jimmy Garoppolo, you probably wouldn’t have cared at the time. In fact, you probably didn’t even know old Hugh existed. Why? Because you weren’t watching at the time. Because the Patriots sucked.
So enough with this sentimental stuff. There is one thing aside from money that is always en vogue in sports, and that’s winning. And thankfully, we’ve got some front office people in this town that could care less about Gertrude having one or two tearful nights.
When Jon Lester was traded to the A’s two weeks ago, the local TV stations here acted as though there was a death on Yawkey Way. The news stations know that their core audience is made up of Gertrudes, and acted accordingly.
But the baseball community was hailing the Red Sox as winners that day. They recognized that the 2014 Red Sox weren’t winning a damn thing. But the 2015 Red Sox? That team’s batting order should look tremendous on Opening Day with Yoenis Cespedes in the heart of it.
Give the Red Sox, particularly, GM Ben Cherington credit. He brought Josh Beckett to town in 2005 (Cherington helped fill in for Theo Epstein during Epstein’s gorilla suit sabbatical in 2005), got several good-to-great seasons out of Beckett, and then shipped him out when the poop hit the fan two years ago. Under Cherington’s watch, the Sox are 2-for-2 in cutting bait in seasons in which it’s clear the team is going nowhere.
Celtics boss Danny Ainge thinks the same way, it seems.
When Paul Pierce was sent packing to Brooklyn last summer, many were disgusted. What happened to loyalty? What about all those years that Pierce gave his heart, blood and soul to Boston? Does that idiot Ainge have a heart?
The basketball community knew better, though. This move was an investment in the future of the Celtics. This move guaranteed that there would be no decade-long malaise like we saw in the 1990s. With all the assets the Celtics are acquiring, they’re assured to at least stumble into a contender in the next few years.
As for the Patriots? You’d better sit down for this one, Gertrude.
You better believe that the Pats will entertain trading Tom Brady in two or three years if they have a legit successor lined up. That’s a harsh reality, but it’s reality.
It’s surely no fun to see your favorite athlete leave town. It stings so damn much to see these all-time greats in different uniforms. But just know that these players became all-time greats in this town in this first place by winning. And you rarely win in the longterm by being sentimental.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS