By Mark Paulette,
With each homerun that Mookie Betts slugs during the early portion of 2018, John Henry, Tom Werner and Co. squirm a little more in their seats.
Betts has been one of the game’s brightest stars for several years at this point. In 2016, he was arguably robbed of the league’s MVP award and had to settle for second place behind Mike Trout. Last year, despite seeing his average fall more than 50 points and his power numbers dwindle, Betts still finished 6th in the AL MVP voting. The converted second baseman has mastered right field to the point where he’s won two-consecutive Gold Gloves and the crusty, curmudgeonly Orioles’ skipper Buck Showalter has heralded him as the greatest right fielder he’s ever seen.
Mookie’s onslaught through 26 games so far is what the Red Sox organization has seen in the tea leaves for years. It’s why they refused to deal the young star for the now-reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton according to longtime Marlins President, David Samson.
To keep up with the current superhero craze sweeping the nation in the wake of Avengers: Infinity War, it’s like when Thor went from some buff dude wielding a hammer to some buff dude wielding a hammer with the power to control lightning at his will. Betts has always had the potential, we’re just now seeing what he’s fully capable of.
Yesterday, Betts’ latest record-smashing performance broke a 61-year-old mark held by Teddy Ballgame, as the 25-year-old victimized Danny Duffy for three homers in three consecutive at bats to power the Sox to a 5-4 win over Kansas City. It was Mookie’s 4th-career three home run game, and his second in just 15 days, surpassing Williams’ previous record of three such games.
Whether rightfully so or not, Betts has closed the gap between he and Trout to the point where they are mentioned in the same breath. (Mike Trout could call it quits now at the age of 26 and arguably be a Hall of Famer).
Betts may not have the demeanor, personality or ‘flashiness’ required to be the face of baseball, but he has the talent, and it’s a problem for Boston’s front office.
For two winters, the Sox have failed to secure Betts to a long-term deal, while the player has rolled the dice and bet on himself rather than jumping at early money. Turning down $100-million dollars may prove to be the smartest decision Betts makes in his life. That was the reported offer the Sox put on the table in spring training of 2017, 5-years and $100-million. Betts gambled, was awarded an arbitration-record $10,500,000 for the 2018 season, and is now increasing his value to at least three times the initial offer.
Besides the incredible start to this season by Betts, which has seen him slash .365/11/21 in 26 games, while also scoring a league-best 32 runs and lead all right fielders in virtually every defensive metric, Boston has another factor working against them in their quest to lockdown their star.
After a very cold hot stove this past winter, the player-value chart is expected to surge with the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado both hitting the open market. Both will command deals north of $300-million, with the former rumored to be sport’s first $400-million dollar man.
While Betts continues to attach his name to the league’s best talent, he also brings his value into an equal stratosphere. Instead of overpaying upfront the Red Sox have failed to secure Betts while trying to play the waiting game, a game which may prove to cost them an extra quarter-billion dollars down the road.
Mark Paulette is the executive producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine