No one cares about the Red Sox right now, and ownership should be terrified

John Tomase
NBC Sports Boston

No phrase should fill Sam Kennedy and Co. with more dread than this one: out of sight, out of mind.

The Red Sox haven't played a game that counts in more than seven months, and as baseball seeks a path to return in the midst of a pandemic, the Red Sox feel more irrelevant than ever.

The Celtics have at least given us topics like Gordon Hayward's future, Jayson Tatum's lack of a practice hoop, and just how healthy Kemba Walker's knee will be when this is all over, in the hopes of a deep playoff run.

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The Bruins have stayed relevant through periodic town halls, with Brad Marchand admitting he's unsure a veteran team will benefit from the long layoff, captain Zdeno Chara telling an interviewer he plans to play next season, and the world learning just how malodorous goalie Tuukka Rask can be in close quarters.

As for the Patriots, they dominate our attention, just as they did pre-Covid. From Tom Brady and free agency to Jarrett Stidham and the draft, they still feel like the only show in town. They're the perfect combination of performance and soap opera, and we can't get enough.

Then there are the Red Sox.

Outside of the day when MLB finally released its report detailing their attempts at illegal sign-stealing during the 2018 season - just a conveniently low-level rogue operator, nothing to see here - they've been almost completely absent from the news cycle. Part of it is their own doing, since the only player they've made available post-virus is ace Chris Sale, who honored a promise to discuss Tommy John surgery. (As this column was posted, they announced that Alex Verdugo would appear on a conference call on Monday.)

But part of it feels like a lingering hostility that some of us underestimated following the trade that sent MVP Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. Red Sox fans were palpably angry this winter, and the team wasn't about to win them back with a wacky Alex Verdugo video on social media. They needed to do it on the field.

That's a difficult task with no season, and as a result, hostility has yielded to apathy.

Red Sox web traffic has lagged the other sports at sites across New England. You can listen to Felger and Mazz for four hours without hearing a word about the team, other than in the context of how and when baseball might return.

It's almost as if fans who weren't looking forward to the season anyway are in no rush to see it come back, and that's the last place for a franchise to be in a market as competitive as Boston.

If either of the winter sports ever returns, it would be for the playoffs. The NFL still hopes to open on time in the fall. That leaves baseball and the Red Sox potentially feeling an unprecedented squeeze, without the summer stage to itself.

Even accepting that the lockdown has created a hunger for sports that should make room for everyone at the buffet, the Red Sox could still very easily find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being the fourth sport in town.

The longer-term danger is that with a rebuild looming and the Betts fallout lingering, it could end up becoming their semi-permanent home, which would've been unfathomable even a year ago.

But the likability issues that have plagued them throughout the rollercoaster ride of John Henry's ownership feel particularly acute at the moment, which should have Kennedy and Co. also fearing this update on an old aphorism:

Absence makes the heart grow harder.

No one cares about the Red Sox right now, and ownership should be terrified originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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