Wyc Grousbeck is in it for parades, while John Henry just seeks pity

Wyc Grousbeck is in it for parades, while John Henry just seeks pity originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Depending on which sport's metaphors you prefer, this column will either be a layup or a can of corn.

The subject: Wyc Grousbeck vs. John Henry.

Both owners were in the news this week, but for very different reasons. Grousbeck's Celtics are just two wins from raising the franchise's 18th banner as they visit Dallas with a chance to sweep the NBA Finals. Henry's forever .500 Red Sox are in neutral after splitting with the abysmal White Sox, much closer to last place in the American League East than first at 33-33.

Both owners gave high-profile interviews to business reporters that laid out markedly different visions. Grousbeck told The Boston Globe's Shirley Leung that he's losing money and doesn't care, because he's doing it for "Celtic pride" in pursuit of another championship.

Henry, meanwhile, bemoaned his fans' high expectations in the pages of the Financial Times and addressed questions of whether he'd sell the team with the fiery and passionate declaration that, "We generally don't sell assets."

Put it on a T-shirt.

Nothing delineates the current state of the two franchises like the commitment levels of their respective owners. Grousbeck has taken both the long and short view with tremendous success over the last decade, first allowing Danny Ainge to turn the dying days of the New Big Three into the picks that became Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and then by surrounding his young stars with established talent, from Isaiah Thomas to Gordon Hayward to Al Horford to Kyrie Irving to Kemba Walker to Derrick White, Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis.

Doing so has come at considerable cost. The Celtics will probably owe $75 million in luxury tax payments next year, and per the brilliant Ryan Bernardoni, could conceivably be staring at a $300 million bill two years from now when Jayson Tatum's supermax extension kicks in if they keep the band together. Three. Hundred. MILLION.

"We're fans who bought the team. We're doing this for love," Grousbeck told the Globe. "We're doing this for Celtic pride, and we're going to put everything we can into the team to win a banner, to win a championship."

Juxtapose that against Henry, who continues to perpetuate his seeming offense that "it's expensive to have baseball players," as he memorably muttered to boos at the team's 2023 Winter Weekend. In the FT interview, he criticized fans for becoming "easily ... frustrated" and not recognizing the simple math that winning it all is really just a 1-in-20 or 1-in-30 crapshoot.

The odds of winning the World Series can only be characterized as 1 in 30 if you're not trying. Over the last three decades, 21 of baseball's 30 champions have ranked in the top 10 of opening day payroll. Spending big guarantees nothing, as Steve Cohen's Mets have learned, but spending smartly, as the Red Sox did for the most part between 2004 and 2018, helped produce four champions. That's why fans are frustrated.

Henry went on to decry the "false belief ... that you should mortgage the future each year for the present," which is such a gross misreading of fan and media sentiment, it's hard to believe he owns a newspaper.

No one wants the Red Sox to trade Marcelo Mayer for a marginal upgrade, and not even the diehards blamed Henry for letting superstar rental Juan Soto join the Yankees this winter. Red Sox fans expect Henry to spend something while awaiting the next wave of prospects, however, and it's easy to envision the current club contending for a wild card with just a little more help this winter. Alas, it never came.

So let's take a moment to salute Grousbeck and his partners. When he solicited their investment two decades ago as part of his $360 million purchase, he told them not to focus on percentage returns.

"We will be paid in enjoyment," he said, per the Globe. "We will be paid in parades."

It's a sentiment John Henry used to preach, before ripping him became a layup, and the Red Sox turned into just another asset.