Mookie Betts clears some things up
CHICAGO - It has all worked out pretty well for Mookie Betts.
The outfielder is living the good life with perhaps Major League Baseball's best team, the Dodgers, currently sitting in the pole position for National League MVP thanks to an out-of-this-world start to the 2022 season.
There is performance still existing in rarefied air. There are all those wins just two seasons off of his second world championship. And, of course, there is that 12-year, $365 million contract.
But, sitting down in the visitors' dugout at Guaranteed Rate Field Tuesday, it is clear that what he left behind a few years before in Boston still is top-of-mind. That's where it all started. That's where it gained all that momentum. And that's where his departure will be debated for years to come.
"I just don't want anybody, especially when I go back, man, I don't want it to be like it was hatred or I didn't want to be there," Betts said when asked on the Bradfo Sho podcast if he had a message for Red Sox fans. "I loved everybody in Boston. I loved it. That was the best time of my life. Obviously, it's a new chapter now and I've got to live where my feet are, but I'll never forget all those memories, all those fans, and all the things I did in Boston, all the people, that was my life. It's something I'll never forget. Every time I go back to Boston, I'll go back to all the places I used to go to and see all the people I used to see, and just tell everybody how loved (I felt) and thank everybody for the opportunity, the cheers, the boos, the happiness, the crying, the ups and … everything man. It was a great time in my life and I want to thank everybody for that."
Betts' exit from the Red Sox has been well-documented since the 2020 trade that sent him to the Dodgers in exchange for Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong and Jeter Downs.
It has been understood for some time how the whole thing shook out, with Betts and the Red Sox never aligning when it came to the outfielder's worth.
There is one aspect of the scenario, however, that Betts wants to make clear isn't misrepresented: The notion that he was didn't want to play in Boston is flat-out false.
"They had things they needed to take care of," said Betts of the Red Sox' offer. "They were in a situation where they had to do what's best for them. You can't really be mad at somebody for having to do what's best for them, especially when you have to do what's best for you. There's definitely no hatred there. Chaim (Bloom) did a great job kind of talking and being upfront and honest and made the whole process smooth. It sucks, but that's part of it.
"There was an offer that was put out there and we just declined and we felt, I just wanted to get my value, man. That’s all. Just like any person that lives, they want to get their value, what they're worth. That's pretty much all that that it was. Just the numbers didn't align, which is normal. It's all normal things. We just had to go our separate ways. Just like anything else, there was a lot of talk where I didn't want to stay, or this, that, and the other, that's false. It's just business. It is what it is. There's nothing you can do about it now, though."
Throughout his final years in Boston, Betts had always taking the tact that his contract commitment was going to be based in a business decision. This was not going to be driven by emotion. It was an approach he never deviated from, all the way until signing that life-changing deal with the Dodgers.
"I was able to kind of get over saying no the first time, seeing these big numbers on the paper," he said of the first offer extended by the Red Sox, when he was still years from becoming free agent-eligible. "Once I was able to say no the first time, it got a little easier and a little easier. And then you just start to understand the business side. Once you understand the business side, you can't … some people can.
"It just depends on what you want. I wanted to get what I felt like I was worth. That's pretty much all that was. I just had to kind of put emotions to the side, which is definitely hard to do. I spent my whole life, my whole baseball career there. I got drafted in 2011, played my first game in 2011, and so eight years, nine years, including minor leagues, knew everybody in the organization. There's so many memories and everything that I'll never forget. You don't just up and want to leave that, especially me. I definitely didn't. But when you also try and take out the emotions and think about it, it's very hard to do, but it just depends on what you want. I wanted my value, so I had to take out those emotions. If it was more of an emotional decision, which would've been perfectly fine, which people do, maybe a different story.
"It seems like forever ago, especially when I watch them on TV and I don't even know half the people there. But it is what it is. I still talk to the guys. Those relationships are still there and will probably never leave."
Speaking of some of those former friends and teammates, there are now the parallels being drawn from Betts' situation to that of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.
Bogaerts, of course, can hit free agency after this season, while Devers is eligible after 2023. Both will necessitate the kind of enormous commitment the Red Sox and Betts could never agree on, although, as the Dodgers' star points out, this isn't necessarily an apples-to-apples scenario.
"They have to do what's best for them," Betts explained. "If they want to stay, stay. If they want to get their value, get their value. It just depends on who you are, what you want. Nobody can tell them what they want more than them. Nobody can explain what's best for them other than them. Those are all lifelong friendships that I'm going to have. Whatever happens, is going to happen."
Through it all, it is clear Betts isn't about to forget where he came from, and how it has shaped what he has become.
"I think that's probably the main thing. I've learned a lot," he explained. "It's tough to say that I'm better now than in Boston. I just think I'm more mature. I was young in Boston, really raw. I had some good people around me -- Jackie (Bradley), (Shane) Victorino when he was there. Arnie Beyeler is a huge reason I am who I am today, especially in the outfield. Big Papi (David Ortiz). I had a great crew of people around that helped me become I am today. They taught me so many things. When I left, I was able to remember everything I learned and apply it now. I don't have those watchful eyes over me. I'd just say I'm more mature."
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