Bradford: Why money is not on the mind of Mookie Betts

Rob Bradford
March 25, 2018 - 7:29 pm

Butch Dill/USA Today Sports

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mookie Betts is 25 years old. It's easy to panic when you're 25 years old.

Think about it. This is right around the time many humans believe they are due in defining themselves (even though that is obviously far from the truth). And it wouldn't be any great leap of faith to believe that those thoughts weren't crossing the mind of Betts.

He was coming off what the player classified as a disappointing season, having to then start spring training without a hit in his first 16 at-bats. Add into the equation that Betts rebuffed the Red Sox' attempts to pay him a lot more money than just the $10.5 million Betts was awarded in arbitration, via a possible long-term extension.

Stances could have been immediately altered, both in the batter's box and at the business table. But they weren't. Betts now knows better.

"I'm in a good spot," Betts told prior to hitting two more home runs in the Red Sox' win over the Twins Sunday, pushing his Grapefruit League batting average to .340, while pushing his spring training OPS to 1.106. "Now it's just maintaining where I'm at. That's the hard part.

"It's just a little timing and trusting the whole process. It's easy to jump ship once failures go on. Just sticking with the whole process. I always believe in the process and how things are supposed to go."

What he was talking about was the act of successfully hitting a baseball. But, for Betts, it really is his approach to everything. And that includes the much talked about future payday.

We were once again reminded that contract extensions are a way of life for young players, with Betts' 27-year-old teammate, Christian Vazquez, reeling in one of his own Saturday morning. Go around the Red Sox' clubhouse and you'll find plenty of other examples, with the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Chris Sale, and Hanley Ramirez all opting for security over a potentially bigger deal come free agency.

Betts was clearly happy for Vazquez. But the news didn't resurface any temptation. When it comes to this extension thing, after a little bit of trial and error, Betts has dug in on his way of things, a practice he isn't about to force on anyone else.

"Everybody handles things differently. It's one of those things you don't want to get a whole lot of people involved. There are so many things that can go on. So I just stay out of the way," he said. "I talked to some people about it, how the process went. But I didn't really ask details about what they got or what was offered. It was more just about how the process went. It can be a tough process. You're dealing with a lot of money.

"I definitely learned to keep one focus. When you put the two together that's when you get messed up. It's tough. Some things you just have to do and those are one of those things that you have to do it."

Go back to last spring training and Betts could be found definitively shutting down any further talks of an extension. But not talking about it is one thing. Not thinking about it is another.

"Yeah. Definitely," the outfielder said when asked if he has more successfully handled pushing away such thoughts this spring training. "You just don't want it to linger and think about why you're playing. It just takes some self-control. I think I've done a pretty good job of keeping those type of things separate and focusing on one thing, and that's going out and playing."

The guy who has established himself as one of the best all-around players in the major leagues -- with the defensive metrics and two seasons of MVP votes to prove it -- is dug in. He has figured out what works for him, which, let's be honest, is a feat in itself when living life only halfway through your 20's.

This is the maturation of Mookie. The ultimate payoff? It doesn't figure to be a long wait, for either the player or his team.​