In a Rose Garden ceremony Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump said it was his “pleasure” to welcome the Boston Red Sox to the White House, congratulating the team’s members for their 2018 World Series-winning season — or at least the ones in attendance.
From Nathan Eovaldi to Chris Sale to Steve Pearce, Trump shouted out a number of players for their pivotal performances during the team’s playoff run. Left unsaid were the nearly a dozen Red Sox members — including manager Alex Cora, A.L. MVP Mookie Betts, and unlikely World Series hero David Price — who skipped the event.
“A very special group of people,” said the Republican president.
Trump, who was escorted into the Rose Garden by Sale and J.D. Martinez, led off his remarks by commending Red Sox owner John Henry (“great business man”) and chairman Tom Werner (“a man who’s done a fantastic job in life”) on their season, as well as the organization’s support for veterans returning home from war, before going on a short tangent about the nation’s defense budget.
“$716 billion we spent last year,” he said, turning to Henry. “John, that’s a lot of money even for you, would you say?”
(Henry also owns Boston Globe Media Partners, which includes Boston.com.)
Trump then turned to the “unstoppable” Red Sox’ historic 2018 season.
“I watched,” he said. “You outscored your opponents by 229 runs and won 108 games in the regular season, the most in Red Sox history.”
The records prompted cheers from the Rose Garden crowd, to which Trump remarked “you got a lot of fans.” However, recalling the 2018 playoffs, the president’s mention of the “arch rival” New York Yankees drew even louder cheers from attendees.
“I think I’ll be a neutral on this one, all right?” the Queens native said.
(Later in the ceremony, when presenting Trump with a customized No. 18 Red Sox jersey, Martinez outed the president as a Yankees fan. )
“And George Steinbrenner was not happy about it,” he said to laughs. “That cooled my relationship with him for about two days.”
“You ever see such good-looking people behind me, too?” Trump asked the crowd, after turning to shake Eovaldi’s hand.
“Not the owners; forget the owners,” he added.
Perhaps unaware that the Red Sox signed Eovaldi to a four-year deal last December, Trump asked the team, “You want to keep him, right?”
“Eovaldi’s tremendous effort inspired the whole team,” the president continued. “You knew what a World Series victory was. You knew it was within reach. And you didn’t want to do anything to blow it — and that’s what happened.”
However, Trump noted that things were looking “grim” during Game 4 of the series, when the Los Angeles Dodgers were leading 4-0 and seemed positioned to even the series at two games a piece — until Sale gave the team “a little pep talk.”
Referring to Sale’s fiery, expletive-riddled dugout speech, Trump asked the normally more-reserved Red Sox ace, “Are you an emotional guy?”
“Pretty much, huh?” the president said. “Because I heard it was a hell of a pep talk. Give us a little pep talk once and a while.”
Trump continued: “Chris, I know what you said, I heard little things about what you said, and we have children here, so I’m not going to talk about it. But it worked.”
The Red Sox would go on to rally and win the game 9-6, thanks in large part to Pearce, the first baseman and World Series MVP, who hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth inning. Trump also turned to shake Pearce’s hand.
“You doing well this year? Pretty well this year, right?” Trump asked Pearce.
Pearce — who is very much not doing well this year, batting .111 with zero home runs, having played in only 17 of the team’s 38 games — shrugged.
“OK,” he replied, as several teammates couldn’t help but laugh.
“He’s doing well this year,” Trump said. “When it counts, he really does well — those are the ones we really like.”
Trump went on to reminisce about Sale’s title-winning strike out of Manny Machado.
“Sale stared down the batter, wound up, and delivered an amazing slider — was that a slider?” he said, turning back to Sale. “You gave up the fastball? And the batter went down swinging. And the Red Sox won the World Series.”
“Pretty good,” Trump said.
Trump noted that the Red Sox have now won more World Series than any other organization this century (also, “pretty good”) and that Boston teams had won a combined 12 titles between their four major sports teams.
“When you think about it, what Boston has done in a short period of time is pretty amazing — in a lot of ways, but in sports certainly,” he said. “Congratulations.”
In closing, Trump repeatedly said he was excited to give the team a rare tour of the Lincoln bedroom (which he often offers to White House visitors, according to The Washington Post).
“It’s a tremendous honor to have you in the White House, and we’re going to look at the Lincoln bedroom,” he said.