I think we all expected that a tell-all about the 2011 Red Sox was coming, and I think we suspected that the Boston Globe – with their ties to Red Sox ownership – would be the outlet to provide it.
That article came today.
Inside the collapse – By Bob Hohler.
The article is being universally praised among media types this morning. (Well, Eric Wilbur doesn’t love it.) The article basically collects everything that has been previously reported about the team and puts it all into one place, with a few new details and revelations.
No one looks good in this article, and in some ways, that includes the Globe. Let’s look at the entities involved.
Players: The Red Sox players deservedly take the most heat, especially the trio of John Lackey, Josh Beckett and disappointingly, Jon Lester. The story tells of their eating fried chicken and biscuits, drinking beer and playing video games while the Red Sox games were being played on the field. None of the three would comment on the story, and until they do, this issue is going to linger right through to spring training. Assuming of course that any or all of the three are still here. Other players are targeted as well. Kevin Youkilis is a grouch. David Ortiz whiner. The captain, Jason Varitek, chastised the Globe reporter when asked about the season. Adrian Gonzalez was not a leader in his first season with the team. Tim Wakefield was more interested in personal accomplishments than the team.
I don’t know how fair it would be to expect Gonzalez to come in and establish himself as a leader in a very established clubhouse in his first year with the team. Going forward, I expect him to prove himself in there, but for his first season, I’m not sure that’s fair. The only players to come out of this looking OK are really Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonathan Papelbon. In my opinion, the team should build around those three plus Gonzalez and look at everyone else as expendable.
Manager: Terry Francona might come out the worst in this article, and that is unfortunate. I think there is an attempt to paint him in a sympathetic light, but the emphasis comes down on “pathetic.” There were rumors about Francona’s personal life swirling around various messageboards in the week following the season, and Hohler covers most of them here. The article portrays Francona as a “lame-duck manager, coping with personal issues, whose team partly tuned him out,’ and hints at a prescription drug problem for Francona. More on this later. In addition to losing power in the clubhouse and having his marriage fall apart, what’s the deal with mentioning the Francona was concerned about his son and son-in-law over in Afghanistan? What source contributed this, and with what motive? Is it a criticism that he was concerned? I don’t get it.
Francona though, is the only source (beyond Pedroia) that talked to Hohler on the record. If that isn’t a damnation of the entire Red Sox organization, I don’t know what is.
General Manager: Theo Epstein is only referenced in this article in the context of failed player acquisitions such as Carl Crawford. There is nothing about whether Epstein attempted to intervene as the season was slipping away or about his relationship with Francona and management. This is a little curious to me. It makes me think a couple of things 1) People didn’t want to talk about Theo given his uncertain future with the team, a comment either way could be personally damaging to the source should certain events happen, or 2) Larry Lucchino is at this moment huddled with Dan Shaughnessy working on the ultimate smear campaign against Theo, to be unleashed the second it is officially announced that Epstein is moving to the Cubs.
Ownership: These guys might come out the worst in the entire article, and not because that is the intent of Hohler. In fact, I think effort is made to deflect blame off ownership, but they do enough to make themselves look bad in this piece. A pair of paragraphs really stand out.
Sox owners soon suspected the team’s poor play was related to lingering resentment over the scheduling dispute, sources said. The owners responded by giving all the players $300 headphones and inviting them to enjoy a players-only night on principal owner John W. Henry’s yacht after they returned from a road trip Sept. 11.
Are they really saying here “Hey, we gave the millionaire ballplayers $300 headphones, what else are we supposed to do?” If the team was really exhausted and needing rest (and apparently partying too much) was a night party on the owner’s yacht a great idea?
Then there is this:
The owners also indicated in postseason remarks they were generally unaware of how deeply damaged the Sox had become until after the season. They denied being distracted by their expanding sports conglomerate – from the Sox and NESN to Roush Fenway Racing and the Liverpool Football Club – but they professed to have no knowledge about players drinking during games, among other issues.
Are they pleading ignorance here? The fish rots from the head down, and it certainly looks like ownership was less interested and involved in the product than they have been in years past. Did this send a message to the players, who sensed this and felt less accountability to themselves?
The Globe: Fair or not, I simply cannot read an article of this type from the Globe without wondering about the influence that ownership stake has in what is appearing on the pages of the paper. I’m also uncomfortable that just about everyone sourced in this article did so anonymously. What does that say about that organization?
I’m pissed at how Francona gets portrayed as basically a weak, powerless, pill-popping philanderer by nameless sources. Accurate or not, this just smacks of a smear campaign against a former employee on whom the organization is trying to heap as much blame as possible. So Francona, and now likely Epstein are both leaving of their own will. What does that say about the atmosphere over there? The portrayal of Francona can have career-impacting results, especially when he tries to get back into managing. You think the items raised in this article aren’t going to give prospective employers pause when they considered whether to hire him?
We may have the two World Series trophies now, but in so many ways, 2011 proved that these really are the same old Red Sox that we grew up with. Players change, managers change, ownership changes, reporters covering the team change, but it’s the same old Boston Red Sox.
Still, I suspect we haven’t heard the last of the 2011 Red Sox season. Just wait for the article that comes after the Epstein situation is fully resolved.