Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dissecting the Globe Hatchet Job

If you haven't read the Boston Globe's summary of the Red Sox 2011 collapse, go ahead and do it now. Now that Theo has taken the Cubs job, you can probably expect a similar piece on him in the next couple weeks. Lucchino is nothing, if not predictable.  Once the dust settles I'll write something about the departures of Theo and Tito, but for now, let's dive in to the Globe article.  As with any anonymous attack article, this one is filled with "weasel words". By couching their claims in qualifiers like "apparently" and "seemingly", anonymous sources, and second hand information, the writer never actually truly claims anything, instead implying it.

Accusation 1: Tito lost control of the clubhouse due to personal issues, including separation from his wife, a son and son in law serving in Afghanistan, and a prescription pill problem.
First off, none of these things are actually real evidence that Tito lost control of the clubhouse or even reasons why he did.  Life is messy.  Life can be really hard.  And the people who play for and run the Boston Red Sox are people too.  There are ups and downs, good times and bad.  At no point in time did I feel like Francona wasn't doing his job the best he could.  The players played extremely poorly, and their September record reflects it. Finally, I was shocked by the casual inclusion of a thinly veiled assertion that Francona has a prescription painkiller problem.  Francona is a 52 year old man who shredded his knee during his playing days. If you're in chronic pain, you're going to be taking prescription painkillers.  His dosage and prescriptions are between him and his physician.  Quite frankly, I'm ashamed that the Globe went down this road.

After I wrote this, Buster Olney has weighed in with similar thoughts that I had. "We're still waiting for the firm link to be established between Terry Francona's use of medication and the Red Sox's performance in September, and if there is none, then it's personal information that really is nobody's business and shouldn't be in a newspaper. Because no matter how gracefully the words are couched or how much opportunity Francona is given to tell his side of the story, the overall impression a reader will take away -- from the choice to use the information on the meds -- is that there is a drug problem in play. Which is really awful."

Accusation 2: The Red Sox were not interested in putting in the effort to win a championship
The only specific evidence given comes from an event surrounding the weather rescheduling with Hurricane Irene looming.  After being on the road for 14 of 17 games, a brutal stretch, even in professional baseball, the Red Sox were apparently not happy with management's plan of a Saturday doubleheader.  As a gesture, $300 headphones and a party on John Henry's yacht were offered. Not going to a party on John Henry's yacht, when they're back home for a stretch for the first time in weeks is not evidence that the players weren't committed to winning.  If anything, going for rest instead of a party is a GOOD sign.  I've been on field crews for two weeks of long hours and physically demanding work.  Towards the end of the two week stretch the project manager, who was not involved in the field work, wanted to add on more work and the result was a lot of grumbling and unhappy employees.  Eventually the plan was scrapped, but I'm sure an anonymous source could have said nasty things about us after the fact.  The timing of Hurricane Irene and the long road trip is not the front office's fault, but to me, they're the ones looking petty out of all this.

Accusation 3: The pitchers' disconnectedness from the rest of the team
This is one I find pretty damning.  According to the Globe, starting pitchers Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, and occasionally Clay Buchholz would not watch games they did not start, instead they drank beer, played video games, and ate chicken and biscuits in the clubhouse.  Beckett, in particular, is expected to be a leader.  He's been on the team for six years, and should absolutely know better.  Although baseball, more than any other sport, is a collection of individual performances, this shows a total lack of camaraderie.  Sadly, player contracts are guaranteed, and managers' are not, so Tito takes the blame on this one.

Accusation 4: Wakefield's quest for 200 wins hurt the team
This one I just don't understand.  How can a pitcher trying to win a game possibly hurt a team?  It isn't like a hitter only trying to hit home runs or a base runner always trying to steal a base.  As a starting pitcher, you can't possibly win a game while hurting your team.  Granted, Wakefield struggled down the stretch, but that has happened in three of the last 4 years (6.65 ERA in September in 2008, 8.36 in 2009, 4.22 in 2010, and 5.25 in 2011).  Wakefield is 45 now, and he just wears down as the season goes on.  He hasn't posted a better ERA before the All Star break than after since 2003, although his splits were close in 2005, with a slight edge before the break.  The simple answer is that the rash of Red Sox pitching injuries (Daisuke, Buchholz, Lester, Beckett, and Lackey all missed time) made Wakefield a nearly a full time starter, which, at this stage of his career, he obviously isn't cut out for.

Accusation 5: Lack of leadership
Leadership is impossible to quantify, but the Globe throws Adrian Gonzalez under the bus for making this statement: "We play too many night games on getaway days and get into places at 4 in the morning,’’ Gonzalez complained. “This has been my toughest season physically because of that."  The Globe goes on to point out that the Red Sox only played 5 Sunday night games, showing malice or ignorance about the fact that more than just Sundays are "getaway games."  Every time the Red Sox appeared on Wednesday night baseball on ESPN was one more night game on a getaway day.  Granted, it would take slightly more effort to figure out how many night games they played on getaway days.  The Red Sox played 13 games, a few more than the Pirates, for example, who played 9.  Not a huge difference, but enough to add up over the course of a long season.  I'll give the Globe a little credit, it took me at least 15 minutes and a little Excel knowledge to figure this out, so I understand if they can't be bothered.  And we wonder why print media is dying. Ellsbury was also singled out as not having any friends in the clubhouse.  WEEI has already straight up refuted this.

Accusation 6: Theo failed to beef up the bullpen
It is a bit of a throw away line in the article, but it really bothered me.  The 2011 Red Sox bullpen put up a 3.67 ERA, 4th in the AL.  The 2010 Red Sox bullpen put up a 4.24 ERA, 12th in the AL.  While the big ticket reliever, Bobby Jenks, was a disaster, Theo struck gold with other relievers.  Key contributors Matt Albers, Scott Atchison, Franklin Morales, and Dan Wheeler were all scrap heap signings or low budget free agent pick ups.  The third most valuable arm in the bullpen, Alfredo Aceves, was also a spectacular scrap heap signing, snagged for nothing after he was non-tendered by the Yankees.

All told, the only part of the organization that wasn't butchered was the ownership.  Larry Lucchino has his fingerprints all over this article and all the leaks.

As I was writing this, Milly, my puppy, voiced her displeasure with the 2011 Boston Red Sox.  I guess I'm in the market for a new hat, now.  After the way the 2011 season ended, it's probably the safe move, anyway.


  1. Welcome to the dog-chewed-hat club. Hobbes has chewed one thing in the 4 years I've had him, and it was the bill of the only Sox hat that's ever fit on my head. It's still wearable, though. Your's....not so much.

  2. Sadly, Milly has chewed more than just the hat, but I thought the timing of her going to town on the hat as I was writing the blog post was something else.