I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that the off field activities of the Boston Red Sox, a high profile baseball team that suffered a spectacular collapse in the final month of the season, aren’t newsworthy. I’m a baseball fan. I’m as interested in that kind of stuff as anyone else.

I won’t even criticize the use of unnamed sources. I can’t think of another way that a story like this would ever break without the use of people who would otherwise want nothing to do with a reporter, if their anonymity wasn’t protected.

I suppose I do take issue with reporting on an individual’s possible addiction and marital problems, while citing his son fighting in a war overseas as a distraction to his job. Those details are unnecessary specifics, and they come across as little more than a thinly veiled attempt to embarrass Terry Francona. However, this blog’s purview is baseball, not ethics in journalism. So, that issue is probably best tackled by someone else.

What I take umbrage with is the way in which these supposed facts are being used as some sort of explanation for Boston’s late season melt down. I touched on this subject a bit in today’s links, but I think it’s worth delving into a little bit deeper.

I rely heavily on statistics to form my opinions in baseball. I believe very strongly that for people like me, who don’t have the necessary experience to make judgments on pitching mechanics or approaches at the plate,  looking at numbers is the only method to use when forming an opinion on baseball or making a prediction about a potential outcome.

That’s not to say that I believe numbers dictate everything. I understand that there are human beings playing the game of baseball. I understand that these human beings are fallible creatures who from time to time won’t be at their very best, or even at their very average selves. However, I’m also not a psychologist. I can’t speak to the private motivations of specific individuals, and so I’d rather not talk or write about it at all.

In other words, the intangible elements that the recent Boston Globe article relies on to explain the Red Sox collapse are entirely immeasurable. Thinking about myself, I’ve been in situations where both good and bad things have motivated me, just as both good and bad things have led me to get lazy on certain days at my job. I’m sure that the incidents laid out in the Globe had an effect, but it’s not as though we can definitely state that Problem A caused Outcome B, just because they happened at the same time. There’s absolutely no proof of correlation causation.

What’s happening is we’re learning about supposedly bad behaviour from players on a team that didn’t perform up to expectations, and then forced to draw conclusions that really don’t have any basis in reality. Who’s to say if the supposed undisciplined approach taken by starting pitchers didn’t actually allow them to play better? What if Terry Francona’s alleged marital problems forced him to buckle down and focus on the team?

We don’t know. And I’m entirely more comfortable when sticking to the realm of which we do know. And that realm suggests that a very good team missed out on the postseason by one game. That is all.