As reports begin to come out indicating that Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein has agreed in principle to a five year deal with the Chicago Cubs, the Boston Globe’s Bob Hohler revisits several incidents from the 2011 season, laying blame for the team’s September collapse like a bachelor party dropping fliff at a strip club.

Hohler speaks with “individuals familiar with the Sox operation at all levels” who tell him “a story of disunity, disloyalty, and dysfunction like few others in franchise history.” Although, some of this sensationalism reported here would likely make for a better “reality” TV show, I’m expecting to learn that HBO has picked up the option on this story with plans to develop it into a mini series.

Here are all the sordid and largely speculated details:

  • Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey spent their off-nights drinking beer in the clubhouse and eating chicken and biscuits, rather than cheering on their teammates;
  • Several starting pitchers ignored pleas from training staff to stay in shape;
  • Along with worries over a new contract, Terry Francona’s prescription drug abuse, marital problems and nervousness for his son serving overseas distracted him from his duties as manager;
  • Jason Varitek was a lame duck captain who took no leadership role in the clubhouse;
  • David Ortiz acted as a disruption, committing two public acts of selfishness down the stretch;
  • Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury’s feud from last season made them both distant with the rest of the team;
  • Adrian Gonzalez didn’t accept a leadership role on the team;
  • Theo Epstein didn’t do enough to shore up the pitching staff and spent too much money on Carl Crawford; and
  • Ownership was obviously distracted from the Red Sox by its several other ventures, including most unforgivably, soccer.

Reminder: The Boston Red Sox finished one game out of the playoffs. One game. They had a bad start to the season and a bad finish, but for a large chunk of the year, they were the best team in baseball.

Baseball is full of randomness, and by looking at numbers we realize how much of a role that luck plays. It seems ridiculous to me to point to things like these and assume that they’d have a negative effect on the team as a whole. Even if all these things are true, it’s all speculation on the part of the writer as to what impact they had on the clubhouse.

I mean, who’s to say that Francona didn’t inspire his team with a painkiller addled pep talk that they otherwise would’ve lost? Or that the last piece of fried chicken that John Lackey ate gave him the strength to go out there and give one of his few good performances this season?

We don’t know. And it seems silly to speculate for the sole purpose of standing on some imaginary moral high ground. “I would never eat chicken and drink beer at my place of employment, so I must be better.”

And The Rest

What we do know is that the Detroit Tigers narrowed the distance between themselves and the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.

After suffering an oblique injury last night, Victor Martinez should be ready to go for Detroit today.

J.P. Ricciardi is one of the names being talked about for the Baltimore Orioles’ general manager job.

Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams briefly considered making Paul Konerko a player/manager. Awesome!

New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman understands exactly what playoff performances are worth.

Giants fan Bryan Stow’s ongoing recovery has taken him out of the hospital for the first time.

Pittsburgh Pirates starter Charlie Morton will be out six months after hip surgery.

Free agent shortstop to be, Jimmy Rollins, wants five years in his next deal.

Houston Astros reliever Bud Norris is not a fan of Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson is likely unaware of who Bud Norris is.

When the Los Angeles Angels clean house, they really clean house.

Finally, the real “problem” with the New York Yankees is that their killer instinct has vanished. Sure.

Comments (15)

  1. Best part of the Globe attack piece? This:

    The 39-year-old catcher, in a brief conversation, chastised a reporter for calling him at home and otherwise declined to comment.

    pwn3d.

  2. Some of the bullet points seem incredibly extreme – almost like a soap opera, or like you said, HBO-miniseries quality.

    Maybe some of it is true, but A-Gonz refusing a leadership role? The team shouldn’t have been looking to the big-free-agent and 58 year old catcher for leadership, but the middle infielder in his prime that plays through a goddamned broken foot, and is constantly on the front step of the dugout.

    Francona’s drug addiction, nervousness and marital problems? This is getting slanderous. Clubs with in-team rivalries have won before (Yankees, Red Sox, etc.).

    The fact is, BOS started awful, ended awful. They were taken out by the fucking Orioles. They DID NOT pitch when they needed to, and they lost.

    This season falls on the heads of Lackey, Beckett and Lester, Simple. Not Francona, Epstein, Gonzalez, Veritek.

  3. What does accepting a leadership role on the team even mean? Adrian Gonzalez is payed to be a very good baseball player. Beyond that, is he supposed to treat his teammates who for the most part are veterans like rookies that need his guidance? Wouldn’t that just be patronizing? I can’t see how a new player on a deeply talented and veteran team could walk in acting like the leader of that team unless he’s some raging egomaniac. I guess it just shows how easy it is for hack writers to throw blame around for the benefit of a public hungry for scapegoats. All you have to do is find fault with some of the players behaviour and then blame all the other players for not doing a better job baby-sitting their teammates. It’s all so crass.

  4. I freaking love it.

  5. I generally agree with this piece in that baseball is for the most part, an individual sport and any post-collapse narrative placing the blame on vague problems like a lack of leadership is a farce. Still, I do think an assortment of assholes can have a negative ‘intangible’ effect on team morale, and a result, on individual player performances. But then again, how does one explain the success of the Yankees?

  6. Great rewrite of an original article done by good reporters at the Boston Globe. I bet the Chicago Sun-Times will have something nice on Epstein’s hiring you can use soon too.

    • You toss that “Good reporters” tag around pretty easily, considering the overwhelming use of unfounded speculation and “anonymous sources” in that ex post hit piece.

  7. Another funny thing,

    Boston outperformed Tampa on their Pythagorian record and should have had 95 wins. They only brokeven in their close games (more due to randomness) and had an amazing record in blowouts.

    All of this is according to the great research at battersbox.ca

  8. Isn’t this (at least circumstantial) evidence that managers DO have an impact on their team? I know that’s heresy around these parts, but I’ll still suggest it.

    • It is already suggested that this is another example of higher-ups in the BoSox lineup taking shots at people on their way out of town. Wouldn’t be the first time.

      • Do you disagree that a team is better off having its players in the dugout rather than playing video games? I know you didn’t say that, but you deliberately dismissed my argument as well as every point raised in the article.

        • This might just be semantics but what I seem to get from the ‘managers don’t impact the team’ people is that the managers main job is to not screw things up. By this, I think they mean not making boneheaded lineup decisions, and to a lesser extend, managing the clubhouse’s personalities to avoid conflict and maintain professionalism. When these objectives are not met the manager is seen as doing a poor job. However, since many managers do not meet these objectives I would say that a manager who does meet them should be seen as a good and as having helped the team. I guess what I’m trying to say is that some people seem to think managers either have a negative or no impact on the team while I interpret a manager who runs things smoothly as having a positive impact on the team.

  9. Why wasn’t it a problem when they were winning? It wasn’t as if they suddenly started doing it at the exact moment the team starting losing.

    The point about conditioning is a huge one, one I am not dismissing at all. But how much of that comes down to the manager? After 8 years, if Tito starts trying to crack the whip, does it change anything?

    The rest of the stuff is easily swept under the rug/inconsequential in the grand scheme. It is also best not to take any of it as gospel. Pedroia gives the writer a quote so his inability to lead the team is overlooked. He’s only one guy, after all.

  10. What on earth is “fliff”?

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