Boston Red Sox: Who is to Blame for this Mess?
Friday September 7th, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: The Red Sox are in a state of disrepair. They just traded two of the key players who were supposed to carry them to several postseasons in the future, and a pitcher who had the stuff to regain his status as the ace of the staff. Not to mention the team also has a manager who does not relate well to players. The Red Sox went from first to worst in the span of about a year. Why?
It all started going wrong in September of last year. The Red Sox started a skid and then information came out that some of the pitchers were drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games in which they were not pitching during the pennant chase. The Red Sox had a horrible month and ended up falling out of playoff contention as the Orioles walked off on them in game 162 and Evan Longoria subsequently hit a walk off homer versus the Yankees to clinch a playoff spot for the Rays. Terry Francona, the manager who broke the Curse of the Bambino and won two World Series, was fired and general manager Theo Epstein was rumored to be leaving. Owners John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino promised that a collapse like this would not happen the next year. The good news: Red Sox fans will not have to worry about a collapse like last years’ now. The bad news: the Red Sox have been out of contention for almost the whole year. Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto have been traded, and it looks like Boston will be rebuilding for at least the next couple of years. Chaos in Boston is an understatement.
Many fans in Boston are playing the blame game, so I’ll join in. First is Bobby Valentine. He just rubs people the wrong way. As baseball-savvy as he is, he has an arrogance and does not give the impression that he is a “players’ manager.” He has been rumored to spend time holed up in his office away from the players. This must have been a big change from Terry Francona—who had a lot of friends on the team, notably Dustin Pedroia. Valentine questioned Kevin Youkilis’ drive at the start of the year, which led to him getting traded to the White Sox to the dismay of many fans. Valentine also called out rookie Will Middlebrooks after an error, turning many players against the manager. These actions eventually led to players calling a meeting with the owners to voice their disappointment with the manager. And while Valentine contributed to some of the failures of the 2012 Red Sox, there are many more responsible parties to call out.
The players are also clearly to blame. Adrian Gonzalez did not have a good start to the season, while Carl Crawford started the year on the DL and decided to have Tommy John surgery after making a brief return. Josh Beckett was horrible, carrying over a five ERA for most of the season, and Jacoby Ellsbury got injured after his first few games. The Red Sox didn’t exactly keep pushing on, falling to five games out by June 1st. Jacoby Ellsbury’s return was anticipated as a possible spark for the team. Unfortunately it did not prove to be the trick, and Ellsbury ended up being not the stud that he was last year. It seems like the majority of the players got “unlucky” this year.
If we are going to point fingers, one of the main people at fault is Theo Epstein. While he was in charge of the team, he went out and extended Adrian Gonzalez and then signed Carl Crawford in the same offseason. These were both blockbuster signings at the time, and it looked like the Red Sox were going to continue to be a powerhouse in the AL East. Carl Crawford was plagued with injuries and the signing looked to be a major bust. The Adrian Gonzalez signing worked out for the most part, but then his performance hit a wall at the beginning of this year—the year that Epstein left for the Cubs. The reality is that Theo left at the perfect time. Leaving Boston must have felt like surviving the Titanic for him. Sure, the fans were a bit angry at the collapse of last year, but that was chalked up to the players not doing what they were supposed to do. Not one person pointed a finger at the questionable signings that Epstein made. Epstein left the huge mistakes he made (signing Crawford and Beckett—Gonzalez, too) in Boston while he started fresh in Chicago. In my opinion, Epstein is the most at fault for the Red Sox woes this year due to his overspending on free agents. Because of this, Ben Cherington had to make the tough decision to trade these players in order to free up some salary space.
Cherington has to take some credit for the season as well. Trading away Josh Reddick for Andrew Bailey. The Mark Melancon swap. If Bobby Valentine was truly the decision of ownership, then Cherington is guilty for being a puppet and not standing up for what he believes in. By going along with the company line, he becomes guilty by association. Failing to defuse the Bobby Valentine-Kevin Youkilis early on led Youk’s value to drop to nothing. Cherington as a result ended up swapping the star third baseman for little return and eating salary. Many people are quick to consider Ben Cherington as the least guilty party for the Red Sox year. But he deserves as much credit as the other culprits.
Finally, Red Sox ownership certainly played their part. Talking with players and the media, stirring the point on a consistent basis is something that a team owner should not do. Calling out Carl Crawford in the media certainly did not sit well with many. Speaking out about Terry Francona after he departed was another black eye for the team. Reports are that many of the players are not terribly fond of team ownership. To attract star free agents will be very difficult in the near future, given the three ring circus that is the Red Sox organization from top to bottom.
To reverse their course, look for the Red Sox to be a big player this offseason and try to go after some of the big name free agents that will be available. They might be a little bit apprehensive after these signings, but without these moves, I don’t believe their minor league system has enough to bring them to contention in the next few years. Given the bad vibes given off by the team, this situation could get a whole lot worse before it gets better.
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***Today’s feature was prepared by Bernie Olshansky, Baseball Writer & Facebook Administrator. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Bernie on Twitter (@BernieOlshansky)***
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Posted on September 7, 2012, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged adrian gonzalez, AL East, andrew bailey, baseball, ben cherington, boston, carl crawford, collapse, dodgers, john henry, josh beckett, larry luchino, Los Angeles, mark melancon, mlb, mlb reports, nick punto, Owners, pennant race, red sox, salary, theo epstein, tom werner, trades. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.