What’s Really Wrong With The Boston Red Sox?
Sunday, July 29, 2012
The 2012 season has been a disaster for the Boston Red Sox. So much so, that it appears as if the franchise will not be making it to the postseason for the third consecutive season. Because of this, many members of Red Sox Nation are angry. Even worse, more of them have stopped caring.
The million dollar question is: why is this happening to the Red Sox?
Many theories have been advanced to answer that question. They have been hit harder by injuries this season than any other team in Major League Baseball. It’s Bobby Valentine’s fault. Adrian Gonzalez has been subpar this season. And the team’s top two starters - Josh Beckett and Jon Lester – have woefully underachieved.
While each of these arguments has merit, they are not THE reason why this team is floundering. If you want to know why this team is struggling, the answer is simple. This is an organizational failure.
From top to bottom, the 2012 Boston Red Sox are a mess. They resemble the old New York Yankees who used to have so much dysfunction that Yankee Stadium was affectionately referred to as “the Bronx Zoo.”
Starting at the very top there’s owner John Henry. The soft-spoken Henry was anything but that during the offseason when he strolled into the studios of 98-5 – The Sports Hub and told “Felger & Massarotti” that he was against the signing of free agent outfielder Carl Crawford.
While that certainly may have been the case, did Henry think that his public proclamation of not wanting to shell out $142 million for Crawford would somehow help him regain his confidence after a horrific first season in Boston? What was he thinking when he said that?
But Henry is not the only member of the Red Sox front office who deserves blame. Team president Larry Lucchino is also culpable.
For it was Lucchino who ultimately drove former GM Theo Epstein out of town and to Chicago. He allegedly resented the fact that Epstein received most of the credit for the two world championships the team won in 2004 and 2007.
But Lucchino also made a major faux pas after Theo left. He reportedly overruled his new general manager – Ben Cherington and hired Bobby Valentine to be the team’s new manager. Cherington didn’t believe Valentine was the right fit for the club but that mattered not to Lucchino. He wanted a disciplinarian in the dugout after the September debacle of last season. The problem is, that the organization didn’t empower their new bench boss.
They did not give Valentine complete autonomy to assemble his own coaching staff. Because of that, the team has two pitching coaches and a staff that allegedly does not communicate well with one another.
Lucchino is also suspected to be the one who smeared the classy Terry Francona who was fired at the end of the 2011 season. Despite having led the franchise to two World Series titles, Francona was made the fall guy for the team’s September collapse by management.
However, firing Francona apparently wasn’t enough for Red Sox management, they wanted to justify his firing by leaking information to the Boston Globe that he was going through a messy divorce with his wife and that he may have become addicted to pain killers.
Whether or not Lucchino was the one responsible for those leaks is irrelevant. It smacked of a “cover your own ass” mentality which seems to permeate the organization – an organization which seems more concerned about winning public relations battles as opposed to winning baseball games.
And that attitude is prevalent in the Red Sox clubhouse as well.
Supposed team leaders like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz have openly criticized or disrespected their boss Bobby Valentine. Starting pitchers began the season spending more time and energy bitching about balls and strikes than they did making the needed adjustments to become more effective on the mound.
One of those pitchers – Josh Beckett – should have been traded during the offseason for his flat out insubordination at the end of the 2011 campaign, but that didn’t happen.
Instead, the team fired Francona essentially sending the message to Beckett and the rest of the team that the September collapse was not their fault.
Even though the Sox are just a handful of games out of either of the two American League Wild Card spots, it seems very clear that this team just doesn’t have the make-up of a playoff contender.
Is it possible that the team goes on a streak where they win 8 of 10 over the course of the next 60 games? Sure.
But there is too much dysfunction within the organization and it starts at the very top. And, until EVERYONE within the organization gets on the same page, things will not get better.
The only way that things will get better is if the owner is on board with what the team president is thinking. And the team president has to empower his general manager to make whatever baseball decisions need to be made to improve the roster which includes ridding the team of malcontents. The GM has to believe in the manager and support what he is doing unconditionally. Just as the players have to buy into what their skipper is selling and perform up to their capabilities.
Right now, none of that is happening with the Boston Red Sox which is why they will likely miss the playoffs again this year.