Much has been made in the last 24 hours about Bob Hohler’s front page story in yesterday’s Boston Globe entitled “Inside the Collapse of the Red Sox.” The Globe’s sports editor went on record saying that the paper sought to explain to Bostonians what really went wrong with the 2011 Red Sox. And while Hohler’s article certainly touches on many questionable behaviors throughout the Red Sox organization this past season, I think it’s time everyone takes a step back and swallows this article for what it is – an attempt to find a scapegoat. In other words, Hohler set out to point out the negatives – not to provide an accurate assessment of why things didn’t work out for the Sox. And while Hohler spent plenty of time detailing “what went wrong,” I think he missed the point.
Case in point, the whole John Lackey, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett love fried chicken, beer, and video games ordeal. Frankly, Hohler has followed this Sox team far to closely to paint the picture that he did – one of a bunch on delinquents with no interest in the team. Thankfully two guys who you would expect to open their mouths did – David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia. It was Ortiz who came really came to the rescue, stating what’s obvious to anyone who spends much time around the Red Sox. “”We had that when we won the World Series in 2004,” Ortiz said. “We had that when we won the World Series in 2007. Beer in the clubhouse, it’s always been there. Video games, that’s always been there; guys eating fried chicken, that’s always been there.”
Frankly, few people would know this better than Bob Hohler, which leaves me scratching my head. Why is he trying to make this the issue? I am a big fan of the Globe’s sports section, and was surprised to see this take from one of their own usually knowledgeable writers. I personally work in an office that encourages beer, friend chicken, and ping-pong - and I can tell you that it’s not an issue – in fact, it likely improves job performance among most employees. The issue is not these freedoms, it’s when they’re taken for granted. Look in the majority of the clubhouses in major league baseball and I bet you find plenty of beer and video games. So what was the real issue? David Ortiz sums it up as exactly as I have all along. “I don’t know why people want to blame (Francona) for all of this,” Ortiz said. “He can tell us what to do. But he is not the one who has to go out there and perform.” Bingo. Dustin Pedroia agrees – “We had the best record in baseball up until September and then we ran out of gas,” Pedroia said. “We didn’t play well in the end. That doesn’t have anything to do with Tito or Theo or any players or what went on in the clubhouse. The leadership was there. We had guys that cared. We just didn’t play well in the end. That’s it.”
As for other issues raised in the article, the whole Terry Francona is addicted to pain medication and his marital problems distracted him sentiment is an incredible reach at best. Find me one person who has had 20+ knee surgeries that doesn’t take pain medication. Does it mean their addicted? No. Did Terry exhibit any questionable behavior? If he had, don’t you think that would have been wildly easy for the media to pick up on? Give me a break – this is smearing in every sense of the word. Where these rumors came from who knows, but I will say everybody has been far to quick to point their fingers at the Red Sox ownership and just assume that they leaked this. Come back to reality everybody – I’m sure Terry has issues with his marriage and his knee, just as anyone else may. But there is zero evidence that any of this is true, and God knows Terry Francona’s every move is under endless scrutiny.
The point is, while there are undoubtedly some clubhouse practices that could be spun as negative, the real issues are not the beer, the chicken, or incompetent leadership – it’s a group of players that weren’t as accountable as they should have been for their own performance and who ultimately didn’t rally together as a team.
So where does this leave us? Still with a team in need of a new manager, a new GM, and some clubhouse issues that need to be ironed out. But let’s not ride this wave of speculation and join the quest for an imaginary pill-addicted, wife-hating, fried chicken loving scapegoat. The Globe got it wrong this time – it’s not the beer or the video games’ fault. It’s the players that should be held accountable for their own inability to perform.
Worst of all, what got lost in the shuffle of this article is Theo Epstein’s departure. As opposed to Call of Duty and KFC, Theo’s time in Boston is well worth reflecting on.