Archive for the “Off-Topic” Category

Posts having nothing to do with the topic of this blog

'Ten time NCAA National Champions in Women's Basketball: UCONN' / via TrueBlueUConnPardon me, Dear Reader, for another off-topic post. As an alumnus of the University of Connecticut, things have reached the point where I just can’t help but weigh in on this topic. So here goes:

In case you didn’t know it, there’s a big basketball tournament underway. No, not the NCAA men’s tournament; I refer, instead, to the women’s NCAA tournament (WebCite cached version). Over the last few years there’s been a lot of grousing in the sports world over UConn’s dominance of this sport. They’ve won the last three national championships in a row, but even more than that, have been dominating in the games they play. Lately they’re 120-1 and have won all of those 120 by at least double digits. They haven’t just won a lot, they’ve blown people away … staggeringly. The main reason for this is that Breanna Stewart — who’s been called the best collegiate athlete in the country, male or female, in any sport — plays for them. But as someone who’s watched them since the 1980s (when they were really bad), I can tell you, it’s not just “Stewie.” The UConn women’s basketball team has a full complement of excellent players. There are no significant holes in their lineup.

At any rate, several years of consistent blowouts has led many in the sports media to wonder if the UConn women’s basketball team is “ruining” their sport. Among the latest sports media figures to do so was Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who tweeted a week ago (cached):

Now, Shaughnessy’s sports beat is the Boston Red Sox, so expecting him to expound cogently on a women’s college basketball team is probably asking a bit much. Later on, he said he wasn’t really blaming the Huskies for what they were doing — even if the text of his tweet clearly says otherwise (i.e. “they are killing women’s game,” emphasis mine). He just objected to how lame the other teams are, I guess. UConn coach, Geno Auriemma, responded by telling Shaughnessy it’s fine if he doesn’t watch (cached). Since then, the rest of the sports world has weighed in on the matter. Some of it is ridiculous, such as these comments by Fred Toucher of WBZ-FM — on whose show Shaughnessy appeared, in an effort to rehabilitate himself after the tweet (cached):

Do you understand that you’re not allowed to have an opinion on something in your hotel room while watching something on television? It exists, so you must like it. That is what’s going on now.

“You don’t like it; you’re a hater!”

“Oh, you don’t like women’s college basketball?! You’re sexist!”

Nice to see how he was able to turn this into a childish, anti-political-correctness tirade. Well done, dude! You must be so proud!

As much as Toucher would like it to be otherwise, this isn’t about whether or not someone likes women’s basketball, and it’s not about misogyny. It’s about whether or not a Division I basketball team should be permitted to play to its full potential, against opponents who — by and large — simply don’t match up to them. You see, as this piece from Deadspin (cached) makes clear, the UConn women’s team itself pretty much doesn’t care. They’re going out to play … and that’s all there is to it. They’re not about to slow down, or worse, purposely throw a couple games, just to satisfy a bunch of whiney sports writers. Nor should they! This is the kind of professionalism that’s gotten them where they are, and it will help those on the team who get to the WNBA.

As I said, this isn’t about the UConn women’s team. What they’re doing is what they’ve been doing for over 20 years now, which is to go on the court and play their hearts out. And that’s precisely what they should do. No, the problem is the rest of women’s college basketball. Aside from a very small number of other teams which are really good (e.g. Notre Dame, Stanford, Baylor, South Carolina), women’s college basketball teams are really afterthoughts in the minds of athletic departments. Very few resources are assigned to them. It’s a program they’re obligated to provide by virtue of Title IX, but it’s not something they’re invested in.

Now, one factor here is marketing and television revenue. Few schools have contracts covering their women’s basketball games, aside from a handful each year that ESPN might pick up via conference contracts. UConn has a contract of its own with New York sports network SNY, which picks up all the women’s games not served by the American Athletic Conference contract with ESPN. Prior to that, this contract had been with CPTV, Connecticut’s public television outlet. It’s a luxury many schools don’t have … but it’s not something they can’t exploit, if they wanted to.

Another consideration here is that, back in the 1980s when Auriemma was hired, UConn women’s basketball was lousy. Auriemma and the rest of the athletic department built it up over the course of years. A tipping point came with the recruiting of Kerry Bascom (cached). UConn began its consistent run of NCAA tournament appearances once she was on board, and it hasn’t let up since. But before that, there was nothing to speak of. If little UConn, out in the wilderness of eastern Connecticut, can build a relentless women’s basketball powerhouse from literally nothing, there’s no reason other schools can’t do the same. Their athletic departments just have to work at it. Nothing can stop them, if they wish to. Some schools are doing this: South Carolina is the most recent example I can think of. There’s talent out there to be had — UConn can’t take on every McDonald’s All American every year. Schools just need to hire good coaches, then go get the athletes.

The bottom line is, it’s time for people like Shaughnessy and his friend Toucher to stop bellyaching that women’s college basketball isn’t interesting because UConn wins too often. That they win a lot isn’t the problem. That other schools don’t try as hard to compete, is. They need to get off their asses and work at it … just as UConn has done since 1985 when Geno Auriemma was hired.

I won’t even get into the fact that dominance of any given sport by a team is something the sports media usually likes. For example, they’ve largely praised the Golden State Warriors, who are nearing the end of a possibly record-breaking season (cached). Each year there’s talk about which college football teams have been unbeaten. And on and on it goes. But they just can’t seem to view UConn the same way. Is it because it’s a women’s sport we’re talking about? Maybe. There are a lot of people who think all women’s sports are, by definition, lame. Is it because of geography? A lot of Americans can’t place Connecticut on a map. For some reason, New England sports teams get little or no respect in other parts of the country (I can’t travel outside the region with Red Sox, Bruins, or Patriots garb, without putting up with some nasty comment or other). I seriously wonder if that has something to do with it, as well.

But really, it shouldn’t matter. People who work in the sports media ought to be above their own petty subjective tastes. The problem is not with the sport of women’s college basketball, it’s how schools run their programs. And it needs to change — the sooner, the better.

Update: The UConn women’s basketball team defeated Syracuse, by a score of 82-51, last night to end the tournament (cached). It’s their 11th national championship, their 4th in a row, and it capped their 6th perfect season. Seniors Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck have played to 4 championships, something no other college athletes have done before.

Photo credit: TrueBlueUConn.

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Red Sox logo (upside-down to show their miserable performance and crazed management)Sorry, folks. This is yet another off-topic post about the Red Sox, the team I followed for years but which has crumbled into oblivion, as far as I’m concerned.

This weekend, the Red Sox achieved a new high in low. And no, I’m not referring to their likely second consecutive and thrice-in-four-years last-place finish. Although that’s bad enough, I’m not referring to their lackadaisical play on the field. No, I’m referring to their continued shabby treatment of their TV play-by-play announcer, Don Orsillo. It’s bad enough they blamed him — not the horror that is the team itself — for lousy ratings and decided to let him go. That, all by itself, is ridiculous beyond words. I’m also not referring to how they asked Orsillo to lie for them after word of his firing leaked (WebCite cached link).

Both of those moves were idiotic and insulting, but right now I’m referring to yet another move which was even more insulting and childish. The Springfield, MA Republican tells the sad story of how the Sox have kept up their campaign of retribution against Orsillo (cached):

On Sunday, the Red Sox honored NESN play-by-play announcer Don Orsillo in his final game at Fenway Park with a video tribute at the park.

NESN, which did not renew Orsillo’s contract for next season, did not air the tribute on the broadcast, angering a fanbase that has already been vocal about the dismissal of Orsillo.

On Monday, NESN released a statement indicating it plans to air its own tribute to Orsillo for the final game of the season on Sunday.

NESN offered no reason why this tribute was an either/or thing; i.e. they could either play it at Fenway or air it on NESN, but not both. At this point, I can only conclude that Orsillo must have royally pissed someone off at NESN or in Sox management. There can’t really be any other explanation for the nasty way they’ve treated him. Not only did they knock the guy down, they proceeded to kick him while he was on the ground, then they kicked him some more. Yeah, the Red Sox management are a class act, all right.

It’s possible NESN will air something during Orsillo’s last broadcast with them this coming Sunday, but as things stand, we’ll never know if they’d actually planned it or if it will have merely been a reaction to yet another scandalous story.

I blame Tom Werner, Red Sox chairman, who heads its media operations (which includes NESN, in which the Sox are by far the majority owner). His inability to comprehend how baseball works has been obvious since Terry Francona revealed he’d demanded the Sox win their games “in more exciting fashion” (cached). His disclosed excuse for letting Orsillo go … which had to be dragged out of him after several days of fan outrage … was that he wanted to “re-energize the broadcasts” (cached). Seriously!? What the fuck does that even mean? Werner doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. He has no damned idea what’s wrong with the team he helps run.

The real problem with the Red Sox is on the field. At the moment, that’s best personified by a deadweight slug by the name of Hanley Ramirez. He’s been useless since the day he arrived and hasn’t gotten any better. The Sox decided to send him home even before the season’s over (cached), because they have no idea what the hell to do with him and he has no interest in playing. They’re paying a piece of shit tens of millions of dollars to wander around in the field and swing away at every pitch that goes by him … and they don’t even care that all of it’s being wasted. On the other hand, they do seem to care that Don Orsillo somehow isn’t “energetic” enough. Fuck that.

Photo credit: Based on Red Sox logo.

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Red Sox logo (upside-down to show their miserable performance and crazed management)Note: Today there was some news on this; see below.

Pardon me, Dear Reader, for going off-topic to discuss the debacle that is the Boston Red Sox. I haven’t blogged about them for a year now, nor for a couple years prior to that, but this is another of those occasions when they’ve done something terrible enough that I simply must speak out about it.

Right now, as tonight’s game in Chicago against the White Sox begins, their record is 57-69; they’re 13½ games behind the division-leading Blue Jays and 8½ behind the 4th place Tampa Bay Rays. Even with just over a month of baseball left to play, the Sox are almost guaranteed to finish in last place, for the second year in a row.

Their horrible play this year has led to the firing of pitching coach Juan Nieves (cached), the departures of CEO Larry Lucchino (cached) and general manager Ben Cherington (cached). 2013 championship heroes Shane Victorino (cached) and Mike Napoli (cached) flamed out and are gone.

What’s more, unsurprisingly and in a repeat of previous seasons, Clay Buchholz is hurt and unlikely to pitch again this season (cached). The injured Dustin Pedroia might be back before the season is over — if he’s lucky (cached). The past off-season’s big acquisitions Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval have fizzled spectacularly and embarrassingly (cached).

Poor play is a team-wide phenomenon: Starting pitching, the bullpen, fielding, and the hitting all suck. There have been a few positive outliers: Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, and … well, I guess they’re it. Holt was the lone Red Sox at the All Star Game — and he’s a fucking utility player, fercryinoutloud (cached).

In light of all of this, the team made another decision … one which is so bad that I can only assume Red Sox management has gone completely fucking insane: NESN (which is controlled by the Sox) fired television play-by-play announcer Don Orsillo (cached). He’s been calling games for NESN for many years now, alongside color man and former Red Sox second baseman Jerry Remy. They’re a team known for their beside-the-game antics and laughter, as seen in the following:

Granted, both Orsillo and Remy have their detractors. But I’ve watched them call a lot of Red Sox games over many years and overall can’t really complain about their ability to entertain even when the baseball is boring. It’s not unusual to hear fans say Orsillo makes it worth their time to watch the debacle which is Red Sox baseball. The outrage over his firing has become palpable enough to get national attention (cached).

Yes, I get that NESN’s ratings are down. But that’s not because of Don Orsillo. It’s because the fucking Red Sox fucking suck at fucking baseball! Lunatics have clearly taken charge at Fenway, if the team’s management really thinks jettisoning Orsillo is going to fix anything. I have nothing against Dave O’Brien, the radio guy who’s going to replace him, but I just don’t see how he’s going to turn around NESN’s flagging performance. The only thing that will do that is if the Red Sox field a team worth watching. That’s not going to happen, though, if the team’s management is crazy enough to think firing Orsillo is a solution.

Final note: There’s a Change.Org petition going around demanding Orsillo’s reinstatement. I doubt it’ll make the lunatics who run the team change their minds, but I’ve signed it, and you may as well, too.

Update: Earlier today, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner finally broke down and discussed Orsillo’s firing with Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald (cached):

The answer, in the opinion of Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and NESN president/CEO Sean McGrail, is that they believe Dave O’Brien, currently the play-by-play man on the radio side, will be an upgrade [to Don Orsillo].

It has nothing to do with ratings, they said, though Werner and McGrail both concede that ratings are down this season. It’s just that they want O’Brien.

As for Jerry Remy, it’s not clear what his role will be or how long he’ll remain where he is, even though Werner and McGrail promised that “he will be with us for sure.” Although it’s nice the Sox finally opened up about this, what they said doesn’t make them seem much less insane than before.

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Red Sox logo (upside down to show how terrible they are)Once again, Dear Reader, I feel compelled to take a break from the usual topic of this blog to go over the hapless boys of Beantown.

Yes, I’m aware the Red Sox won the World Series last year. One would think that had been a redemptive effort, a collective team apology for the asinine debacle which was the inexcusable September 2011 collapse and the memorably incompetent 2012 season. Clearly, though, given the team’s effort to date — sporting as they do a 41-51 record as I type this — that World Series win was an anomaly. Since the 2010 season, the Red Sox have appeared in the playoffs only once … in 2013, when they won it all. Other than that, they haven’t done a whole lot.

With the All Star Game a few days away, it’s clear the Sox aren’t going to make the playoffs. Now that this is apparent, things are really starting to unravel. As perhaps the first manifestation of management giving up the season, catcher A.J. Pierzynski has been designated for assignment in favor of young prospect Christian Vasquez.

But that’s not all there is to this story. In truly classy fashion, the Sox chose to throw the guy under the bus as they shoved him out the door; in doing so they imply he was responsible for their dismal play.

But it’s not just about him. All right, it’s not news to anyone that Pierzynski is a malcontent and asshole. A couple years ago he was voted the most-hated player in the MLB — by his own colleagues! No one expected him to act like a choir boy. However, now that he’s gone, the Boston sports media are happily cranking out stories about how nasty the guy was. My question, now, is … if the guy was so intolerably awful, through spring training and half a season, why are we only just now hearing about it? Why weren’t the media reporting this shit while it was going on? Why were reporters dutifully toeing the Fenway line about how everything was just hunky-dory with the most-hated man in baseball? I’ve only been able to find one story about Pierzynski’s shortcomings, by John Tomase of the Herald, and that was in late May. But even then, the article made it seem Pierzynski was just clueless, not a “negative influence in the clubhouse.” Fans could have used this information weeks ago — but it wasn’t provided to them.

I’m guessing this October when the season’s over, we’ll be treated to another exposé providing a litany of the various goings-on that destroyed the team. As before, though, all of the information in this exposé will have been long known to the Boston sports media. They’ll have held it all back while the season was underway … and while fans are scratching their heads wondering how and why it could be this bad.

Of course, Pierzynski was hardly the only malcontent on the team. One of them remains, and there’s no evidence he’s going to be traded or DFA’d. That malcontent is David Ortiz, aka “the Big Papi.” At this point he qualifies for the title of “the biggest baby in baseball.” His nature as a malcontent has been well-known, at least for the 3 years since he stormed into a press conference being held by then-manager Terry Francona and spewed profanities at him over an RBI he thought he should have been granted. It’s not as though this was a one-time thing, though; he continues to pitch fits over scoring matters. He also whines and cries whenever someone implies he’d been juicing — which, the Mitchell report claims, he really did, at least before it was written in 2003. That too is not new for the Big Papi; he’s been sensitive to this talk for the last few years. Oh, and even those aren’t the limit of his crybaby antics: He’s griped about his contract and about the Red Sox schedule, too. Not to mention, a year ago he demolished a dugout phone over being thrown out of a game because he mouthed off at a home-plate umpire over what he thought was a bad call but which was actually correct.

Here’s a thought, Mr Ortiz: Maybe you should stop getting your knickers in knots over RBIs and PEDs and dollar signs, and instead, grow the hell up and start fucking hitting again. You make millions of dollars a year playing a game, fercryinoutloud! Try acting as though you’ve earned all that money, instead of spouting off like a petulant child all the time.

Oh, and the people in the Boston sports media should also start acting as though they’ve earned what they’re paid. Report on what’s happening with this team — while it’s happening, rather than weeks or months later. You know the people on the team, and you know what’s plaguing them. You know something’s rotten in Fenway, so report on it already. We can take it. If we’re going to be treated to another 2012 season, at least we should know why. Besides, revealing their juvenile antics to the world while there’s still nearly half a season left to play, might encourage the Red Sox to straighten out their acts and get them to play well again. It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?

The bottom line is that the team that went from last place in 2012 to first in 2013 has already gone to last again in 2014. Will they stay there? I’m guessing they will, unless something changes. Something really big.

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Screenshot from Twitter, via the Torrington Register Citizen (’m marking this post as “off-topic,” even though I’ve blogged a number of times about misogyny — mostly because it lies at the heart of many religions. That said, it’s often found elsewhere, and is certainly not solely a religious problem.

Most of you know by now about the Steubenville, OH rape case which made headlines over the last few months and for which a trial was just concluded (WebCite cached article). This case was a long and disgusting parade of bad behavior by many people in and around Steubenville: Kids who sent pictures of the incident, and even video commentaries on it, to each other; bullying of the victim; conspiracies to cover up what happened; football coach Reno Saccoccia threatening a reporter (cached); many more examples of hideously bad behavior; and intervention — on the victim’s behalf — of the Internet group Anonymous.

Among the problems has been that the perpetrators have been defended by a chorus of folks, locals and others alike, who presume that the victim was responsible for the rape, since she partied with football players and got drunk. In other words, she had “asked for it.” At times, even media outlets seemed to have more sympathy for the rapists than for the victim (cached).

Another point that’s been frequently made, is that high school football is “king” in Steubenville, a place where football players are revered and granted hallowed status, given carte blanche to do as they wish. The implication is that Steubenville is one of those rare places where this sort of thing could happen.

I’m sorry to report, however, the idea that this is a localized, unique phenomenon, turns out not to be true at all. A very similar situation is playing out unnervingly close to me, in Torrington, CT, as the Torrington Register Citizen has diligently reported over the last several days (cached):

As international media scrutiny fell on Torrington, police confirmed Wednesday that charges against two 18-year-old Torrington High School football players, as well as an unidentified 17-year-old city male, stemmed from the alleged sexual assaults of two 13-year-old girls.

Both Joan Toribio, 330 Highland Ave., and Edgar Gonzalez, 18, of the same address, but different apartments, have pleaded not guilty to felony charges of sexual assault and two charges of risk of injury to a minor. Toribio is charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault, while Gonzalez is charged with one.

Before the story gained media attention, it had already created a storm of controversy within the school community. Students flocked to social media in the days surrounding the arrests of Gonzalez and Toribio, with several students offering support for the two football players and others blaming the victims for causing the incident. References included calling a 13-year-old who hangs around with 18-year-olds a “whore,” and claiming the victims “destroyed” the lives of the players.

The RC, to its credit, actually published the full contents — including names! — of kids who’d posted comments on the Internet deriding the victim and supporting the accused rapists (cached).

Similarities between these cases are rather obvious, especially since Anonymous has gotten involved with the Torrington incident (cached):

Twitter users from around the country — including some affiliated with the hacktivist group Anonymous — reacted Wednesday morning to allegations of sexual assault and victim-bullying at Torrington High School.…

Anonymous, the online group of hackers and activists, have begun to take up the Torrington case as their latest cause. In the Steubenville, Ohio rape case, also involving football players, Anonymous members dug up Youtube videos, tweets, public records and hacked private files to post a Wikileaks-style dossier of information, pushing the rape into the public eye. They called that “operation,” #OpRollRedRoll.

“#OpRaider is the new #OpRollRedRoll,” tweeted @YourAnonNews late Wednesday night, refering to the high school’s mascot, the Red raiders. “Torrington better take note of #Steubenville because they’re about to go on blast. #endrapeculture”

YourAnonNews is one of the larger news distribution accounts for Anonymous members.

(For benefit of those not native to northwest Connecticut, Torrington High School’s athletic teams are “the Raiders.”)

One of the worst parts about this case is how Torrington school officials have reacted to it:

“If you look at crime statistics these things happen everywhere and we’re not any different than any other community,” said [Athletic Director Mike] McKenna.

Even though the 13-year-olds went along with what happened, that doesn’t make it right. This is statutory rape, plain and simple. 18 year old men know they aren’t supposed to do what they’ve been accused of.

What’s worse, the school, and football coach Dan Dunaj (who’s since resigned) allowed Gonzalez to play last year, in spite of felony and misdemeanor charges against him based on a March 2012 incident. (He claims not to have been aware of them. Yeah right.) Superintendent Cheryl Kloczko referred everyone to the aforementioned McKenna.

Yeah, these people are a wonderful crew who really care about the victims … Not!

That Kloczko, the Torrington school system’s chief, sloughed off this affair to her athletic director … after having ordered him and the rest of the school system to silence on the matter (cached) … is the pinnacle of cowardice. If she refuses to discuss the case, she should at least have the fortitude to take reporters’ calls and tell them, “No comment,” instead of avoiding them entirely and using her employees to wall herself off from the world.

On the whole, I’m not surprised at any of this. I’m not surprised a couple of 18-year-old high school football players decided to have sex with 13-year-olds despite knowing it’s illegal to do so. I’m not surprised a bunch of kids in their school are defending them and targeting the victim for having reported the incident. I’m not surprised there are Torringtonians — kids and adults — who figure that “boys will be boys” and that statutory rape is all just a normal part of growing up, or worse, that the victims “wanted it,” so it shouldn’t be illegal. I’m not surprised the folks who run the school system are acting like sniveling little cowards and avoiding having to give any answers.

Really, I’m not surprised at any of this. Nor should you be. Why? Because we’re seeing simple human nature at play.

It’s inevitable that teens will misbehave. It goes without saying it will happen. The point is, how do people deal with it, when it does? An honorable school system and community would admit the wrongdoing occurred, would comfort and help the victims, discipline the perpetrators, and stop the perpetrators’ defenders. Unfortunately, all of these things require something very few human beings have: Courage. When faced with unpleasantness, it’s much easier to deny it than to accept that it occurred. It’s much easier to bully victims than to provide them help and support. It’s much easier to let juvenile delinquents stay delinquent, than to do the work of disciplining them. It’s just so much easier to act as if nothing went wrong, and that by having brought the incident to people’s attention, the victims are actually the perpetrators, rather than the other way around.

In general, human beings are cowardly and lazy, always preferring “the easy way out” to getting off their asses and doing what needs to be done. Bullies — including teen bullies — are by nature intimidating people, and most folks, even school personnel, prefer to avoid confrontation; so they cast a blind eye toward bullying and act as though there’s nothing wrong with it.

As for the idea that the intense coverage of this case somehow is doing a disservice to Torrington, and that it’s all just so unfair … well, that’s just whiny crybaby talk. The cold fact is that all of this happened. That the RC posted full images of nasty, hateful Internet comments — not shielding the posters’ identities — is entirely appropriate. They originally posted their viciousness in public on the Internet without any consideration of who might see it. They are not entitled, later, to any privacy or protection. They said it, they did so very publicly, and now they need to fucking own it. If it makes them look bad, well, they’ve earned it and they have no one but themselves to blame.

Photo credit: Twitter screenshot, via the Torrington Register Citizen.

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Red Sox logo (upside down to show how terrible they are)Note: This post has been updated a few times since it was originally posted.

Pardon yet another off-topic diatribe about the putrid stench that now surrounds the Boston Red Sox. The wanton childishness going on within that team has reached epic proportions. The team fell below .500 some time ago and remains there. They’re now 6 games back in the hunt for the 2nd American League wild-card slot, with a number of teams — all better-performing — ahead of them. While it’s mathematically possible for them to reach the playoffs, with a month and half left to go in the season, it’s safe to say they’re out of contention. They’re toast.

But as I’ve blogged before, this is not new. The team’s woes go back at least to the pathetic ending of their 2009 season. Since then they simply have not gotten much done, and last September’s collapse was record-setting. I’m sure none of this is news to anyone in the organization; you’d think they’d have buckled down to improve their play and salvage the season. I mean, it seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

Sadly, it turns out this is anything but obvious to the Red Sox. Rather than double-down on their baseball in an effort to climb out of the American League cellar, the players and staff have worked overtime, whining, complaining, and milking grudges all over the place. The main point of contention seems to be manager Bobby Valentine, a lightning-rod if ever there was one. Yesterday, Yahoo Sports reported that players demanded — and got — a meeting with ownership over him in July (WebCite cached article). There, several of them stated overtly that they refuse to play for Valentine any more. He’s too brusque for them. It’s true that Valentine is too mouthy for his own good (cached), but that’s not news to anyone in baseball; everyone knew what they were getting. It’s also true that Valentine is being blamed for the team’s failure and lots of fans — not to mention many in the sports media — would love to see him fired ASAP.

But despite Valentine’s flaws — and yes, there are plenty — he is most certainly not the problem (even though it now appears he’s not the solution). He was not with the team when it flamed out of the ALDS in 2009. He was not with the team when it failed to reach the playoffs in 2010. He was not with the team when it collapsed cataclysmically last year. He didn’t mismanage so many players’ recovery from injuries over the last three years (including David Ortiz, who should have been back on the team by now, but for no reason anyone can discern, is nowhere near returning). He didn’t go 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position last night (cached). While the players would love to have the milquetoast Terry Francona back as manager, nearly all of that happened on Tito’s watch. There’s no valid reason to expect the Sox would be any better if he were still managing, even though a lot of the Fenway Faithful are (stupidly) pining for his return.

In the wake of this “mutiny” report, Dustin Pedroia — supposedly one of Valentine’s most ardent foes — backpedaled on this (cached), and said the players had not agitated for a new manager. Sorry, but I’m not buying his double-take, and neither is most of Boston’s sports media (cached). It’s safe to say the Yahoo Sports report has come credibility, especially given that Sox principal owner John Henry admitted to being mystified about (cached) the discontent with Valentine (if there hadn’t been any, this admission would not have made any sense).

It’s already long past time for everyone on the team — players, coaches, management, and owners alike — to pull on their “big boy” pants and start acting their ages. Stop with the fucking meetings already. Stop with the whining and kvetching. Stop using injuries as an excuse for your own failures. Stop the finger-pointing. Stop mouthing off all the time. Stop running to reporters when you’re unhappy about something. Stop playing games with players’ recovery from injuries. Just get back to fucking work, and play ball (or coach, or manage, or whatever) as though you’re actually worth the millions of dollars a year you get paid to do it.

I wrap this up by pointing out — once again — that the ultimate responsibility for this debacle belongs to the Red Sox ownership. They’re the ones who write the checks to everyone working for the team. It’s their job to fix the situation — and not respond to it, as John Henry did, with a deer-in-the-headlights style “I’m mystified” response. That you don’t know what’s wrong with your own fucking team, Mr Henry, is perhaps the worst thing about all this. Either take control of the Red Sox, or sell the team to someone who cares and isn’t obsessed with becoming an English soccer mogul.

Update 1: The English soccer mogul added confirmation of the Yahoo Sports report in an email he sent to the media (cached). It ends with some of the worst bullshit I’ve ever come across:

But what is important for Red Sox fans to know is that ownership, players and all staff especially Bobby Valentine are determined to turn around what has thus far been an unacceptable, failed season. We are all on the same page in that regard and will not waver.

It’s been almost 3 weeks since those meetings. Since then the Sox have gone 8-11. There hasn’t been any improvement in their play. They were a sub-.500 team before the meetings, and they’ve played sub-.500 baseball since. Sorry, Mr Henry, but your claim that your team “will not waver” in its efforts, is simply not credible. I’m tired of hearing whiny platitudes and baseless assertions: Either get your team to play the way it should, or sell it off to someone who will.

Oh, and to add insult to injury … this poor excuse for a baseball team just threw tonight’s game away, too (cached). Well done, guys! What a great way to demonstrate that you “will not waver.”

Update 2: The Boston sports media are weighing in on this disaster of a team and its latest kiddie-style drama; it appears the days of mindless cheerleading for the home team are over. Kirk Minihane at WEEI radio agrees with me that ownership is at fault here, more than anyone else (cached):

It has to end. John Henry, not Larry Lucchino, not Ben Cherington, not Dustin Pedroia, not Bobby Valentine, needs to stand up, show some backbone and gain control of this organization. Because right now there is no question — none — that the players are in charge. …

It’s time for the owners to stop rolling over. Take a look at the standings for the last three years and then read Passan’s story. What they are doing simply isn’t working.

And Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe agrees with me that the team’s ills have been years in the making (cached):

The Red Sox last made the playoffs in 2009. They last won a playoff game in 2008. It is now 2012. This core group of players was underachieving a long, long time before Valentine showed up. That is undeniable.

The Red Sox have become accustomed to losing. With a few exceptions, most of the players shrug their shoulders and go about their business. That business, with few exceptions, is not winning baseball games.

There, ’nuff said. (Bonus points to anyone who gets that allusion!)

Update 3: As unbelievable as it may seem, last night the Red Sox outdid themselves in incompetence. The Oakland A’s obliterated and shamed them last night, blowing them out 20-2 (cached). This leaves them with an August 2012 record of 9-20, hardly much better than their disgusting, shameful, inexcusable 7-20 record in September 2011. Despite the earth-shattering blockbuster deal with the L.A. Dodgers that sent the team’s three largest contracts packing (cached), it’s plain that absolutely nothing whatsoever has changed among the rump team left behind by that massive trade. If we hadn’t realized it already, last night’s debacle ought to make it crystal clear: The Red Sox are no longer a major-league team. They’re a fucking disgrace.

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Red Sox logo (upside down to show how terrible they are)Unfortunately I have to go off-topic again, and once again, it’s about the Boston Red Sox. So I must once more ask your indulgence, Dear Reader.

In September of last year, the inept denizens of Fenway Park racked up a record-breakingly horrific 7-20 record. That was after having failed to get into the playoffs in 2010, and after a truly dismal April 2011.

For a team that went through the most catastrophic collapse in major-league sports history, they seem awfully oblivious to how devastatingly awful they are. Despite having a new manager, Bobby Valentine, and a new general manager, Ben Cherington, most of the same old characters who participated in last year’s collapse are still with the team. So one would think, by now, that they’d be tired of being as pitiful as they are.

But they’re not. They remain a team in denial of their entrenched mediocrity. And they don’t seem capable of changing their minds on the matter.

The Red Sox have been in decline since the end of 2009, when they shamefully flamed out of the ALDS. They haven’t made a playoff appearance since. And it certainly doesn’t look as though they will this season, either. As of this morning, their 2012 record is a pathetic 12-18. They’re not even close to reaching that famed boundary of mediocrity, the .500 mark. Most Boston fans and the Boston sports media are also largely oblivious to the fact that the Red Sox have been in decline for over 2 years. They don’t seem to care. Wins don’t matter to them, nor does getting into the playoffs. I’m not sure why this is the case, but it is. Fenway Park continues to be packed, and the sports media keep reporting on the Red Sox as though they’re suddenly going to become contenders, at any moment.

As I’ve noted last year, the team’s lack of performance — aside from a couple individuals who are doing well — is across the board. Pitching is bad, hitting is lackluster (especially clutch hitting), and despite having a number of Gold Glove winners on the team, the fielding isn’t that great either. There isn’t any single weak point, and no easy explanation for the team’s long, slow, 2-year-plus decline.

I hadn’t planned even to comment on the Red Sox — I haven’t watched very much of their games and had no interest in following them too closely — but yesterday, a news story came out that really was just too much to take. Because he’d complained of a lat strain earlier last week, supposed “ace” Josh Beckett was told he could skip his scheduled start last Saturday. But what did he do, shortly after getting this news? Why, on Thursday, as WBZ-FM the Sports Hub in Boston reports, he went and played a round of golf (cached):

… 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Hardy learned that Beckett wasn’t exactly resting with those injuries. Instead, the Red Sox’ injured hurler was out on the golf course.

Hardy reported that Beckett and Clay Buchholz were golfing in the area on Thursday, just days before Beckett’s skipped start.

Unbefuckinglievable! Not only did Beckett pull this off — apparently heedless of how bad it looked — but teammate Buchholz went along with it … literally. Neither is commenting at all. There has been no coverage of this issue at the Red Sox’ house organ, NESN, either. In fact, the team as a whole seems not to care one iota (cached). When two players decide this is acceptable behavior, folks, that tells me we have a problem. When the rest of the team yawns over it, it’s even worse. And it’s complicated by the fact that last year’s cataclysmic end-of-season collapse ought to have made clear — to Beckett, Buchholz, and the rest of the team — that this sort of bullshit behavior just can’t be tolerated any longer.

That’s not to say that nothing good has come from the Red Sox in the last couple of years. For example, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury — who unfortunately is injured at the moment — had a stellar year in 2011, defying the rest of the team’s ineptitude and lackadaisical play. There have been a few other standout performances. They just haven’t been able to compensate for the rest of the team’s decay.

It’s time we all faced facts: the Red Sox don’t care. It doesn’t matter. Most of the players don’t give a shit. Most of the coaches don’t give a shit. The ownership certainly doesn’t give a shit. Quite unbelievably, no one in the organization has been shamed by their embarrassing demise last year. Perhaps the only thing that sticks out over the last couple of years, by way of explanation for their two-year-plus slide, is the diversion of the ownership’s attention; 2010 was the year that Fenway Sports Group angled to buy the Liverpool soccer team and purchased it that October. Clearly, the Red Sox are no longer the focus of attention for principal owner John Henry. It’s time he admitted that he no longer has any interest in running an MLB team, leave the country entirely, become a full-time English soccer mogul, and hand the Red Sox over to a new owner — one who actually gives a flying fuck.

For the record, I haven’t watched the Red Sox this year. Except for blogging — on rare occasions — about how horrible they are, I don’t intend to have anything to do with them. At least, not until I see evidence that the team understands it’s in a decline, apologizes to fans for being as awful as they are in spite of all the money they make being that awful, and start playing as though their fans matter to them.

Update 1: Last night against the Indians, golfer-in-chief Beckett imploded, was yanked early in the 3rd inning, and the runs he gave up cost the Sox the game. At the post-game press conference (cached), he proved to be the Josh Beckett we all know so well: defiant, surly, unapologetic, and petulant. It was a disgusting enough display to get Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, one of the deans of Boston’s sports media, to finally pin the blame for Beckett’s childish antics on the team’s owners and management (cached):

Beckett gets to prepare for games the way he wants. Beckett gets to drink beer in the clubhouse during games. Beckett gets to throw too many cutters. Beckett gets to do what he wants, basically.

Terry Francona used to say that the best way to deal with Josh was to leave him alone. Bobby Valentine seems to feel the same way.

Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington, John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, John Farrell, Curt Young, Bob McClure, etc. There are probably a dozen men who could have gone up to Beckett at any point and told him to fall in line. Nobody ever did.

It’s absolutely true that punkish, juvenile prima donnas don’t become that way without the consent of their superiors. The folks who own and run the Red Sox consented to this situation. They wanted it; they got it; and Boston fans should no longer put up with it.

Update 2: The Red Sox as a team continue not to get it. Beckett continues to resist admitting having done anything wrong (cached). Pitching coach Bob McClure keeps insisting there was nothing wrong with letting a position player pitch the 17th inning Sunday when a well-rested Beckett could have hurled an inning without harm (cached). Manager Bobby Valentine keeps insisting there was nothing wrong with Beckett golfing when his injured lat prevented him from pitching (cached). He also insists there’s nothing wrong with Beckett or the team, everything will be just fine, fans just need to shut the fuck up and ignore that Beckett is a self-important asshole and his team can’t play its way out of a paper bag (cached).

By this point I must sound like a broken record, but I find I must repeat it: With a few exceptions, everyone connected with the Red Sox is utterly clueless, blind to the team’s two-year-plus free fall, unwilling or unable to admit there’s the slightest thing wrong, and they stubbornly refuse to change one damned thing in order to make it better.

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