Posts Tagged “american league”

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 their 2011 season performance)Forgive me for going off-topic again and blathering once more about the Red Sox. A lot needs to be said about them, which unfortunately is not being said — and likely won’t be said — so I have to say it.

Much of my commentary about the Sox back in the first week of May, applies to their September play. Actually, their last month was even worse than their first. The Sox were 7-20 in their last month of 2011, while they were a comparatively-much-better 12-15 for the same number of games at the start of the season.

At the moment, New England sportswriters are hanging their late-season collapse on injuries, the loss of Clay Buchholz at mid-season being cited as a particular culprit. I’ll admit that injuries hindered them, there’s no doubt about that. But by September, all MLB teams — good, bad, and in-between — were dealing with injuries. Even the Yankees, who ended with the best record in the American League, had their share of injuries this year. Basically, the injuries amount to a “wash” across the board of the MLB. Not to mention, they had a chance in April — while the whole team was in prime condition and uninjured — to build up victories. But they didn’t. (More on their pitiful April later.)

What’s more, the quality of play slipped, across the board. Red Sox pitching, hitting, fielding, and even base-running were all hideous in September. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, who’d been phenomenal at mid-season, couldn’t win any games in September. Adrian Gonzales, who led the league in batting average most of the season, couldn’t get much done, either. The entire team was just fucking hideous. And even their best uninjured players showed performance problems. That’s another reason not to chalk this implosion up to injuries … even healthy players weren’t up to standard.

As with their April, the Sox’ September implosion was systemic and pervasive throughout the team.

The wide scale of the poor play suggests that coaching is to blame. While there’s a widespread assumption that manager Terry Francona will be let go after this embarrassing debacle of a season, most of the New England sportswriters are saying he’s being unfairly blamed. Even so, it’s clear that he was at least partially responsible. He’s the head of the team’s coaching staff and is responsible for that aspect of the team. If the coaching played a role in the horrific first and last months of the season, then Francona has to take some responsibility for that. He can’t not be at least partially at fault.

Then, too, there’s the matter of poor acquisitions, which is the the responsibility of general manager Theo Epstein. Here, we have not just one or two seasons of spectacular failures, but several. The list of high-priced flame-outs that Epstein paid for is legion. Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey, and most recently Carl Crawford are merely a few of the many names that leap to mind as examples of this phenomenon. While every team has to deal with an occasional overpaid underperformer, Epstein’s record in this regard is worse than most.

At the risk, then, of sounding like one of those raging sports-talk callers who’ve been screaming for Francona and Epstein to be fired, I can’t help but agree with them, that at least one of them needs to go. After two seasons of falling short of playoff appearances … and a season before that of flaming out shamefully in the ALDS … it’s clear that whatever they’re doing simply is no longer working. Continuing the same strategies, cooked up by the same people, but with the expectation of different results, is almost the definition of insanity. The Red Sox need to change as a team, fundamentally, and that can only begin at or near the top of the organization.

The really sad part about all of this is that John Henry & the rest of the Red Sox ownership really have no economic incentive to change the team that much. Fenway Park is sold out, every single game, and the team is consistently and highly profitable, even without having made the playoffs for two years. I doubt the passionate Red Sox fanbase is going to pull its support for the team sufficiently to dent those massive profits. So I don’t expect that there will be much change in the organization. Just a lot of excuse-making and claims that they will do better next year — which they’ve done previously, obviously to no effect.

The only bright light of the Red Sox 2011 season, is the one team member who was still actually playing the game at the end … and that’s Jacoby Ellsbury. After his “lost season” in 2010 (after having been demolished by the human tank known as Adrian Beltre and then poorly treated by the Red Sox medical staff), he came back — and gloriously! He’d long been my favorite player, and all through 2010 I kept insisting he’d eventually overcome his injuries. He proved me right, and then some! His play this year was nothing short of MVP caliber, and I certainly hope the sportswriters will consider him in their voting (although I’m pretty sure he’ll be overlooked). It will be a crime if he’s not made the AL MVP for 2011.

An honorable mention goes to Alfredo Aceves, a young pitcher who gave his all, and remained more or less steady on the mound while the rest of the pitching staff took a nosedive.

One last thing that’s not being addressed by the sports media, is the role that the team’s dismal April played in this horrible season. Had the Sox started 15-12 in their first 27 games instead of 12-15, they would not have been in this position; they could have absorbed their September collapse safely and still made the playoffs. I said before that their early-season mediocrity would cost them dearly … and unfortunately I was right; it did! But New England sportswriters refuse to discuss this. I can’t imagine why they don’t … but they that’s just how it is. (Enablers to the end, they all are.)

I’d like to point out, too, that the Red Sox advertising campaign all season long has used the mottoes, “We’re all in” and “We won’t rest.” As in, “we’re committed to winning.” Clearly, however, they were not, in fact, “all in,” and in April and September, they did more “resting” than “playing.” They ought to be ashamed of themselves for trumpeting their commitment to winning, when they were not actually committed to winning.

But, they won’t be ashamed. They’re the Red Sox, after all, and no matter how dreadfully they play, they just keep rolling in money.

One last thing: It’s clear the Tampa Bay Rays deserved to get the AL Wild Card this year; it was no fluke, even if some might think so. I wish them luck — even though they’re rivals of the Red Sox in the AL East. The other three teams in the AL playoffs — the Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, & N.Y. Yankees — are all going to be tough competitors. So the Rays will need that luck.

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Red Sox logo (upside-down to show their 2011 season performance)Pardon this off-topic post. It’s only my second on the topic of the Red Sox, so it’s not as though I do this all the time.

Today’s game at Fenway against the Angels (cached) was so horrifically bad, that I’m forced to post this. The question that leaps to my mind, right now, is a brief and obvious one:

What the fuck?

Seriously. I mean it. I want to know. What the fuck is wrong with the Red Sox?

After today’s game, the team with the second-largest payroll in the major leagues has an astounding 14-17 record and is in fourth place, out of five teams, in the American League East division (cached).

The entire team roster is a laundry-list of mediocrity, inconsistency, and underperformance. I had considered providing a detailed, statistically-backed list of examples of underperformance and incompetence, but that would make this post far too long to be helpful. True, there have been a few flashes of brilliance: Josh Beckett pitched a couple of games which will likely prove among the best of his career. Jon Lester had a gem or two, also, as did Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dustin Pedroia had a fairly good hitting streak going a couple weeks ago, where it looked as though there was nothing a pitcher could throw him that he couldn’t hit. Adrian Gonzalez has a decent batting average, but is not hitting for power, which is why the Sox acquired him. But let’s face it, whatever good performances these guys have turned in, have been outweighed by their sags.

About the only guys I can’t really complain about are Jed Lowrie and Jacoby Ellsbury. But Ellsbury’s only batting .270 at the moment, and Lowrie’s hitting streak has screeched to an abrupt halt … so even those two bright spots on the team, aren’t as bright as they could have been.

On the down side, Kevin Youklis and Carl Crawford have been just-plain-useless all year. Bobby Jenks has been a joke. J.D. Drew has been, well, J.D. Drew … and that’s not saying a lot. John Lackey is horrifically bad. The situation at catcher, a Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek platoon, is quickly becoming the joke of the American League, with runners stealing bases against them almost at will.

The team itself has downplayed and dismissed their pathetic display of amateurish baseball, saying basically that an MLB season is a full 162 games and they haven’t all been played, so things will work out just fine. And their willing collaborators in the New England sports media have essentially gone along with this Pollyannic, “everything-will-be-all-right, we’re-not-worried” crap.

Well, this lifelong follower of the Red Sox is no longer buying that steaming load of outrageous bullshit. As I post this, almost 1/5 of the season has been played. In a competitive division like the AL East, they cannot afford to keep up this level of underperformance. To be close to the AL cellar is just not acceptable at this point. They need to climb out, and climb out now — and then stay out, if they have any hope at getting into the playoffs.

We can debate all day which aspect of play has put the Red Sox in their present condition. Is it the pitching? The batting? Yes, all the pitchers have, at one time or another, failed to do well. Yes, the batters are congenitally unable to drive in runners (leaving the bases loaded is something the Sox manage to almost every game, sometimes more than once; they lead baseball in LOBs). But the answer is that the Sox have flopped in every single aspect of play. There is no one root cause for this condition; their failure is systemic and pervasive.

This suggests that major changes across the entire team … maybe including the coaching staff … are required in order to make things better. Unfortunately the Sox are led by Terry Francona. He’s as clever a manager as has ever run an MLB team, but so far he’s proven to be the “players’ manager” we’ve known him to be, unwilling to make any of the major changes needed to really improve the Red Sox. He shifts guys around in the batting order (always carefully preserving that left-right-left thing he’s so obsessed with), given a guy a day off here or there … but honestly, what the fuck good has any of that done? Early today he put a couple of anemic relievers on the disabled list and called up a couple of replacements from triple A Pawtucket, but that’s the biggest move he’s made, and this afternoon’s game proved it’s not sufficient. (If anything, getting beaten at home by a score of 11-0 shows they’re even worse than they were before.)

I’m no fan of Dr Phil, but a question he often asks is one that desperately needs to be asked of Francona and company: “How’s that workin’ for ya?” Obviously the little batting-order tweaks, the pats on the back after someone stranded men on base for the third time in a game, the occasional days off — they’re just not working. But no one in Boston seems to know or care that they aren’t.

The bottom line is that, while they occasionally admit to some “frustration,” the Red Sox — including players and staff — are simply not cognizant of how truly awful they are. Until they finally admit it, and decide to change things for the better — and I mean, really change them, substantially — they’re on track to end the season under 500. And there’s no legitimate reason for a team with the Red Sox payroll, to end up that way.

Update: As of last night, the Red Sox season is over, and I’ve posted my assessment of this ridiculous excuse for a team in the wake of its monumental collapse. Sadly, I was proven right when I said their terrible start to the season would, ultimately, cost them dearly.

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