Posts Tagged “baseball”

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)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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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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The “haunting as news story” (about which I’ve blogged a couple times already) has become not merely a curiosity, it seems, but a persistent journalistic motif. Everybody’s getting in the act now. Here’s an AP report via Fox News (WebCite cached article):

Baseball teams fear ‘haunted’ Milwaukee hotel

The Pfister [Hotel] is Milwaukee’s most regal address, having hosted every U.S. president since William McKinley and scores of celebrities who can take a self-guided tour of the hotel’s Victorian art collection. Today, it’s the place to stay for upscale business travelers and out-of-town visitors, including many Major League Baseball teams. Commissioner Bud Selig, a Milwaukee native, is a frequent visitor.

But some players don’t care for the 116-year-old hotel’s posh accommodations and reputation for privacy. They swear it’s haunted.

Yes, folks, this is exactly the sort of urgent, breaking news we need the AP and Fox News to provide us! That ballplayers are afraid of a hotel because — they say — it’s haunted. They can provide all sorts of stories to back up this claim, and the article itself lists a number of them. There are even some Milwaukee locals milking the presumed haunting of the Pfister for their own gain:

Allison Jornlin, who leads haunted history tours for the folklore research organization Milwaukee Ghosts, said guests have reported seeing a “portly, smiling gentleman” roaming the halls, riding the elevator and even walking his dog. The apparition is said to resemble Charles Pfister, who founded the hotel with his father, Guido.

“His ghost is thought, usually, to behave very well,” Jornlin said. “But MLB players seem to bring out his mischievous side.”

Why’s that?

“Obviously, he’s a Brewers fan,” Jornlin said.

But even some of the Brewers won’t stay there in the offseason.

There’s a problem with this assumption; Charles Pfister cannot have been a Milwaukee Brewers fan … he died in 1924, but the team didn’t arrive in Milwaukee until 1970. (There was a Milwaukee Brewers team in Pfister’s time, but they moved long ago, and have been the Baltimore Orioles since 1954.) This means Jornlin’s claim is chronologically impossible!

No matter how commonplace these stories are … strange tales being passed around, do not make a true haunting. Haunted houses (and hotels, and any other structure you can name) are mythology, not reality.

With mass media outlets suffering due to the recession, and newspapers failing around the country, one would think journalists could find something more substantive to report on, than “hauntings.” But I guess not. Sigh.

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