The 2011 Red Sox: “a story of disunity, disloyalty, and dysfunction like few others in franchise history”

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There’s a long and rich history of the folks in the Red Sox organization casting blame, settling scores and throwing people under the bus after things have gone sideways on the field.  It’s been a subdued dynamic for the past several years as success and a new professionalism has asserted itself, but with Terry Francona gone and Theo Epstein just about out the door, it has come roaring back.

Bob Hohler’s story in today’s Boston Globe is a classic of the genre. He spoke with “individuals familiar with the Sox operation at all levels” who told him “a story of disunity, disloyalty, and dysfunction like few others in franchise history.”  The knives are out and it’s kind of glorious in a sick way. Highlights:

  • Team sources claim that Terry Francona’s marital problems and use of pain medication affected his performance; Francona vehemently denied it. Sources also say that Francona increasingly took on the role of a lame duck manager with his effectiveness at reaching his players reduced as his suspicion that the team would not exercise his 2012 option grew;
  • There was acrimony and resentment on the part of the players surrounding the scheduling of a double header against the A’s in August due to Hurricane Irene;
  • Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and John Lackey not only drank beer, but played video games and ate takeout chicken and biscuits in the clubhouse during games and cut back on their exercise regimes against the advice and wishes of team trainers;
  • Kevin Youkilis became increasingly frustrated and detached as he battled injuries, and his public spat with Jacoby Ellsbury last year had the effect of Ellbury withdrawing from interaction with most of his teammates this year;
  • Adrian Gonzalez hit the ball, but “he provided none of the energy or passion off the field that the Sox sorely needed.”  David Ortiz was a clubhouse disruption too; and
  • Theo Epstein, you may have heard, signed Carl Crawford and Bobby Jenks and those guys kind of stunk.

What to make of all of this? Old-style Boston blood-letting, I reckon. Not to say that the things listed above weren’t all real problems.  They were. But they’re all things you never hear about if, over the course of six months, the Red Sox win one more game and make the playoffs.  Indeed, Francona said that exact thing in response to all of this:

“You never heard any of these complaints when we were going 80-41 [from April 15 to Aug. 27] because there was nothing there. But we absolutely stunk in the last month, so now we have to deal with a lot of this stuff because expectations were so high.’’

Never change, Boston!

Report: Mike Trout as recognizable to Americans as NBA’s Kenneth Faried

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On Monday, the Washington Post cited Q Scores, a firm that measures consumer appeal of personalities, with regard to Angels outfielder Mike Trout. According to Q Scores, Trout is as recognized to Americans as NBA forward Kenneth Faried, who has spent seven seasons with the Denver Nuggets and is now a reserve with the Brooklyn Nets. Trout’s score was 22, which means just over one in five Americans know who he is.

We have talked here at various times about Trout’s lack of marketability. He has expressed zero interest in being marketed as the face of baseball. Additionally, based on the nature of the sport, it’s harder for baseball to aggressively market its stars since star players don’t impact teams the same way they do in other sports. LeBron James, for example, carries whatever team he’s on to the NBA Finals. James has appeared in the NBA Finals every year dating back to 2011. Trout, despite being far and away the best active player in baseball and one of the best players of all time, has only reached the postseason once, in 2014 when his Angels were swept in the ALDS by the Royals. Trout can’t carry his team to the playoffs and his team hasn’t helped him any in getting there on a regular basis.

Baseball is also more of a regional sport. Fans follow their local team, of course, and don’t really venture beyond that even though games are broadcast nationally throughout the week. The NFL schedule is much shorter and occurs once a week, so fans put aside time to watch not just their favorite team’s game, but other games of interest as well. A June game between the subpar White Sox and Tigers doesn’t have much appeal to it since it’s one of 162 games for both teams, and both teams will play again later in the season. Comparatively, a game between the Bears and Lions has more intrigue since they only play twice a year.

It’s kind of a shame for baseball that Trout isn’t bigger than he is because he is a once-in-a-generation talent, like Ken Griffey Jr. In fact, Trout is so good that he’s still underrated. He’s on pace to have one of the greatest seasons of all-time, going by Wins Above Replacement. Despite that, he’s anything but a lock to win the MVP Award at season’s end because the narratives around other players, like Mookie Betts, are more compelling.

Trout’s marketability is an issue that isn’t likely to be fixed anytime soon. Trout is who he is and forcing him to ham it up for the cameras would come off as forced and unnatural. Major League Baseball will simply have to hope its other stars, like Betts and Bryce Harper, can help broaden the appeal of the sport.