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!

Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph: “We suck”

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As I mentioned in the recaps this morning, Baltimore lost its 107th game last night, tying its 1988 mark for the most losses in Orioles history. They will certainly break that record and will almost certainly blast by the all-time franchise loss record of 111, set by the 1939 St. Louis Browns. That team only played a 154-game schedule so the O’s likely won’t be the worst team in the franchise’s 118-season history by winning percentage, but it’ll be close enough.

Over at The Athletic Dan Connolly reports that one Oriole, catcher Caleb Joseph, is well aware of how bad the Orioles are and he is not mincing words about it:

“I’m not a loser. So, to be associated with that severity of losing is embarrassing. It’s shameful really . . . I don’t blame [fans] at all [for not attending games]. We suck.”

That last bit was in response to Matt Olson of the Athletics coming up to him before a recent game, noticing how many empty seats there were in Camden Yards and asking Joseph if it was always like that. Let that sink in: a player for the Oakland Athletics who, year after year, have some of the worst attendance in baseball, is shocked at how poorly Baltimore is drawing.

As for Joseph, he spends a lot of time talking about how the attitude is all wrong with the Orioles, how there does not seem to be any accountability and how things weren’t like that when he came up back when the Orioles were winning. Which, well, yeah.

Baseball players often attribute winning and losing to whatever attitude is prevailing around the clubhouse. Maybe that’s true on greatly underachieving teams or borderline teams that aren’t catching the breaks, but it seems far more likely that winning makes teams happy and instills camaraderie while losing makes teams sad and makes people look inward. Players tend to get the causation wrong about all of that because, I suspect, they don’t want to admit that they’re not as talented as the competition so it has to come down to some motivational or mental defect. Which, if that makes a player feel better, fine, but these O’s weren’t going to win many games even if they came in with smiles on their faces while singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” out of their rear ends every day. They just aren’t good.

Whatever you think of all of that, one thing is clear: the O’s need to clean house in a major, major way.