The Boston Red Sox woke up on Opening Day with a wicked hangovah. They joined the legions of college students on Commonwealth Ave. whose only motivation was to hit the snooze alarm for the rest of eternity. The disastrous season that was 2011 is history. But like many of us battling through a rough patch; they are clearly having a hell of a time letting it go. They are suffering from Kenny Power’s disease. If you watch Eastbound and Down on HBO (and I highly suggest you do), you know that Kenny is a washed up pitcher who once sat on top of the baseball world. And the show masterfully depicts his delusional suffering, as he puts in an all-out effort to get back on top. But, that’s where the comparison with him and the Red Sox ends. Kenny, although a complete loser, is a character who evokes some pity, if not empathy. (http://www.esquire.com/cm/esquire/images/gG/esq-kenny-powers-hope-021712-lg.jpg) The Sox, sans a few players, are difficult to root for. As a fan, you can call me a pessimist, or say that I am in the midst of the mother of all knee jerk reactions. But I have my reasons, and they are deeply rooted in reality.
The month of April for Major League Baseball is a hectic period that’s main theme is a working out the kinks of spring training. There is no doubt that a handful of teams year in and year out start slow and turn on the gas come May and June. Heck, the Sox did it last year. They started 2-10 and went the next 4 months playing arguably the best baseball in the league. But the issues stemming from last year’s colossal September collapse have turned into severe resentment. Many of the players right now seem incapable of letting go of the “snitching” that launched “Fried Chicken and Beergate”. There is a quote that says, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” The Red Sox are drinking the poison, and the dissension is palpable. There are many signs that this may be anything but a hiccup.
Seeing Josh Beckett walking around spring training in a “Stop Snitching” shirt didn’t sit well with me. Do you think that is a sign of a guy who is embracing a fresh start? I don’t care how good he is capable of being (and he was far from it Saturday). While showing signs of dominance in spring training (is that what we pay him for?), he also exhausted numerous media sessions trading barbs with Curt Schilling about the mood in the clubhouse. Hey Josh, NEWSFLASH: Curt is a friggin’ blowhard!! Don’t waste your time with the guy. I loved him as a pitcher, but he is the Caucasian version of Ozzie Guillen. He needs a breath mint with a battery for the constant verbal diarrhea he releases to the public. Beckett is a veteran. He is supposed to be a voice of reason and a leader amongst the pitching staff and team. He looks more like a spoiled brat with a chip on his shoulder. Gee, just the kind of guy I want to root for. This leads to my next point.
Not everyone has the makeup to be a leader. Losing Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield to retirement could not have happened at a worse time. You can say what you want about their deteriorating performance over the last couple years, but they were winners. Varitek played through injuries, and never complained. He was a gamer who had the uncanny ability to get the most out of his pitchers and team. While Wakefield, looking more and more like my high school janitor instead of a Major League pitcher, ate innings like a monster and was strictly business. These guys would have been voices of reason in a completely unreasonable situation. Don’t get me wrong. The Sox still have leaders in Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. But it may not be enough. At this point, they may want to see if Tony Robbins can throw a knuckleball.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that psychologically there are issues with the Red Sox. But to top it off, they are trying to deal with huge changes in the organization. Theo Epstein saw the writing on the wall and skipped out of town faster than Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. But not before firing Terry Francona, who I believe had the best chance of turning this thing around. The guy was used to how things work in Boston, and had the personality to boot. He didn’t let things bother him, and it translated to wins year in and year out. If winning two pennants in 10 years in Boston doesn’t justify a second chance, I don’t know what does. In my opinion, his demeanor and style could have helped right this ship most efficiently. You can argue that he lost his player’s by seasons end, but he deserved a chance at getting them back. The worst that happens is they start horrible and can him after a month. So now they’ve started horrible regardless, except newly anointed GM Ben Cherington decided to put Bobby Valentine squarely in the crosshairs. Is he capable of turning the club around? I can’t figure the guy out and I’m not going to begin to try. I do know that he has an abrasive personality from the 700 articles written about him this off season. There were more than a couple stories that circulated in regards to his arrogant personality, and its tendency to create rifts with his players and management. The last thing this team needs is a manager who throws gas on this fire. He better learn to tone down his act or it will end before intermission.
Sadly, I could probably write a book about all the injuries and other off season changes (blunders?) that will add to the headaches in Boston. I’ve just scratched the surface and it is already troubling. Obviously, there is still hope in Red Sox Nation for 2012. Strictly based on the fact that they still have above average talent and are in a big market with big money. And at 1-5, only six games into a long season, I know many will say that I am getting way too worked up. All I am saying is that with so many changes, it is not realistic to expect much this season. Furthermore, I’m not too emotionally vested to this team because of what has gone down in the last year. As a fan, I’ve seen twice as many pennants as my grandfather did in 75 years. Red Sox Nation has survived a little losing in the past. And they will again. I’ll take solace in the fact that the Bruins are poised for another deep playoff run. With the Red Sox current situation, I’m sure their brass is praying for a Bruins repeat.