Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Ghost of Accountability

Describing the Boston Red Sox as a franchise with the Death of Accountability misrepresents reality. The players have collectively never owned accountability. In 1967 and 1975, the Sox got beaten by better teams, those with Bob Gibson and Lou Brock and the Big Red Machine. Let's forget about late-season baserunning in 1972. In 1986, it's hard not to represent defeat as the ugliest word in sports, choking. 2003 had a unique form of torture, and since then it's been Shangri-La, even when it isn't.

Collective failure always belongs to ownership, the general manager, or the manager. Terry Francona wasn't the first to take the fall. Does anyone remember Grady Little?

It's never the players who are responsible for their play or their behavior. They're our guys, in psychology, cloaked in endowment effect...the coffee cup that you would sell at a yard sale for two dollars is only worth a dollar if you had to buy it. It's our cup, and dammit, it's special.

That doesn't mean that individual accountability never existed. Hall of Famer Jim Rice, described as surly by many media types, worked hard to become a more than adequate defender, and took responsibility for the bad days in defeat.

But for the most part, players live by the "easier to ask forgiveness than permission" philosophy. Perhaps our society based on the individual breeds contempt for the greater good. We don't like homelessness or poverty, but we don't want higher taxes. We're not really accountable. We love beer and chicken in the clubhouse...but the new NESN Sox slogan is EVERY GAME MATTERS, not EAT MORE CHICKEN.

The latest frontal assault on our fanatic sensibilities is the "empty pockets" theory of baseball. Although the Red Sox have emptied the fans' pockets, they have no dollars for the bullpen because a third of the payroll is on the DL. And because certain players want foremost to 'get paid', they all but refuse to go to the pen, where payrolls top out below the glamour and greenbacks of the fifth starter.

Heck, you win twelve games in the majors and you're J. Paul Getty. A career record of 113-105 earns the Bronson Arroyos of the world average salaries of far over 10 million dollars (read the fine print). That's not a knock on Boston's favorite pitcher guitarist, that's the going rate.

Players talk about knowing their role. At the plate, you're up there to produce, sometimes with Doctor Longball, and other times moving the runner over. If you're on 'the bump', you get guys out, whether you're in the front, middle, or back end.

But in 2012 it's more about you than about the team. I'm sympathetic to a player's preferences, but you play for the team, not the other way around. In Ball Four, Jim Bouton closed, "You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time."  We can't have the death of accountability here, because it's been dead so long we're seeing the ghost of accountability. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

The 9 Steps

Let's face it...we must fight the addiction. Why show undiminished love to an organization that treats us as though we're Cinderella and they're the evil sisters? We need our own 'program' to help us break free from this enabling.

Here are our nine steps toward intellectual freedom.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over being a fan, that our compulsion needed to be beaten. We had begun with Boston caps, and moved on to jackets, to blankets...like Jimmy Fallon, only worse. 
  2. Came to believe that NESN would only lead us to self-destruction. 
  3. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of alternative life choices, playing with our children, walking, reading, and not listening to sports radio.
  4. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to the highest living Red Sox charismatic figure, Johnny Pesky, that we needed to change...channels.
  5. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortstop and fix our bullpen and lack of player accountability.
  6. Made a list of all the times we had been harmed, starting with Saturday's 15-9 defeat, and became willing to atone for them all.
  7. Continued to take personal inventory, and as we were wrong, promptly stopped watching baseball and wearing Red Sox gear, especially publicly.
  8. Sought through prayer and medication to improve our delirium, our fandom, our misery. We shall have no false dogs before us.
  9. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to Soxoholics, and to abide by these promises henceforth, Werner without end, Amen.
We need a statewide day of no Red Sox gear displayed...a start toward exorcising the demons.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


In the movie "Swordfish", John Travolta comments about the importance of misdirection. He couldn't be more right about the current state of affairs of the Boston Red Sox.

It seems misdirection comes from all sides, players with an entitlement mentality, absentee ownership, and a manager struggling to imprint his brand on a wayward ship.

Even the hero in our story, Dustin Pedroia, reduces himself saying "that's not the way we do things here." In fact, that's exactly how we got to this disturbing place, players dismissing the manager, and ownership bringing a 'task-oriented' manager instead of a 'relationship oriented' skipper.

We hear how players are concerned about 'snitches'. In other words, professionalism matters less than protecting each others' reputations.

Nobody likes to be criticized. And worse than criticism of performance, impugning one's attitude or "commitment" gets our attention.

The manager's job is to get the best performance out of the players. No doubt that a great "process" is required to get the best outcome. But a seven win September last season argues that the laissez-faire, 'boys will be boys' approach no longer worked.

The question (for a team with a bloated payroll and several seasons of underachievement) becomes what approach will work?

Reminding us that you won championships in 2004 and 2007, or that your career met certain standards in a certain timeframe begs the eternal baseball question, so nicely put by Janet Jackson "what have you done for me lately?"

One should be careful about making judgments based on small sample sizes. We can't know whether the Red Sox are more like the team that lost five or its first six or won three out of four from Tampa. Good baseball teams have bad streaks and mediocre ones have good ones. That caveat goes doubly for players. Kevin Youkilis was, over a three year period, one of the top offensive players in baseball. Over the past couple of seasons, injuries took their toll.

We can't, and shouldn't project a season's worth of production from a handful of games. On the other hand, those who watch the Sox regularly, wonder whether we should believe our hearts or our lying eyes.

Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to win baseball games. Whether you win that with Kumbaya or a Billy Martinesque dugout brawl, we don't really care. But presenting yourselves as a club of whiners, with hurt feelings (and an average salary of seven million dollars), that dog don't hunt.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Off the Schneid

The saying goes, "you win 60, you lose 60, and what you do in the other 40 matters."

Tonight, the ball bounced (literally) the right way as a Ryan Sweeney single to right scored @MacDime54 on a bad bounce to J.P. Arencibia.

No, I don't think the Sox are a powerhouse, but at least we'll put the total collapse theory to bed tonight.

Daniel Bard is a starter. Whatever happened to "I'll do whatever's best for the team?"  Evidently, in a league where the AVERAGE salary is almost 3.5 million dollars, the team doesn't matter?

Felix (the Cat) Doubront looked good, although with the relative failure of economical pitching with over 100 pitches in five innings. His curveball looks better than it used to be, and Toronto made him work.

As for the slogan for the 2012 season, what it won't be is "Eat More Chik'n"...