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Epstein ‘On the Cusp’?

Steve Buckley is reporting this evening that Theo Epstein is "on the cusp" of joining the Cubs, with an announcement possible within 48 hours. John Henry and Larry Lucchino better be asking for the moon.

80 replies on “Epstein ‘On the Cusp’?”

Everyone yells about Lucchino, but wasn’t Theo Lucchino’s protege? Doesn’t this imply he can identify talent?
I really don’t like the idea of Theo leaving, but I don’t know how this would be a harbinger of doom. Like with Tito, much rides on the replacement choice. If the Sox go out and find the next Theo (or near-Theo), they will be pretty much fine. If they hire the next Omar Minaya, all bets are off. I have some trust in the Sox’ ownership team; they had a lot to do with the successes of the last 7 years, no?
This will be (and has been, already) a tough offseason, but we all thought everything was hunky dory after the last one, right?!

A lot of the bloom is off the Epstein rose, I think, and the success of Tampa, Texas and Toronto show that Epstein clearly isn’t the only saber-minded GM out there. So I’m not panicking.
But Epstein is a very talented GM, and is clearly a top priority for the Cubs, so the Sox need to make sure they receive appropriate value in return, and it should be significant.
And of course it will be sad from purely a fan’s perspective. Epstein played a huge role in bringing not just one but two world championships, as well as some of this era’s most beloved ballplayers. I’ll save a more thoughtful retrospective for if/when he actually leaves, but there are definitely some mixed emotions, as there were when Francona left.

What is “significant”? It isn’t going to be Castro, since there is no way Theo will take the job knowing the most talented youngster on the team won’t be part of his squad. Their best minor league prospect? Soto? Who is it? The Cubs aren’t stacked, exactly.

Back to Theo, I’m reading that compensation might just be cash. (And not Kevin.)
My advice to Theo: The Fox Valley is beautiful. You’d love St. Charles. But don’t do it. The commute is a fucking nightmare. It takes two hours to get to the north side from here. Hell, it’s an hour to Comiskey and that’s driving on the Eisenhower, which is far worse than Storrow.
But you could always fly by helicopter from the DuPage Airport and be at Wrigley in 30 minutes. How awesome would that be?

Back when Theo quit for that month in 2005, Lucchino interviewed three candidates including Jim Bowden, who is from Massachusetts. You can look it up. The point being that Lucchino has a scary sense of humor.
“A lot of the bloom is off the Epstein rose, I think, and the success of Tampa, Texas and Toronto show that Epstein clearly isn’t the only saber-minded GM out there. So I’m not panicking”
Saber general managers have become fungible! I actually agree with what Paul says here and wonder if the most important role someone like Theo or Jon Daniels can play is in starting up a new organizational plan for a team like the Cubs. I am curious what the compensation will look like. Maybe I’m underestimating the Sox’s leverage here, but I can’t imagine they get too much back for him. Are they really going to threaten to walk out of a deal and then have a lame duck GM on their hands for another year. I just don’t seem them being too tough during the negotiations for compensation.

I noticed this in the Hohler article and, perhaps, Theo won’t like seeing this in print:
“While Epstein has accepted blame for signing subpar performers such as Lackey and Jenks, the owners share the responsibility of unanimously approving their signings. But Carl Crawford was a different story.
Ownership was divided over Epstein’s push to acquire Crawford as a free agent, sources said. At least one top executive believed Crawford’s skills as a speedy lefthanded-hitting outfielder seemed to duplicate Ellsbury’s. But the owners ultimately agreed to gamble $142 million over seven years on Crawford – a lost wager to date.”
Is the top executive Larry Lucchino. I wouldn’t be surprised.

” John Henry and Larry Lucchino better be asking for the moon.”
The Sox have very little leverage here. If their employee wants to leave, you can’t force them to stay, especially if a promotion is on the table that’s not possible with the Sox. That’s the way these things are approached. Does the employee want to stay? If not, then you wish them well and send them on their way. Any compensation is a mere token gesture.
“Saber general managers have become fungible!”
Agree completely. It’s now a technique among many.
“Is the top executive Larry Lucchino.”
Is there really any doubt? In some ways his approach is rather brilliant. He’ll get more power, and on the baseball side, but he sets up the next GM as a fall guy if it takes a few years to right the ship.
I have to say though that it’s rather gutless for Epstein to go all-in and now bail. He clearly shaped this team. It’s his team. What does it say that he’s finished? Have we confused all along who is the Sith Lord? Amazing that the Cashman Yankees are now the model of stability.
With Crawford, it is also amazing that the Yankees helped drive up the price and the Sox bit hard on an inferior player. I’d love to know what sabermetric trends they were examining to bet so heavily on the guy. He’s never had plate discipline. He benefitted from playing on turf. And his defense was clearly overrated. Whatever process that led to Crawford was a broken process. Perhaps the best thing the Sox can do is start over. With their money, they won’t be down for long even if their player development pipeline goes dry.

Wow this is a crazy Hohler piece. Team officials are accusing Francona of being a drug addict. Players are coming off as really selfish, lazy, and distrustful. The owner is completely out of touch (a day on a yacht to compensate for clubhouse feelings of greed?).
Where was Ortiz during all of the clubhouse hijacking? He bats four or five times a game. Somehow I have to think he’s the original problem. They squeezed him hard and then went out and threw money around. But as the face of the team, was he not its leader?

Jayson Werth drove up the price on Crawford, amongst others.
As for Epstein, is it really gutless to move to a position of more power and more money? He’s a staffer, not an owner. People leave contracted positions all the time, the higher-ups negotiating the terms of exodus. I know it is easy to look at him as walking away from a flaming mess (which maybe he is), but this isn’t abnormal or gutless, it is business and if his career arc can go higher, he can gain a team presidency and full control over personnel without meddling, who can blame him for going after this?
If anything, the gutlessness is from the team owners who are leaking innuendo about a beloved manager after years of tireless service.

Good for Theo. That’s a major move, he had one year and $1.5m left. It is impossible to blame him for furthering his career. He has a lot of work to do.
As does the next Sox’ GM!

“If anything, the gutlessness is from the team owners who are leaking innuendo about a beloved manager after years of tireless service.”
I agree here completely. The scariest part is being left with Lucchino and Henry. I’d feel the same if it were Levine and Hal running the Yankee ship.
It’s a fair point on Epstein. If anything, with how Francona was handled, he could see the writing on the wall, esp with Henry saying this isn’t a job for life. We already know dissension with Lucchino has been there.

The interesting thing about the hatred for Lucchino is that while it may be justified (he does get painted as a certifiable pr*ck) is that despite this he has been quite the success. So should we care? Lucchino may, like Theo, actually be good at his job, despite the hatred he gets. He did identify Theo in the first place, hired him, groomed him. And he has a had hands in numerous baseball successes.
I honestly don’t know what this all means, power-play wise, I liked Theo a lot, and can hardly blame him for jumping at this challenge (and the dough). The Sox can solve their problems, but they need to make good hires and get rid of bad players, no easy task. This ownership group deserves at least some trust on this, though the Hohler story makes one think of them as petty and insecure. That doesn’t mean they won’t make a solid baseball decision though.

The Hohler piece was really fascinating – and disheartening to see that Lester was among the pitchers doing stupid stuff in the clubhouse during games. Lackey and Beckett have never exactly come across as great clubhouse guys, but Lester should be able to be a team leader. Buchholz being part of that group shows he still has some more growing up to do.
It’s hard in a story like Hohler’s to prioritize all the things mentioned: which actually contributed to the problems in the clubhouse, which are merely symptoms of those problems, and which would never have been issues if the Sox had managed to get into the playoffs.
I think the overall problem was a sense of entitlement and individual selfishness that crept in over time, and before anyone knew it, Francona couldn’t stop it and no one on the team felt they could either. I’d say having 80 percent of your starting staff in the clubhouse having their own private party during games and cutting back on their exercise regimen as the season progresses is significant, and was likely a contributor to the problem.
Some of the other stuff – Wakefield’s pursuit of personal achievements and Ortiz’s demand for an extra RBI – would be overlooked if this were 2007 or even 2008 or 2009. They’re the typical actions by highly paid, highly driven individuals that make them “winners” when you’re winning and “selfish jerks” when you’re losing. I also wouldn’t put much stock in the Ellsbury stuff, partly because that’s also the kind of stuff that surfaces when a team isn’t doing well, and also because it’s disputed by Rob Bradford this morning.
I’m a little uneasy about the contributions of Adrian Gonzalez in the mix. But I suspect if the team were winning, his attitude would be recast as quiet confidence instead of egotistical whining. Either way, it’s armchair psychoanalysis influenced mostly by the end result than by any actual evidence.
What this story tells me is that Ben Cherington needs to let some of the old guys go and make room for younger, hungrier players. Wakefield and Varitek simply cannot return next season. Let Aceves and Bard compete for a rotation spot, and give the backup job to Lavarnway. Clearly, Varitek’s past his prime, both on the field and off it, and Wakefield’s quest for 200 was pretty horrific; I don’t think anyone wants to see his quest for the Red Sox wins mark.
I’d keep Ortiz for the right price. He’s still the best DH in the game, and he at least tried to right the ship, unlike his veteran counterparts. Peter Abraham is on record defending Ortiz’s RBI outburst as something that happens all the time in baseball, just not usually when a camera is on. It’s another example of things being blown out of proportion because of the end result, not because they are themselves unusual or harmful.
In the end, my hope is that this serves as a slap in the face for players who should know better, guys like Lester and Youkilis, who should be clubhouse leaders, and a wake-up call for Pedroia to be the leader everyone keeps saying he is or will be. He was the only player with the guts to speak on the record to Hohler; he should be the guy in the clubhouse calling guys to account.
And I hope it wakes Henry up from his recent malaise. I think the Red Sox were his passion for a few years, but he got bored with his toy and stopped caring so much. That’s noticeable, to fans and players.
With a new manager, some fresh blood and some more attention from ownership and dedication from the starting pitchers, the Red Sox should still be fine next year. If they’d only gone 6-6 to open the season and 13-14 to end it, they would have won 100 games. So I’m not too worried, so long as they show they’re making efforts to right the ship.

“Lester should be able to be a team leader”
That’s not realistic, unfortunately. Two veterans making significantly more money and signed to longer contract are the alphas.
Where was Ortiz? He’s never in the clubhouse seeing this stuff between ABs? And calling out the manager for his pitching choices?

Ortiz has a long history of speaking his mind and saying things that cause little furors then dissipate. It’s never been a problem before now, and I don’t think it’s at the root of the Sox’ problems in 2011, your clear dislike of him notwithstanding.
Do you really think contract status determines who is a clubhouse leader, as opposed to say, being the best pitcher or player on the team? It’s a serious question; I don’t have any way of knowing. Varitek was never the highest-paid player on the team. Pedroia has been talked about as a team leader, and he’s both young and inexpensive. I’m not inclined, based on the evidence, to believe age or contract matters as much as on-field performance and general ability to command the respect of your peers.

The Francona stuff in the article is pretty messed up, and I wonder, Paul, for instance, if you would have included these rumors if you had written the piece. There is no evidence that he is a pill-popper presented. Instead, we get whispers of unnamed sources. This is unfair to Francona. This feels like a breach of journalistic ethics to me. But I’ve never been a journalist, so maybe I’m overreacting.

So I guess it’s being reported as a done deal: 5 years, $15 million. Good for Theo. It would be great if he managed to bring a World Series to the Cubs. There might even be a movie about him after that.

“your clear dislike of him notwithstanding”
I don’t care about the guy one way or another. As an outsider, I see the face of the franchise, with nothing to do between at-bats, seeing this stuff going on and not saying anything? Why isn’t he expected to be a leader? He has the longest tenure among everyday players….
Call me cynical, but are you explaining away the lack of leadership because he had a good year? On a team that completely disintegrated, and all the way into management, a “leader” calling out his manager for pitching choices has to rank very high. And yet that’s no big deal to you? That’s the guy you want to keep?
” This is unfair to Francona.”
I’m anxious to see if this media, aided by Sox management, will rip Epstein once he departs.

Two games go the other way in September and I doubt we are reading one word about pills and sour relationships and Cubs and yachts and earphones and having to tolerate listening to Francona learn how to do lead color in a playoff game. I wouldn’t mind reading about suds and fried chicken though. Sounds tasty.

Popeye’s is right across the street. Mmmmm, so tempting…must resist.
“Two games go the other way in September…”
That’s the absolutely crazy thing. It just goes to show how little we know. With the size of the collapse and now the fallout, this stuff is going down in baseball lore. Fat pitchers ( were eating fried chicken and playing video games while their teammates were busting their humps. The designated hitter was calling out his manager for pitching choices. People think the manager is popping too many pills. And the way the owner wants to help quell the selfishness? He invites the team to a night on his yacht.
To me, the decision to blow past spending limits to sign Crawford killed whatever team spirit they had. This was the organization that let Damon go – to the Yankees – over $6 million. They squeeze HARD during negotiations. Then they sign Crawford to $20M/year? Then Gonzalez? Papi isn’t pissed all season long? Wakefield? Varitek? I think the “leaders” saw where they were headed.

Two games go the other way in September…
Yes, if Daniel Bard is only atrocious and not mind-destroyingly bad, the Red Sox make the playoffs and all is well, and perhaps the problems from this year are addressed in spring training and we never know about it… or it all falls apart next year. Or who knows. But it’s funny how all of that works.
Like I said, some of this stuff is legitimately problematic, others of it not an issue if the club is winning.
I would not have run the part about the pill bottle in Francona’s room, Nick, given the strength of his denial. It creates a damaging impression with no evidence at all. Maybe the marriage stuff is fair game; we’ve seen it affect people’s performance before, and it could be a legitimate distraction, but that’s really close to the line.
But, really, all of this stuff is anonymously sourced, which, seriously, this is baseball, not the U.S. government. I understand that’s the only way this story gets written, but if you’r going to use anonymous sources, keep it to the big stuff of what’s happening in the clubhouse, not the shady character-assassination stuff that may or may not be true and may or may not be relevant.

Here’s that link:
It is really funny that is even asking the question.
It will be fun to see who the Sox bring in – as manager and then as players. We know who’s making the final decisions. If I’m Larry, I’m cleaning house where I can and hoping a new manager can kick the asses of those pitchers. I don’t touch Bard or Aceves. The bullpen is too shaky and you always need a good swingman. Papelbon is a must sign.
The lineup has too many holes but there’s not too much out there worth getting. Reyes is another Crawford waiting to happen. Between Aviles, Youkilis, Lowrie, and Scutaro they can piece together something. In RF a competition between Kalish and Reddick could yield a quality season. Still, Crawford gets another year. They easily replace Ortiz when he insists on a three year deal from the Sox. Catcher is problematic but they could be fine with Lavern and Shirley.
The real question for me is what Lucchino will do as the splashy move. You need one here to keep the fans interested. Pujols would have looked really good. I wonder if he’d go after Yu Darvish as in eff you, we’ll do what we want.
Oh, the drama!

“Maybe the marriage stuff is fair game; we’ve seen it affect people’s performance before”
What? How can you say that? A player says that they’re going through a divorce, to explain away bad performance, and that makes the topic fair games for all?

Lester should be able to be a team leader”
That’s not realistic, unfortunately. Two veterans making significantly more money and signed to longer contract are the alphas.

So by your logic does that mean that A-Rod and Teixeira are the leaders in the Yankee clubhouse?

This quote from Peter Abraham crystallizes my feelings, especially about the string of no comments Hohler got from players other than Pedroia in doing his story:
Finally, it speaks poorly of the prominent players on the roster that only Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz to a lesser extent have been willing to step up and accept some responsibility for what happened. Extraordinary measures were taken to try and get Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, John Lackey, Jason Varitek and others to give their sides of this and all have so far refused.
Disappointing. I know it’s the offseason, and you want to forget about a bad season as quickly as possible and not deal with the Boston media, but guess what? When you collapse in epic fashion, there’s some accountability that needs to happen. The fact that the same attitudes that contributed to the collapse manifest themselves in the response to it is not surprising, but it’s unfortunate, and it means the next manager, whoever he is, will have quite the task.

As a Yankee fan, I am glad to see Theo go. I don’t know if he deserved 100% of the credit for the 2 championships, but he certainly deserves most of it. The man did something many before him couldn’t: turn the Sox into an organization that makes sound, well thought out, well informed roster decisions. Sure he swung and missed a few times (as they all do) but he kept a gameplan and for the most part during his tenure they were very successful.
The whole situation is a mess unfortunately and there really is no easy fix. What I disliked most about Francona was probably his best attribute and an attribute that helped him succeed for so long in Boston and that’s his calming influence. Francona (and Epstein to a certain degree) never seemed panicked or nervous. I wanted them to panic and crack, but the two (for the most part) never showed it even if they were. I don’t know how you replace that especially at a time when there is so much disappointment and concern surrounding the team. Replacing Francona was going to be difficult enough (even though it was time for him to go) let alone trying to replace a GM and a very good one at that.
On top of all that this team has some holes to fill roster wise. It’s not going to be easy and I can’t even imagine who they bring in, but hopefully for the Yankees they make a rushed, uninformed decision!

The next time one wants to laugh at Jeter’s intangibles or argue that chemistry means nothing or that only what can be measured with numbers should be considered of value when assessing a player, I will refer them back to that Hohler article.

What I don’t get IH and maybe it’s because I don’t know him or his leadership skills all that well…But where the heck was the Captain Jason Varitek? He is obviously a shell of they player he used to be, but that does not stop him from being the voice of reason in that clubhouse. I am not trying to start a war or kick the Sox while they are down, but if this was happening to Jeter’s team he’d be getting killed right about now. You wear a C for a reason and that’s because you can lead. The C doesn’t stand for best player on the team.

“Jeter’s intangibles”
That’s the bottom line for me. If any of the Sox had half as much as Jeter this nonsense wouldn’t have gone unnoticed. How Ortiz and Varitek get passes really explains the problem. Two guys with a short term stake in the organization. Honestly, given the way they’ve shown others the door, this just feels like a consequence of an organization that’s all about itself. The disgusting rumors about Francona says even more.
“When you collapse in epic fashion, there’s some accountability that needs to happen.”
Where is Henry? Tweeting from yacht?

I agree fully John. And I also think Pete Abe is full of it when he says Ortiz’s RBI rant happens all the time but behind closed doors. I’d be willing to bet anything that when all is said and done and all the dirt about jeter has been spilled by teammates he angered or who were just plain jealous of him that the one thing that will never come out is that he (or Mariano for that matter) EVER made a stink about a personal stat, not to mention in such a disrespectful fashion to Torre, who was the equivalent of Francona in the Yanks clubhouse.

Let me put that another way: I bet Pete Abe is right that it goes on all the time. And I bet it is Jeter and Mariano who are the exception to the rule with the win-above-all-else attitude, rather than Ortiz’s stats focus (and just so sox fans this ain’t about kicking you, It is exactly what I think A-Rod brought to the Yanks clubhouse and is corrosive as hell). What I’m largely annoyed about is the stubborn resistance of jeter-haters to acknowledge both how rare and indeed how important that trait is in building a championship team and winning culture. Well now we see a perfect example where such leadership is utterly lacking. I for one refuse to believe that the on-the-field results of those two different appproaches are unrelated to the approaches themselves. We’ve been lucky as hell to have in Jeter and Rivera guys who are both among the best in the history of the game at their positions AND exactly the kind of leaders you’d want in a clubhouse. I fear the day they go and A-Rod grows that much bigger in the Yankee clubhouse.

The bigger sin to me, IH, is Ortiz calling out his manager for a decision like Aceves in the rotation. Can you ever imagine any Jeter Yankee doing the same?

Where was Jeter when Kevin Brown punched a wall, when Randy Johnson disrupted the team?
You guys can do better, that stuff is weak, simple hagiography. Jeter doesn’t need the help from you guys, he’s just fine without this dreck.

Pedoria called into EEI this afternoon to talk about the article. Basically he said everything was overblown and it was the poor play on the field that caused the problem and that it will be addressed. He said that Tek is still a leader in the clubhouse and is the type to lead by example. He seems like the only one to care enough to try and do some damage control.
On the beer/chicken/video game playing in the clubhouse, interesting part of the Hohler article said that this has been going on since 2010, obviously it didn’t seem that much of an issue (at least nobody said anything to the media about it) when they were rolling in the middle of the season. Also read that the Palm Beach Post reported that Jack McKeon used to lock the clubhouse during games to keep Beckett out of there during games he wasn’t starting. Seems like this is an ongoing thing for him and when they were winning it wasn’t an issue.

“Epstein’s top assistant, Ben Cherington, has been operating as the de facto general manager for several weeks and is expected to swiftly be named as his replacement.”
So sayeth Pete Abe, in a massively buried lede. Of course, this obviously could be an ownership plant. It sure makes it out as if Theo checked out long before the season ended, which actually jibes with the ASB rumors of the Cubs’ interest. The reality is that there is truth everywhere, and nowhere. I find it all particularly distasteful.
As for the “this never would have happened in a Jeter clubhouse”, what a crock. Team chemistry is as good or as bad as the shine on the trophies they take home (or fail to attain). Do we know how much friction there was in the Yankee clubhouse this year? My bet is there was some, like in every clubhouse in sports. Perhaps not like in Boston, but who the hell knows? Maybe there was none, and look what that got them: a first round exit. So what is the impact? The Orioles sure looked unified after that last game, and they finished with a shit record. Per Billsburg, the chemistry on the Sox may have sucked, clearly, but the suck matters when you lose and it is aired in the press, but not when you win and it is kept quiet. So it isn’t measurable, though it is damn fun to talk and write about.
This is all post-facto rationalization. Who can claim to know the impact if chemistry, besides armchair observers? Certainly not anyone at this site, except maybe John, and even then I am skeptical about the quantification of the unquantifiable.
It will be much more fun to speculate about where the Sox go from here, what they can do with their personnel, who will man their front office, than it will be to speculate about who leaked what and why.

The team chemistry thing is a silly point. It’s so clearly a post-performance hindsight analysis that I’m surprised people put so much stake in it. I’m pretty sure Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson got into a dugout brawl during a World Series winning season. Did you know that Jorge Posada and Tino Martinez hated each other for most of the Yanks’ World Series run? Olney writes that in his post-mortem of those years. Shit happens during an 8-month period, especially among athletes. Am I the only one who watched and rewatched and rewatched Major League! There was a freaking ex-con on the team! Some dude was sacrificing animals! One guy was screwing another guy’s wife! And they still ended up a winning team!

“It will be much more fun to speculate about where the Sox go from here, what they can do with their personnel, who will man their front office, than it will be to speculate about who leaked what and why.”
I don’t know about this. The palace intrigue is pretty fun, especially for Yanks fans who are used to stories about Jeter and A-Rod’s mercurial relationship. But yeah, it’s definitely interesting to think about what the Sox do going forward. How much stock does the front office put into the idea that there were bad teammates on the club. Will they sell Lackey while his stock is lowest? Could Beckett be traded? How do they deal with Youkilis’ apparent decline? What happens if Ortiz wants several years for his new contract? Just a few questions that should make the offseason interesting.
Meanwhile, the Yanks have to deal with the CC opt out and the rest of their starting rotation.

Now Ortiz is saying that there is too much drama in Boston and he will have to consider signing with the Yankees.
I’m predicting they will either completely remake the team and make a bunch of moves or they won’t do much, don’t think there will be anything in between. If they make a bunch of moves expect more stories and leaks coming out about the players that leave. If they don’t make many moves expect a whole bunch of Mark “I’m not here to talk about the past” Maguire quotes next spring training.

On the Ortiz outburst … two things.
First, Pete Abe has said many times that this type of outburst isn’t that extraordinary. Many times. He’s in the clubhouse. We’re not. Pete’s always been a straight shooter. Critical when appropriate, defensive when appropriate. I’m inclined to trust him on that. Too much has been made of it.
Second: Remember the back story on it. Pedroia set up ortiz. I don’t remember the exact story, but Pedey made up some ridiculous crap that set off Ortiz, who claims he didn’t know Tito was meeting with the press at the time. And then Pedroia laughed his ass off while Ortiz made a fool of himself.

Just to keep the pot stirring, here’s a (typically) vicious piece by Keith Olbermann on who the true schmucks are in this whole thing: the Sox ownership group.
The Sox used to be pretty good at this whole PR thing. Lowe’s a partier. Nomar was a clubhouse cancer. Damon’s a filthy disloyal traitor. And now Tito is a pill-pusher. And I don’t know if they’ve run out of tricks to try and polish this big of a turd, but the more they try and cast blame on everyone but themselves, the more they damage the already considerably compromised Red Sox brand.
I do wish the worst for the Red Sox, simply because they’re a continuous rival, but for everyone’s sake, I hope to hell they sell the team, soon, to someone who actually has a semblance of class and/or honor. I’ve had quite enough of the annual Red Sox Smear campaign.

From Ortiz:
“”As long as I’ve been here, I’m just doing my thing.”
“”Trust me, I play the game for the fans, my family and myself,” he said.”
That about sums up his leadership, doesn’t it? Why worry about your teammates and what they’re doing or not doing in the clubhouse while you do nothing in-between at-bats. Of course, Ortiz’s conditioning is legendary.
Andrew, I agree completely on this ownership group. When Torre left, SFs everywhere ripped the Yankees’ handling. And yet, now? What a disgusting group of human beings in Boston. The owners create a divisive environment, but at least the team can go out on the owner’s yacht.
“As for the “this never would have happened in a Jeter clubhouse”, what a crock.”
Can you name any incident since 1996 that even comes close to *one* of the things we’ve heard about the 2011 Sox? Any stuff in Olney’s book never, ever came out during the season or immediately after. Even after Torre left, what was the fall out? Laying Kevin Brown at Jeter’s feet is laughable. When many, many players have left what have the stories been? The plain fact is there are leaders in baseball, and the Sox didn’t have one if it got to this point. The team quit on the manager, so the manager quit on the team. Even the Guillen White Sox were never this bad off.
I’m just thankful we get to enjoy certain memes this team spawned and for the rest of baseball, and perhaps, sports history:
– Fried Chicken
– I like beer
– Let’s go yachting!
– My RBI
– The manager as drug addict
– The Collapse
Maybe the next time the Yankees utterly collapse to end a season, you can blame it on Jeter, when the fall out means the team loses its manager and GM and the players look like fat, greedy slobs and the ownership reveals its true colors.

Howie Spira, anyone? Where were the calls for Steinbrenner to sell so that you guys could have a class act as an owner? Was that what you really wanted all those years, a nice family in control? Or a guy who spent on his team? This is such hypocrisy.
Rich people tend to be assholes.

Absolutely right Nick and SF – “chemistry” was a poor choice of words by me. I don’t think how well teammates get along with each other has much bearing on anything. The term I should have focused on is “leadership”.
Pedroia himself said the best teams in baseball police themselves and that the Sox need to get back to that. Does the fact that you can’t quantify that comment lead you to dismiss it as irrelevant in explaining why the Sox just collapsed SF? Seriously? That’s not meant as a dig. Do you think Pedroia is just flat out wrong about that??
I don’t. And this is where I absolutely believe that Jeter, Mariano, and even Posada up until his brief bout of brattiness this year brought something unquantifiable (try not to shudder at the term) to the Yankees for the past 1.5 decades that has translated into wins, with guys like O’Neill and Martinez doing the same before their departures.
You want to quantify it? Ask Beckett, Lackey, and Wakefield to step on a scale 4 months ago and step on one again in September – try that number. They all looked noticably worse and their conditioning was a clear question-mark by the end of the season. You may point out – as Ortiz does – that it has always been like that so it’s no big deal. I think that’s a ridiculous argument. Maybe they were young enough for it not to take its toll in 2004, but it’s not the case now. And besides, the old vets back then were guys like Schilling, who I don’t think anyone would paint with that brush. Now that these are the old vets it is doubly problematic. On the one hand their bodies are that much older and simply don’t rebound from (fried chichen + beer – regular conditioning) the way they used to. On the other hand, they are the older vets now setting the culture and expectations for the younger guys like Lester and Buchholz. You think that doesn’t matter? Really???
Fact is that chemistry (guys arguing with each other and “friction” as you say SF), is not the point. The points are:
1. Do guys put winning above personal stats and goals? When Ortiz is one of your points of POSITIVE deviancy for the 2011 season and he points his finger at a respected manager and blows up at him in front of the press for a purely personal stat-goal, or when Wakefield talks about how the fans deserve to see him go for a record that seems to be dragging the team down with him, then no, I don’t think your team passed that particular bar. And yes, I think when your most respected players are guys like Jeter and Mariano, neither of whom would ever do or say such things, then you have a clear point of comparison and differentiation. Sorry but that’s a fact. Tough to quantify? Sure. Irrelevant? Hardly.
2. Do guys work hard enough toward the shared goal of winning it all or do they slack off in their conditioning, get fatter as the season goes on, and lose steam by September? When the Yanks had guys doing this crap (read: notorious slouch David Wells leaving game 5 of the 2003 World Series after just one inning due to back spasms – with the Yanks having taken a 1st inning lead only to lose that pivotal game) it cost them huge too. I don’t deny that and I’m not sure why you would. The clubhouse leaders can’t always keep every single guy in line – so you get the Wellses and the Browns even on a Yankee team with great player-leaders setting a decidedly different tone. But those guys are the deviants, not the culture-setters, and they get jettisoned. The Sox clearly have more than one such guy judging from what their own conditioning coach says and judging from what your eyes tell you watching Boston’s starting rotation come September, and the worst offenders seem to have been the supposed veteran leaders. Beckett, Lackey, AND Wakefield?? Why would anyone be surprised that the youngest guys – Lester and Buccholz – start following suit, even if they aren’t the type to slouch normally.
3. Do guys have each others’ backs and pull for each other on the field? When Francona himself complains about his inability to get veterans – veterans!! – to sit on the bench watching and pulling for their guys rather than playing Animal House in the clubhouse during games, then they don’t seem to have cleared that bar either. You telling me that a culture of that BS could set in on a Yankee team with guys like Jeter an Mariano there?
The ’78 Yankees were absolutely a team full of friction. But Reggie’s biggest explosion came when Billy Martin yanked him from a game in which he thought he was loafing, not when he thought Martin and the score-keeper conspired to knock and RBI off his stat-sheet. And a team lead by a captain in Thurmon Munson or guys like Nettles and Piniella, who no one would ever doubt put winning above any perosnal milestones, had a few things going for it which the 2011 Sox simply did not.
Make all the condescending remarks you want about how “you guys can do better” SF (one of my least favorite debate-methods but whatever). The fact is that the above things matter. And the fact that you assert – all evidence to the contrary – that they don’t, reflects more on you than anything else.
As far as owners being jerks, if you get to the stage when the owners feel like they need to interact somehow with the players in order to right a ship that is listing, then it’s probably way too late already, whether the owner’s name is Steinbrenner, Henry, or whatever. That stuff is either checked by the fellow-players and, if not, then by the Manager, and, if not, then by the GM. If those three firewalls have collapsed then the house has all but burned down already.

Good post, IH. I appreciate the clarification. Leadership is obviously important – for a team, a business, etc. As a business owner I understand the idea of cohesion, of working in the interest of the greater entity. So in those terms it does matter. But I still believe, perhaps stubbornly, that leadership isn’t about a single person, and the Jeter stuff just feeds the stereotype that I don’t buy into (not of Jeter, but of the solitary “hero” who can save the fractured squad). I believe, far more strongly, that cohesion comes from an organizational mindset. So the Sox are clearly in some sort of “crisis” (a word I also question because I truly don’t know how much crisis there really is, or whether there is some design behind this situation, from all parties), and it may very well be a crisis of leadership. But also I just don’t know what that means in the end with respect to having a winning team, and we, as fans, are mostly focused on the winning and not much else. It is what has allowed YFs to (smartly) compartmentalize the Steinbrenner shenanigans, and we need to learn that same apathy (is that the right word?) to an extent.
So I find this all pretty murky. The Sox won two titles, nearly went to another WS, made the playoffs another three times, under this team ownership. While the last few years haven’t gone well, and this year was a disaster, I don’t know how much can be ascribed to failure of leadership and how much should just get chalked up to shitty personnel moves (which may be a product of bad leadership or also just part of baseball). I really don’t.

Also, the Ortiz silliness can be summed up thusly: “I am a free agent”.
He is no less an ass for saying things the way he is, but in the end he needs a contract.

Thanks SF. Sorry if I’m a bit ornery. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t slept for more than 3 hours in days.
I do think the Sox are in crisis but I also think it’s the kind of crisis that the jettisoning of the right 2-3 guys, the bringing on board of the right 2-3 replacements, and the filling of Theo’s and Tito’s spots with excellent talent would likely fix almost immediately.
I think the tough part is that these are a lot of things to have to do and get exactly right all at the same time. And that’s just pretty tricky to manage.
It is interesting to me that in all the stuff that has come out about the Sox you haven’t seen much of anything said about Crawford – either how he did or didn’t feed into the bad behavior or any reflection of resentment from fellow players. The guy who more than anyone (except maybe Lackey) drew the ire of Sox fans doesn’t seem to have been much of a factor one way or the other behind the scenes.

IH: From Eric Giardi at NECN (New England Cable News) yesterday:
“Carl Crawford kept more and more to himself as the season progressed, largely because the clubhouse culture here was unlike any he’d experienced during his decade with Tampa Bay. A consummate pro, Crawford had once grabbed Pat Burrell and thrown him up against a wall, angrily telling Burrell that his unprofessional ways were not accepted in the Rays’ clubhouse. Tampa Bay management had their speedy outfielder’s back, trading Burrell a short time later. That’s the kind of cache Crawford had in that room, and with that organization.
But in Boston, Crawford apparently felt he couldn’t exert his influence because he wasn’t one of the veterans who understood what the Sox organization considered acceptable and what had led them to victory. Finally, late in the season but before the team entered its death spiral, Crawford had had enough. He launched into an impassioned speech, imploring teammates to get it together. It fell on deaf ears.”

“Howie Spira, anyone? Where were the calls for Steinbrenner to sell so that you guys could have a class act as an owner? Was that what you really wanted all those years, a nice family in control? Or a guy who spent on his team? This is such hypocrisy.”
You do realize that Steinbrenner was banned for life for those actions, right? Who in the Sox front office will be banned for releasing personal medical information to trash a former employee?
“He is no less an ass for saying things the way he is, but in the end he needs a contract.”
And that about sums up the 2011 Red Sox.

Who in the Sox front office will be banned for releasing personal medical information to trash a former employee?
The Tito BS was gross, and personally I’d love to see the person who leaked this crap to never see a baseball field or front office again. But who is to say it wasn’t a player? Honestly, there’s no way to know – there were plenty of disgruntled players on that team, the way it seems to have played out. What if it was Ortiz who mentioned this? Lackey? There was no shortage of guys whispering, it would appear.

“The Tito BS was gross”
Total understatement of the year. Anyway, Olbermann pins that leak on ownership. Who knows? I do wonder if Lucchino or Henry will feel compelled to respond to the Globe story.
IH, sorry for being a little dickish about the chemistry stuff. I get what you’re saying about leadership. I still basically think it’s a matter of winning and spin. Drinking and eating fried chicken together in 2004 means cowboying up and being goshdarnit grrreat teammates. And now it means something else. The salient point in this thread was made by AG early on. If the Sox win two more games, most of this shit isn’t coming out.

Olbermann pins that leak on ownership
Sorry, not exactly the guy I am going to trust on this one. He HATES the Sox, and we know Olbermann has no vested interest in being objective on anything, he’s pedantic and biased on most everything.*
* I say this as an admirer and viewer of Olbermann and someone who thinks he is an important voice and is one with whom I share political affinity.

I also just realized one might sub in “SF” for “Olbermann” in my first paragraph above and “Yanks” for “Sox” and it might actually be semi-accurate. Ugh, self-realization.

On Crawford, let’s not underestimate the ability of his agent to plant positive stories, most especially coming off the season he had. If anything, it’s further indication of a player looking out for his own selfish interests.
“But who is to say it wasn’t a player?”
Was there one negative thing said about ownership in that piece of trash journalism? Hell, the yacht thing was dropped as a positive!
By the way, IH, great post.

“Was there one negative thing said about ownership in that piece of trash journalism? Hell, the yacht thing was dropped as a positive!”
Yeah, that’s Obermann’s argument as well. Incidentally, the yacht story is endlessly hilarious. I wish I worked at a school with a billionaire principal. Random things like that would happen.

“Wait, the yacht thing isn’t a positive?”
Dude, you just ripped Henry for being a money-first guy. This organization used to cry poverty when to came to extensions for their veterans. It’s how Damon was made to look greedy for their entire fanbase. How they couldn’t afford A-Rod. Wakefield, Varitek, and Ortiz all got the drill. Selfishness goes to the heart of the chemistry problem. And the way you’re going to “fix” that is by inviting the team onto your yacht that none of them could afford? The message is what exactly?

I am pretty sure anything involving sports teams and party boats won’t end well.
See Vikings, Minnesota, or Henry, John. The next person to try a boat as some sort of salve for team disunity should be drawn and quartered.

“That was sarcasm…”
Sorry I missed that. The amazing thing to me is the reporters chose to include that nugget as positive spin. It goes to show how tone deaf the owners are and how much they have the press in their pocket.

It goes to show how tone deaf the owners are
This is a common trait of the uber-wealthy. Look at Romney – the guy couldn’t carry a tune if he was in the studio with T-Pain.

“If the Sox win two more games, most of this shit isn’t coming out.”
You know, I do agree with that Nick, but it is also a frustratingly circular argument to engage with. I would say, well, they didn’t win those two games and the point is that the stuff that went on in that clubhouse was arguably bad enough to take at least a couple wins away from this team.
It’s like if I said – well, if Mariano had just done his typical thing for one more inning, the Yankees win the 2001 Series too, so clearly they were better than the D-backs. Well, no. Because the D-backs were good enough to break through on Mariano. And the fact that the Yanks were in that elimination game to begin with is a testament to how good that D-backs team was. Similarly, the fact that the Sox – with all their talent and the lead they had built up this season – even got to the knife’s edge of not making the playoffs is indictment enough, let alone the fact that they then completed the collapse.
Anyway, as much as I enjoyed the collapse, what I’ve been arguing here isn’t even about attacking the Sox. It’s me making a case for the so-called intangibles of not only Jeter but also Rivera and, until this past year, Posada, as leaders who made sure certain things didn’t happen – or if they did, that they were anomalies. And I believe perhaps more than others here that this does translate into wins even if I can’t count it with any accuracy.
Take into consideration that being down a couple games to the Sox, the Yankees entered a HORRIFIC part of their schedule toward the end of the year thanks to all the rainouts. They ended up playing something like 33 games in 32 days. It was ridiculous. And yet no one made the kind of remark A-Gon did in Boston. I think if the Yankee clubhouse had been dominated by a different set of guys, you would have had more such excuses flowing.
I agree with SF that one guy can’t be the hero – you need multiple leaders. And I think the Yanks have had some of the best leaders in their history over the past decade. And yeah, as they retire and give way to A-Rod, I do worry that they will be losing alot more than just their production on the field.
Great story about Crawford by the way – a good sign for SFs and something that makes my respect for him tick up.

You had me until:
“Great story about Crawford by the way – a good sign for SFs and something that makes my respect for him tick up.”
You really think that’s a genuine story? No plant to make him look good by contrast and to put another spin on his awful year? It’s a coincidence that of everyone, Crawford ends up smelling like roses and a victim? While A-Gon gets trashed?

Hasn’t the “myth” of Jeter been of the silent, stoic, buttoned-up “lead by example” guy? Posada has been famously curmudgeonly for three or four years now, even in 2009 I recall there being a number of stories about Posada and Burnett having problems, big ones, and Girardi had to take bullets on their behalf. Rivera, well, I love him, but he truly seems above the fray, a real silent/strong type, classy, eloquent, etc.
To beat the horse (not IH), I really don’t put much stock in the exaggerated, hyperbolic reportage about these leadership issues, about the stories of the friction. I believe in cohesion, in the importance of having a “team” that works well on the field (and well enough off of it, but that’s fuzzy). But I don’t believe all the garbage coming out, I don’t believe it had direct impact on anything. I believe it is sensationalism, innuendo, basically garbage for entertainment. It may have truth in it, but it is not the truth.

The word being used today is “professionalism”. Jeter and Mo have that in spades. That’s leadership by example.
Ortiz and the Fried Chickens have shown that their leadership is from a very different place.
The truth is a mere collection of facts. Since no one is disputing the specifics, these facts are part of that set.

“It’s like if I said – well, if Mariano had just done his typical thing for one more inning, the Yankees win the 2001 Series too, so clearly they were better than the D-backs. Well, no. Because the D-backs were good enough to break through on Mariano.”
This is a separate argument, but I don’t think beating a team in 7-game series necessarily means the winning one was the better team.
I see your point about the circularity of the argument. I sometimes feel like I’m being overly dogmatic about things like intangibles, but I guess what I dislike is the seeming arbitrariness of who gets the leadership tag. Or rather I don’t trust the narratives we’re given about who is a leader during a certain season. I mean A-Rod is never going to be taken for a leader of men but there have been a few years with the Yanks where he was clearly the best player, so in a real, tangible way he was actually the leader. Who led the way in 2009? At the very least, he was among those that led, and he was still A-Rod, non-leader of men, the guy who doesn’t remember the back-up utility guy’s name. Then you have 2004, and suddenly there is no mention of Jeter’s or Mariano’s leadership qualities. The embarassing ALCS happens and A-Rod is raked over the coals. Nothing about Jeter and Mo. Actually, we have Gary Sheffield insinuating strongly that Jeter is not a leader that season, but that’s chalked up to Gary being Gary and relegated to the dustbin of history, or whatever the expression is. Oh, the point. The point is that right after the Sox’s collapse, Pete Abraham wrote about two different responses from Sox players. He basically contrasted AGonz’s religious explanation with Crawford’s totally accountable talk. Crawford won in the comparison. And why not? He didn’t bring God weirdly into it, he sounded like what you and I would hope to sound like after a devastating loss. Keep in mind, these are essentially 5-minute interviews, heat-of-the-moment stuff. Anyway, Pete Abe strongly implied that Crawford was the kind of player you want on a team and AGonz, well not so much. All I have to do is look at B-R and see that actually I’d prefer the weirdly religious dude on my team to the guy with the .289 obp. But there it is. Crawford is accountable. He isn’t weird. He actually might have what it takes to be a leader. All based on a postgame answer.

“Hasn’t the ‘myth’ of Jeter been of the silent, stoic, buttoned-up ‘lead by example’ guy?”
As in, confront players privately rather than through the press? Yes. Not the same thing as silent.
“Posada has been famously curmudgeonly”
As in ultra-competitive and in the face of guys who he didn’t feel were competitive enough? Yes. As for relations with Burnett, that goes back to chemistry, which we’ve agreed is irrelevant.
“Rivera…above the fray”.
Like when he took A-Rod into the trainer’s room earlier this season and challenged him to step up his game? Not exactly.
You sum up your point SF – and frankly the point that was clearly there all along even if only in subtext – with “I don’t believe (the garbage that is now coming out) had a direct impact on anything”.
Honestly, I find that bizarre bordering on a kind of fanatacism. I guess Pedroia saying the team didn’t have sufficient leadership within the clubhouse, Ortiz saying there is too much drama, and Paul saying he’s disappointed to see Lester and Buccholz taking part in the clubhouse BS are all examples of purely misguided individuals tilting at windmills. No – this behavior had nothing to do with anything. Hell, it’s a GOOD thing that Lester and Buccholz are learning from the vets that you don’t root for your teammates, participate in regular workouts, or stay sober during games. Of course!
Nick, re: guzzling beer and slamming wings in 2004 being cool but in 2011 not, I believe I addressed that directly above. Young guys might get away with that. Old guys get fat, out of shape, and start looking and playing like crap come September. It’s of course fine to debate that point. But why don’t we actually debate that point instead of pretending it’s all just one big fat arbitrary haze? I don’t doubt that a supremely talented team can pis away their potential and still win every once in a while. I do think it’ll catch up with them and in this case I think it clearly has.
And there is little arbitrary about guys gaining a reputation for being great leaders or other guys (read Sheffield) getting a reputation for spouting off out of jealousy and misplaced rage. The only arbitrary thing about it is that it can’t be counted. Speaking of which, what exactly did Sheffield say about Jeter not being a leader? I recall Sheffield complaining that Jeter got treated better than he (Sheffield) did and attributing that to Jeter not being black enough. Seriously. Is that what you’re referring to? When Sheffield was having blow-ups with Torre and Jeter – being a leader as noted above and raising it in private with Sheffield – went to Sheffield to try to get him to see where Torre was coming from and Sheffield wrote him off because he is “black and white”. Is that what you mean? And if it’s not, does the above not say enough about Sheffield vs. Jeter? How about the fact that Jeter refused to retaliate in the press when asked about this? Again taking the high road despite the fact that he was probably itching to both hit back and defend himself.
With all due respect, you guys are being bizarrely ideological on these points. I am not arguing the olar opposite – i.e. that leadership is everything, that all stats are misleading. I am merely saying it matters even though I can’t quantify it. I’m pointing to plenty of professional players, including guys on the Sox, who are saying the same thing. And you will go down with the ship that has been run ashore by bickering officers screaming “leadership means nothing!”.
I give up.

And you will go down with the ship that has been run ashore by bickering officers screaming “leadership means nothing!”.
I am not saying that, IH. I stated my opinions on the importance of leadership and cohesion above. I am probably not being clear enough. I will try again, because I am not being blind to the issues that the Sox have or had. I am really just very skeptical about the accuracy of any of this stuff, good or bad. I am not saying it didn’t exist. I am questioning the idea that we can ascribe any of the results to the events as described in the press. Again, as I said above:
“I really don’t put much stock in the exaggerated, hyperbolic reportage about these leadership issues, about the stories of the friction”
I am talking about the PRESS REPORTS. I think they are convenient, sensational, post-rationalized, loathsome, opportunistic, and lazy. I am not an ostrich: the Sox had problems, seemingly big ones, that need to be addressed. But the way these anecdotes get used is ridiculously unregulated. If you think the Sox are a mess then you tout the stuff about video games and beer. Simultaneously there is no veracity to the idea that Carl Crawford stepped up (“planted by his agent!”) and tried his best to get players to play. I don’t think the reporting has much credibility and to treat it as gospel when you want and not when you don’t is useless. To do so says more about you (or your brethren) as people than anything else, to paraphrase one of your earlier and unfairly judgmental comments.
This is like all the crap that comes out at the trading deadline. Nobody knows anything. All we know right now is that the Sox collapsed and the clubhouse and front office need a LOT of work. Beyond that, who gives a shit about video games an fried chicken, who cares about Adrian Gonzalez’ belief in God?

I get the skepticism about the media SF. I choose to generally trust the stuff I read if it seems plausible and until it gets rebutted, understanding that it may not be the whole story but that it’s as close to the real story as I’m likely to get given that I don’t have a direct line into any clubouses. That’s why I take the Hohler stuff re: the clubhouse zoo and the Giardi stuff about Crawford stepping up similarly. I don’t choose this over that – they both sound perfectly plausible to me. I am more skeptical around trade deadline time because there is all the reason in the world for GMs to leak all kinds of BS then. On the other hand, after a collapse there is always going to be lots of public finger-pointing. Some may be BS but I think it’s also in those situations where a hell of a lot of truth comes out – I don’t feel that way about trade deadline press at all.
To be fair you did point out your thoughts on leadership/cohesion. What I reacted to in my last post was your comment about not thinking that any of it had an impact on anything. I mis-read that as you saying, even if this stuff all did happen, it didn’t impact the play – not as you saying, it’s hard to know what to believe in the press so it’s hard to judge whether any of what is being reported had any impact.

The Sheffield comments came in this article:
“I know who the leader is on the team,” he says as he scratches his cartoon-villain mustache. “I ain’t going to say who it is, but I know who it is. I know who the team feeds off. I know who the opposing team comes in knowing they have to defend to stop the Yankees.”
Sheffield’s wife, DeLeon, a gospel singer, sidles up next to him, pats his leg in a gentle “calm yourself” gesture. But Sheff is just getting started. “I know this. The people don’t know. Why? The media don’t want them to know. They want to promote two players in a positive light, and everyone else is garbage.”
By the way, it should be noted that there are a number of players who’ve played with Sheffield who call him a great teammate. I mean he’s been known to say some outlandish crap and maybe this is just one example. However, it does point out a pretty stark truth, or maybe it’s more a modernist William Faulkner one: There is not one narrative at any one time. And if that’s not confusing enough, two of the characters are names Quentin! Anyone, anyone? Yeah, but Sheffield said these things. He’s not exactly likeable but there might have been some truth to it at the time. What’s specifically interesting about the quote here is that Sheff was suggesting the Mariano-Jeter are leaders narrative is a media-creation.
“Nick, re: guzzling beer and slamming wings in 2004 being cool but in 2011 not, I believe I addressed that directly above. Young guys might get away with that. Old guys get fat, out of shape, and start looking and playing like crap come September. It’s of course fine to debate that point. But why don’t we actually debate that point instead of pretending it’s all just one big fat arbitrary haze? I don’t doubt that a supremely talented team can pis away their potential and still win every once in a while. I do think it’ll catch up with them and in this case I think it clearly has.”
Well, in this season’s case, the guys identified as the beer and wings guzzlers are actually relatively young. I mean Lester and Beckett are not old by any stretch. Lackey is in his early 30’s. Buccholz is rail thing and young. The 2004 Red Sox were actually an older club than this season’s team. The reports I read didn’t implicate Wakefield, Big Papi or any of the other veterans, so I’m not quite sure I understand the age argument. Of course, it’s entirely plausible that the beer and chicken caught up with Beckett and Lester in September. They certainly pitched like chickenshit.
By the way the players who have come out looking the best in these reports–Crawford, Pedroia, Ellsbury (and Gonzalez in Giardi’s report)–are all a big part of the Sox’s future because of current contract status and, in Ellsbury’s case, the desire on the part of the front office to have them on the team for a while. It could be a mere coincidence that they come out looking good, but it’s not exactly crazy to think that people in the front office would want to leak stories that promote these guys.
Anyhow, one of the problems I have with these postmortems is they don’t make room for other, more statistically-bent forms of analysis. How much of the collapse can be pinned on the Sox not hitting with runners in scoring position? How much of it can be pinned on their uneven scoring distribution? How statistically flukey were these numbers? Was there something in the way the team’s offense worked that made these things more likely? (ie. they’re not contact hitters, they don’t hit hard throwers well, etc).
I don’t doubt failure of leadership, communication, etc factored into the collapse. I just don’t know exactly how and I’m guessing nobody does. I’m also guessing that the effect of these things is being overstated, and more physical concrete things are being ignored.

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