Have you ever had your heart broken three times in one week? It happened to me. This is how it went down:
Strike 1: The Red Sox put a big time exclamation point on their putrid September by losing the final must-win game of the season to everyone’s favorite lovable losers, the Baltimore Orioles. The Choke of the Century is mercifully over and the “Best Team Ever” turned into the “Worst Collapse Ever”.
Strike 2: The Red Sox ATM machine decided not to pick up Terry Francona’s option. The spin is that it was Tito’s decision to leave. Do we look that stupid? Clearly, he had no choice, having lost the support of the front office and the respect of a few arrogant, over-privileged little boys who had no idea how lucky they were. Thus, an unlikable team got a likable manager fired. Let’s not fail to mention that the blame for poor decisions related to big-money free agents lies squarely on the shoulders of the wonder boy general manager, Theo Epstein. He still has his job, so far. But you know, Theo, if you need a ride to Chicago, I would gladly drive you. Here’s the catch: You have to take your loser free-agents with you.
Strike 3: The news of the Nasty Boys behavior in the clubhouse was the put-away pitch.
I want names and I want them now. I need to know who to boo next year if the irresponsible parties are still around. As more details leak out in the press, you do not have to be Sherlock Holmes to do a little deductive reasoning. All you need to do is look at the performances of some of the possible suspects. First, let’s rule out Pedroia, Ellsbury, Scutaro, Saltalamacchia, Aceves, Bard, Papelbon and Lowrie. Those guys went out there and worked hard every single day. They were not perfect; but they gave everything they had.
Just by looking at character and you can rule out Drew, Varitek and Gonzalez, despite the lame comments the latter made on camera post-game. (More about that later.)
Now, let’s look at physical conditioning. Hello Mr. Beckett, I see you. How could I miss you? Where did that extra 20 pounds come from? How does an “athlete” gain 20 pounds in season? Did the camera add 20 pounds or shall we blame it on the beer? Who was downing beers with you in the clubhouse during games while your teammates were sweating and dodging bullets on the field? Were your fellow Texans riding along with you in the Budweiser Rodeo? Lackey and his” scowl of doom” is guilty “for sure” based on his disrespectful attitude towards his manager, teammates, fans and members of the press. Lester and Buchholz also seemed to bulk up during the season as their performances went down the toilet. Youkilis may or may not have been swilling suds but at least one insider reported his negativity and general nastiness around the clubhouse including his repeated commentary on how he stayed with the team even though he was injured — a clear insult directed at Ellsbury for spending time in 2010 in Arizona recovering from broken ribs. Youk cannot seem to get over it. Yet Ellsbury worked hard at getting healthy and had an MVP season in 2011 as a result. What’s the matter, Youk? Jealous? Perhaps Tito had you in mind when he said players should “…protect each other on the field and be fiercely loyal to each other…”
And while I’m pointing fingers – and you, dear reader, know exactly which finger I am pointing – let me put a few more thoughts out there to get them off my chest:
Yo, Adrian. Your great first half of the season bought you some good grace; but in the second half, you spit the bit. You contributed nothing in games against the Yankees or the Rangers or the Rays or whenever it mattered. Your comments at the end of the year were arrogant, cold and unfeeling. While fans sat at home in total shock after that horrendous final game, you calmly sat back and stated that it was not God’s will for the Red Sox to win. “God didn’t have it in the cards for us.” Well good for you, Gonzo, that you can deflect any blame that way but I cannot blindly drink the Kool-Aid. I had no idea God was a Rays fan. Furthermore, your complaints about the schedule and having to play late Sunday night games on the network were lame. If you didn’t like it, you should have stayed in San Diego where the games are not on Sunday nights because nobody gives a crap about the Padres. You’re not in San Diego anymore, Toto. God has nothing to do with who wins and who loses. You have to help yourself. It’s nice that you have such a deep faith, and I am sure you are a decent human being; but a class in Boston Baseball Market 101 is in order for you over the winter, my friend.
Carl Crawford, where do I begin? What are we going to do with you? You have six more years here, dude! Wipe that scardy-cat look off your face and be Carl Crawford! I do not want to watch you for the next six years almost wet your pants every time a ball is hit in your direction. And by the way, thanks for ending the season with yet another muffed play in left field. And while we’re at it, close up that stupid batting stance so that you don’t have to spend the time chicken-stepping your front leg when you should be swinging the bat! You are close to being the next piñata in Boston, man. Will you please stop thinking about your paycheck and insecurities? Do you want people to start yelling “Cindy Crawford” to you like they yelled “Nancy Drew” to J.D. Drew? Get some therapy and come back as Carl Crawford and maybe you will be okay. If not, get the hell out of town because I cannot stand another year watching you wetting your pants while swinging like a 6 year old girl. Have some dignity, man!
David Ortiz, despite putting up great numbers this year, you may have worn out your welcome. Since the announcement of Tito’s unemployment, you have backtracked a little bit and taken the high road. You never saw any of the problems, you said. Or maybe you saw problems but just tried to mind your own business. Maybe that was because you were part of the problem, “Big Papi”. Maybe disrespecting your manager when you barged into his press conference to whine about the official scorer taking away an RBI was not a good idea. Maybe publically questioning why Aceves was not a starting pitcher did some damage. In short, maybe you put another nail in Tito’s coffin. Maybe you were playing for a contract this year instead of playing for the Red Sox. For all you have given this city, Papi, I will give you a pass. But, make no mistake, I will have my eyes on you next year.
Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek, I have great respect for both of you and all you have accomplished. But please go away now. I cannot endure watching you, Wake, trying for a new Red Sox record while the team loses games. I cannot bear to watch you, Tek, barely able to run to first base. Where was your leadership, Tek, when the Beckett and the Brew Crew were misbehaving and the team was losing its heart? Did you speak up or did that “C” on your shirt fall off in the dirty laundry? You have both had stellar careers. You have been generous with your time and money and have been good humanitarians. You have contributed so much to this team and perhaps you can continue to contribute in another role. As a fan, I would welcome that. Please, go play golf and be a happy memory and not a liability. Make room for young men who can throw the ball, hit the ball, and run the bases. Men that don’t look like grumpy old men with beer bellies. Speaking of beer, Wake, I am surprised and disappointed that you were part of that “I Love Beer” video now trending on YouTube that has made a laughing stock of the Red Sox organization. I expected more from you, Wake. Just because you throw a knuckleball doesn’t mean you have to act like a knucklehead.
I know nobody will believe me now, but I really, really knew something was wrong with this team all year long. I knew it in my heart and I saw it with my eyes. While sitting through 25 or so games at Fenway this year, I could see that something was not right. I could not put my finger on it. It was more than injuries and more than starting pitchers that were not durable which caused the bullpen to be beaten and abused. There was just a lack of effort. A lack of energy. Again, there are certain guys – like Pedroia and Ellsbury – that leave everything on the field every single day. Something smelled funny. My Fenway companion and I talked about it on the way home after every game whether it was a win or a loss. In the end, it wasn’t one thing; it was everything.
And let me tell you, I am mad about it. I feel duped, ripped-off, fooled. Like hundreds of thousands of other fans, I shelled out my hard-earned money for the Fenway experience. I put up with the fact that the Liverpool soccer team and Roush Racing were being shoved down my throat by John Henry’s marketing team every time I put on NESN. (Why can’t he understand that nobody cares?) I spent countless hours watching and listening to games, reading about them afterwards, clinging to little tidbits of information. I loved “my team”. I stood and cheered. I sang “Sweet Caroline” even though it was getting on my nerves. I chanted and clapped my hands “Let’s Go Red Sox – clap, clap, clapclapclap”. I subscribed to Red Sox Magazine and read all the marketing B.S. and didn’t mind that it was marketing B.S. I updated my Red Sox Nation membership even though I know it is a total and complete rip-off. I bought countless articles of clothing in support of my favorite players and team, only to help make John Henry a billionaire. I wrung my hands or held them over my heart in hope for my pitchers to throw that third strike and for my hitters to knock one out over the monster. I stood in line and rode the green line with all the other clueless, sweaty, starry-eyed fans. I believed the slogans, “We’re All In” and “We Won’t Rest”. Perhaps I misunderstood. All the while, the pitching staff wouldn’t speak to the position players, entitled “athletes” didn’t bother to work out or take batting practice, complained about buses and 5-star hotels, interleague games, the schedule, their contracts or lack of them, the strike-zone, scorekeepers taking away RBI’s, belted back beers during games, ate gluttonously, disrespected their manager publically and privately, lazed around staring into iPads or plugged into iPods in the clubhouse (or “spa” as Jim Rice disgustedly called it) instead of, God forbid, building relationships with teammates. In short, the fans cared more than the players. Some players, that is.
Then why, you might ask, would I continue to support this team? Why would I even be thinking of how many games I want to go to next year or perhaps making another visit to spring training? Why would I enable this group of heartless, entitled, self-absorbed, lazy, disrespectful, spoiled brats? Why should anything change if all the games are sellouts and the players continue to get their big paychecks and John Henry can maintain his yacht? Maybe it’s my bad luck that I was born and raised in and around Boston and that I grew up a Red Sox fan. Maybe the answer is that I cannot help caring about seemingly good young men like Pedroia, Ellsbury, Papelbon, Saltalamacchia, Bard, Aceves, Lowrie, Scutaro and a few others. Despite their flaws, their costly errors, and their occasional mental mistakes on the field, I can see with my own two eyes that they care; and so I care. Now I understand what and who they were dealing with and the fact that they were trying to carry this dysfunctional team on their backs.
If you are still with me and reading this, my friend, then you are in up to your eyeballs, too. You have my sympathy.
Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to watch some enjoyable playoff baseball because when all is said and done, I still do love this game. There is nothing like watching players with heart who want to win, who play hard and are rewarded for it. As much as it pains me to say it, I think I will go watch the Yankees and Tigers.