My friend Rhonda is one of the most passionate and loyal Red Sox fans I have ever known. On Thursday, she sent me an email with her thoughts about the ugliness we all witnessed this past week. I thought this might be some interesting reading.
Thank you Rhonda.
There are so many things swirling around in my brain right now, I barely know where to begin.
But I think the only way for Theo to begin to dissect this is to recognize that when you pick it apart, what we had here this fall was just a snowball effect of failure. That's what it was. It's actually not even that complicated. Here's what shook down:
(1) Our starting pitching literally collapses, via serious enough injury in a couple of cases, and via other guys just not stepping up and executing pitches. Matsuzaka, Buchholz, Lackey, Wakefield and Weiland. Ladies and gentlemen, that is 5/7 of the rotation at the start of the season. 5/7. That were hurt and/or simply failed to perform. At the same time, Beckett suffered his temporary injury. At the same time, Lester suffered one of his classic months, where he can't locate and get out of innings, but rather than that hitting in April--it hit in September. What you have when that there happens, folks, is a team that can't count on its core starting rotation. I don't know if the pitching coach is to blame or not for this. He may be. He may not be to blame. Who knows? But the core pitching shitting the bed then contributes to the next downfall on a baseball team...
(2) Aspects of the bullpen getting gassed/tired/worn out/injured, thereby impacting their effectiveness down the stretch. Bard, Albers, Atchison, to name the biggest offenders. When you take #1 and #2 combined, then you have the next situation...
(3) Not all, but many of the position players playing tight. Pressing at the plate. Making key errors in the field. Also, when the pitching collapses, a team is more prone to committing errors. Things are getting hit all over the field. The ball's getting hit harder. You press more. You make more mistakes. More mental miscues. If you're a rookie and/or a newcomer to the team/Fenway Park, that increases your likelihood of making mistakes all the more.
What else happens? You lose two veteran producers/leaders to injury: Drew and Youkilis. Youk doesn't make mental errors in the field. Not many of them. Drew almost never does. Huge gap there. Absolutely massive.
Again, snowball effect. Then you have the next situation...
(4) In a clubhouse where there aren't a LOT of loose players, where there is enough players who carry themselves more introspectively, more seriously, more (dare I say it) religious in a preachy and public way (Adrian) than past teams, then perhaps a core group of players fail to step forth as leaders? Perhaps they stop having fun (unless they're Ellsbury having the season of his life)? We are not in the clubhouse. So we will never know. But I have personally heard reports from cameramen and heard things mentioned in other places that this Sox team was the most sour group of complainers/whiners ever. That has to count for something. And I can't help but wonder and hate if this culture of complaining about shitty umpiring, which I swear has grown in the past 5 years of watching the Sox, isn't a reflection of the team not having the right attitude? Who knows.
(5) Final points: The newcomers and their inability to come through in the clutch. Where was Carl Crawford this season? Where was Adrian Gonzalez? I think Theo thought he was getting two leaders in these guys. Two people who would put a team on their backs and carry them, in the same way that that's what Theo got when he acquired Ortiz and Millar and Schilling during his tenure. But it's not working out that way. Crawford looks like a defeated man. Gonzalez blames "God's plans" for a baseball team's inability to play quality ball down the stretch. Something is really, really wrong with that. I don't have the answer, but do the men on Yawkey Way have the balls and emotional sensitivities to address it and solve the problem(s)? I don't know.
Finally, the only bright spot about this week was the following, at least for me: Ryan Lavarnway. He struck out in a huge spot in the 9th inning last night, sure. But his 2 home runs the other night were things of legend. And he said all the right things to the media and seemed to really take care of his pitchers the last couple of nights. If that's the future of the Boston Red Sox, I'm staying signed up. Because that's a team I want to root for.
But the team we saw choke in the clutch this past month? Not so much. Here are the players that I know are really, really talented, but who make me squirm and quake as soon as I want to trust them but find myself doubting myself as a fan:
I trust everyone else. Including Theo and Tito. But I don't trust these guys.
Fix it, Theo. Find a way to fix it all.