The Buffoonery Starts at the Top

The Red Sox this season aren’t just bad, they are pathetic, unlikable and do not have their finger on the pulse of the fan base.

Let’s start from the top:

John Henry – Say what you will about his various distractions like Liverpool FC, Roush Fenway Racing, his family and his investment business, but I really do think Henry is trying to win. Some critics say he only cares about filling seats and making money and while I know he likes to make money, he wouldn’t have a payroll as big as the Red Sox do if he was only about the money.

Henry’s failure is that he has extended too much control to Larry Lucchino (more on him and others in a moment), whether that was intentional or otherwise is irrelevant. Lucchino has managed to meddle in the manager hiring process and in the baseball operations business. He effectively took out the legs of both Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine. Cherington didn’t get to pick the manager so why should the manager listen to Cherington when he knows he has Lucky in his back pocket? Valentine wasn’t Cherington’s pick, so why should Cherington go out of his way to help Valentine when he probably doesn’t trust him in the first place. Oh and by not letting Valentine hire his own pitching coach and bullpen coach, we’ve seen a grade school playground act materialize. Pitching coach and bullpen don’t like manager, so they don’t talk with him and vice-versa. I mean, what is this? Romper Room?

Lucchino – Things went well when the GM had more power and Lucchino was put in his place. I think Lucchino is a capable person but he is the President of the team not the GM. Leave Ben Cherington alone to do what he is paid to do. We’ve seen this before back when Theo Epstein quit the team, the first time. John Henry had to step in and make make sure Lucchino left Epstein alone to do his job. This needs to happen again. Henry has to step up to the plate and get tough with Lucchino.

Cherington – Not sure how much of this falls on him as he hasn’t accomplished anything as a GM and if he were to try the same thing Esptein did a few years ago, the Red Sox would let him walk and given his lack of tenure (unlike Epstein who had won a World Series), I’m not sure Cherington would ever get another chance to be a GM again and GM jobs don’t come up everyday. The courageous things to do would be to give Lucchino an ultimatum to bud out, but without a clear idea of whether or not it would cost him his job, I don’t blame him for not doing this.

Valentine – From day one we all knew he’d talk to much and he’s done that and more. He is passive aggressive and that has a way of rubbing players the wrong way. I’m really not too worried about what the players think in this instance, but Valentine’s style isn’t necessary what is needed in this clubhouse. That said, we knew from day one that he lacked support from some coaches, probably his GM and the players. The reason he hasn’t been fired is because he is buds with Lucchino.

There has been some interesting conjecture that Valentine was hired for one purpose, to make the players miserable so that starting in 2013, they’d do anything for Valentine’s ultimate replacement. There is even the notion that Valentine is in on it too. Lucchino is so smooth that he hired his buddy Bobby to make the players so furious and unhappy, that the next manager would be welcomed with open arms. Kind of like when they sacked Grady Little after 2003 and brought in Terry Francona. Although this argument falls apart a bit as Grady was a likable figure whose only crime was leaving in Pedro too long. And, aren’t we really giving Lucchino and Valentine too much credit for this kind of scheme?

The Players – They have become so unlikable that they somehow, some way have made Valentine a sympathetic figure at times…at times. Really, how is that possible? Dustin Pedroia got off on the wrong foot with his defense of Kevin Youkilis telling all who would listen that the way Valentine talked about Youkilis was “Not the way we do things around here.” Who the hell is Pedroia to tell the manager how things are done? How about shut up and play baseball and let the manager do things the way he wants them done?

Adrian Gonzalez has also come out of this looking pretty bad. Not only has he totally lacked any power this year, he is looking like a whiner. Whether the reports of him calling a players meeting with ownership to get Valentine fired are true or not, he hasn’t been a major disappointment this year and certainly doesn’t have the leadership skills to lead his fellow teammates to better on-field play. I’m not sure what is wrong with his game, but he is off about 150 OPS points from last year and drew zero walks from May 16 to June 10. He has let himself get distracted by this nonsense and to that degree I can’t blame him, but there are always going to be distractions and winners figure out a way around them. If he can just focus on being one of the best offensive and defense players no the field, he should be alright. Is that too much to ask?

Josh Beckett and Jon Lester – What can you say about these two? They have been terrible. The team is 16-28 when they pitch. Yes, 16-28 when the Red Sox 1-2 starters pitch. 42-33 when someone else starts. Wow, imagine if they were just average this year and this team would be considered a good team. Lord knows why they have been so terrible, but from a on field standpoint, they have been the number one reason this team stinks. It is a tired story, but Beckett’s attitude and commitment are definitely issues but his large contract makes them issues that are likely to stay.

At this point, CoolStandings.com has the Red Sox with a 0.4% change of winning the division and just a 6.2% chance at a wild card spot. I’m not being dramatic when I say this but the Red Sox season is over and now is the time to find out who has what for 2013. Who is a player? What rookies might come in handy next year and what players need to be jettisoned in the off-season (or during the waiver trade deadline period that ends this month).

It’s also time for John Henry to act like an owner and grab Lucchino by the lapels and tell him to stick to what he is good at and let Ben Cherington do his job. Once the line of command is reestablished, then and only then can the Red Sox operate like a well oiled machine. People like to know their role. They might not like their role but knowing what is expected and and who gives the orders helps things run smoothly. If Henry can’t do this, perhaps it is time for him to sell the Red Sox and let someone else have a turn. It starts at the top.