It took two weeks, but the Boston Globe has produced the definitive grisly autopsy of the 2011 Boston Red Sox meltdown, and it's lurid, all right. (You'll recall that the team collapsed in epic fashion and missed the playoffs.) The Globe's story is full of drink and drugs and player grousing, but the story's existence and its tone tell us more, maybe, about why the Red Sox failed. Ownership and management are lashing out anonymously at the players and Terry Francona for one wretched month, and the Globe is their faithful stenographer.
Here are some of the charges within the piece:
• Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey spent all September eating biscuits and fried chicken, drinking beer, and playing video games in the clubhouse during games. Writes the Globe's Bob Hohler, the trio also "joined a number of teammates in cutting back on their exercise regimens despite appeals from the team's strength and conditioning coach Dave Page." Never mind that the 2004 Red Sox—who are held up in the piece as a paragon of achievement, when the 2007 team isn't mentioned—were lauded for their not-so-svelte ways.
• Terry Francona melted down because of his marriage and a painkiller addiction. Tito, who's since been fired, apparently spent all season living in a hotel after separating from his wife of 30 years. All along, he was taking pain medication to recover from an October 2010 knee surgery. Francona told the Globe that he did not have a painkiller addiction, per a diagnosis by the Red Sox's team doctor. The story also blames Francona for panicking because the Red Sox might not pick up his contract option for 2012. (The piece speaks of "his commitment to the team," referring to his future with Boston, even though management held the contract option.)
• The players were angry because management rescheduled a doubleheader in advance of Hurricane Irene, the Globe says. The players were tired from a busy August, and wanted time to rest. Ownership wanted to avoid a potential makeup game. According to the Globe, the Sox attempted to fix things by giving all the players fancy headphones and inviting them out on John Henry's yacht. The Globe story pinpoints the doubleheader—which the Sox swept—as the beginning of the team's demise, even though the playoff-bound Yankees seemed to survive their doubleheader on the same date.
• All the leaders but Dustin Pedroia quit leading. The Globe chastises David Ortiz and Jason Varitek, both of whom declined to comment for its story. The paper also attacks Tim Wakefield for chasing his 200th win—he "appeared more interested in himself than the team"—toward season's end. Kevin Youkilis also tired of leading the team, the story claims, as he played through injuries even though golden boy Jacoby Ellsbury hadn't, the prior season. Infielder Jed Lowrie was Ellsbury's only friend.
• Ownership was angry that GM Theo Epstein splurged on Carl Crawford. The speedy left fielder came over from Tampa Bay as the highest-paid outfielder in history. He promptly hit .255/.289/.405 and stole only 18 bases. Unlike other Sox signings, the Crawford deal divided ownership, primarily because the Red Sox already had a "speedy lefthanded-hitting outfielder" in Ellsbury. Now its architect is skipping town and saddling the Sox with six grim years of Carlito.
And from this piece, we can see why Tito and Theo might be glad to leave. The anonymous sources—presumably ownership—it quotes are vengeful, disappointed in players for airing grievances about grueling seasons, complaints one would hear in any other locker room. Between the lines, the owners are alleging the Sox tanked the season because they were angry about having to play a doubleheader, and the horndog manager was too zonked out on pain medication to change anything. Uh-huh. The calamity that befell the 2011 Sox didn't come from God, as Adrian Gonzalez suggested. No, he should have looked aimed his eyes a little lower, at the owner's box.