Johnny Pesky died this week. He was 92 years old. Pesky was a Red Sox legend and a fixture in the team’s dugout for decades. He had a fair/ foul pole named after him. His visage was as symbolic of the team as any logo. What better way to pay tribute to his memory than to have yet another putrid, pathetic, childish bout of finger-pointing?
For about five minutes we all stopped and acknowledged the passing of a former player, coach, and advisor whose ties to the franchise ran all the way back 1942. A native of nearby Danvers, Massachusetts, he simply belonged at Fenway. Then the proverbial moment of silence evaporated and it was back to business as usual. Which, for this team, means dysfunction, whining, and more poor play.
What exactly has happened in Boston? Despite retaining some of the same names, this club bears little resemblance to the champions of 2004 or 2007. It looks nothing like the teams that were major contenders through the decade of the 2000s. One has to feel sorry for guys like David Ortiz, who have attempted to stay positive while everything around them unravels. When Big Papi remarked that “this team is [expletive] cursed,” he was referring to an Achilles injury. And his invocation of the dreaded word made little impact. But he was more correct than he knew.
Cursed sure does seem like an apt description of the 2012 Red Sox. Erstwhile standouts like Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia have, thus far, turned in mediocre seasons. Or worse. Injuries have piled up on injuries. There is, by all accounts, discord and disagreement in the clubhouse and the front office. Players aren’t getting along with one another or with their high-profile manager, Bobby Valentine. In fact, there have been numerous reports in recent weeks about players complaining to team owners about Bobby V. Despite assertions that Valentine’s job is safe, the ownership group, led by John Henry, have allegedly spoken with the manager about his tactics.
Coming into this season, we all knew that Valentine was a high-risk, high-reward type guy. His upside is inarguable; Valentine has enjoyed great success in many aspects of his life, both on and off the baseball diamond. But many players have chafed under his command, and his tendency toward arrogance has made him unpopular at times. While there was really no good reason to part ways with Terry Francona, Valentine could have been just what this team needed. Instead, the players have seemingly bucked him at every turn.
Valentine may not handle every situation the right way. Perhaps his approach isn’t such a good match in a pressure cooker like Boston. But at the end of the day, he’s still the manager. And what the players have proven is that they’re little more than a group of spoiled underachievers. instead of griping about Valentine’s management style they should be trying to improve their appalling 57-60 record.
One of the highest payrolls in the game, and this team will miss the playoffs yet again.
This season and past off-season have been a series of inept moves and bad decisions that took a talented team and rendered it a laughingstock. Not only can’t the Red Sox field a winning team, they exacerbate their own predicament by acting like a bunch of schoolchildren. When your leading news story is tattling on Bobby V., you know you’ve reached a new low.
Again, this isn’t to say that Valentine deserves no criticism. Clearly, whatever he’s doing isn’t working. It’s perfectly reasonable to question his performance just as we criticize the players. But this juvenile arguing does no one any good, and is only serving to destroy whatever meager scraps of team chemistry remained. From Josh Beckett’s selfish attitude to John Lackey’s beer-swilling “rehab”, to Pedroia’s “that’s not how we do things here” attitude, to this latest melodrama, the team seems to have no sense of itself. No direction.
The Red Sox used to be “fun”. “Scrappy”. “Hustling”. Now they’re just embarrassing on multiple levels, although to his credit, Pedroia did come out in defense of Valentine, blaming the players after Tuesday’s loss. What do fans have to hold onto at the moment? A blundering front office, a broken management structure, underperforming players, and a horrible record.
To the handful of players who have been grinding it out this year, like Ortiz and his league-leading 1.024 OPS, we should extend our sympathies. Because Fenway can’t be an enjoyable place to play at the moment. And it’s a damned shame that Johnny Pesky had to depart with this season being his final glimpse and memory of the Boston Red Sox.