Success Is the New Curse Haunting the Boston Red Sox
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From the Curse of the Bambino to the Curse of Success: The Boston Red Sox are learning what it's like to go from a star-crossed franchise to a Boston version of the Bronx Zoo.
We doubt that Red Sox fans long for the days of Bucky Bleeping Dent, the ball going through Bill Buckner's legs and failed World Series bids against the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets.
Winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007 has changed expectations in Boston, however, and certainly changed the atmosphere in the the clubhouse. And although only three players remain from the 2004 champions and six from 2007, the air of entitlement has infected everyone wearing a Red Sox uniform.
In recent days owner John Henry and team president Larry Lucchino have been forced to speak publicly about a so-called player mutiny and a meeting held in late July in New York in which key players supposedly called for the firing of manager Bobby Valentine.
This is what happens when management lets the inmates run the asylum.
The Red Sox players who were part of the 2004 and 2007 World Series champions were treated like conquering heroes. They became overnight folk heroes for winning the first championship since 1918.
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Winning a World Series is expected in the Bronx, where the Yankees consider it a rite of autumn. The New England Patriots have won three Super Bowls with the combination of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, but you'd never know it by the way they conduct business.
But Boston felt it owed the Red Sox more than just a parade for ending a drought of 86 years. And while they have never been the American League's version of the Chicago Cubs, they earned a reputation as an accident waiting to happen.
Winning in 2004 changed that. Expectations rose especially when the Red Sox won the World Series again in 2007. Their success and their payroll made them more comparable to the hated Yankees than the lovable Cubs.
Unfortunately, a handful of players apparently think baseball is like golf: Win the Masters and get a lifetime exemption. Although Josh Beckett, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz remain from the 2007 World Series champions, their influence has been great enough to create the turmoil that exists in 2012.
The truth is that Henry and Lucchino should never have fired manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein, the primary architects of the Red Sox championships, even if there were underlying reasons we don't know about.
It sent the wrong message to the clubhouse where Beckett, Ortiz and Pedroia are the team leaders and most influential voices.
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Bobby Valentine has the kind of prickly personality that can rub people the wrong way, but he merely exacerbated the clubhouse dysfunction; he didn't create it.
It may not be popular but the Red Sox need to close the book on their championship seasons and start all over again in 2013. The fans may not like it but Pedroia should be traded and Big Papi told thank you but your days in Beantown are over.
And while it will be tough to digest, the Red Sox should eat most of Beckett's remaining two years and peddle him to the National League.
Perhaps Valentine wasn't the right choice as manager but it is almost irrelevant whether he returns for a second year. Henry, Lucchino and Red Sox fans will always be thankful for what the 2004 and 2007 teams accomplished, but they deserve better than chicken, beer and bad-mouthing from the players.
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