Many Red Sox fans are hoping the umpires aren't the only ones who get to have the fun of throwing Bobby Valentine out.
2012 has been a difficult year for Red Sox fans to say the least. Murphy's Law has seemed to apply to the team this season, and there is no sign that the difficulties will clear up overnight.
Being that Boston places more importance on their baseball team than most cities, this has created a panic. Fans are, for the most part, furious in all directions.
Perhaps Boston needs to calm down. This season may be all but lost, but that is no reason for overreaction. Here are five reasons to look up.
Red Sox fans go for a ball. Not pictured: Bandwagon riders, pink hats.
Since 2004, one minor complaint among Red Sox fans concerned “those fans in pink hats,” the riders on the bandwagon that arrived at Fenway Park that October. This snowballed into what became “Red Sox Nation,” a branded creation of Red Sox ownership that also became the go-to term for the Fenway Faithful. (The phrase had been around before 2004, but it was not nearly as prevalent at the time.)
Well, the good news for those fans is that bandwagon fans tend not to stick around for the ugly endings. The people who once found Red Sox tickets to be a trendy item are currently trying to figure out where to go now. Pink Red Sox hats are not entirely common around Boston anymore. The bandwagon is emptying.
No, Boston likely will not miss the attention when it is gone. Before 2004, most neutral fans had no trouble making jokes about hapless Red Sox fans, and since then the narrative has painted Boston's baseball-loving population in a particularly negative light. Nobody will smugly try and convince Bostonians that they are no different from Yankee fans for a little while.
Carl Crawford scores a run against Minnesota on August 4. Crawford has become the go-to case for people who think the Red Sox are overpaid.
Payroll has lately become a sticking point among Red Sox fans. The angrier Bostonians will be quick to point out that this roster is “under-performing” for the $170 million or so being spent on the players this season. The problem is, baseball does not work that way and never has.
Players who get large contracts are not coming into their prime, they're already hitting it. Some of them are exiting that prime of their careers. The businesslike phrase here is “paying for past performance.” Every baseball team pays for past performance and nothing more. This is why Albert Pujols, eight years into his prime, gets paid more than Mike Trout, the young star who may be the best player in the American League this season.
The Red Sox are demonstrating, like many other big market clubs before them, that spending a lot of money on players who have already had their best season is no guarantee of success. The supposed “advantage” of having money is turning into a hindrance of having players only a handful of teams could afford. Rather than struggling despite their large payroll, the Red Sox may be struggling because of their large payroll.
The Tampa Bay Rays, being a wild-card contender and division foe, provide an excellent contrast. If the Rays had money and resources to bring in or retain big-name players, consider what their roster would look like. They may well have signed Scott Kazmir and Carl Crawford to long-term, lucrative deals after the 2008 season. Matt Garza may have gotten paid rather than being sent to Chicago. James Shields would have been extended to a big deal by now. Their lack of resources discourages them from giving out the kind of big contracts that, at the moment, are such a thorn in Boston's side.
Besides, those people who spend money on tickets and merchandise are funding the Boston Red Sox. Would those people really prefer that Fenway Sports Group—an entity comprised of people rich enough to own sports teams—keeps that money for themselves rather than giving it to the people that fans actually pay to see? Yes, there are people in the world who work harder than ballplayers and who do some real good. They deserve more than they get. What that has to do with giving entertainers the lion's share of the money spent supporting that form of entertainment is anybody's guess.
(From left) Larry Lucchino, John Henry, and Tom Werner during Spring Training.
(This coming from the guy who wrote an article about how some Red Sox fans resent Liverpool Football Club like Robert Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond resents his brother?” Yeah.)
Quick: What did Fenway Park look like 10 years ago? Also, what did the Red Sox as a team look like 10 years ago? For those who may not recall, it was not pretty. The 2002 Red Sox were the last leg of a three-year string of frustrating baseball and the bitter end of both the Dan Duquette era and the often hideous Yawkey family legacy.
There was a time when Red Sox fans were more than a little embarrassed by their team owners. Whatever one thinks of John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino and their ownership group, nobody has ever accused them of being like-minded to Tom Yawkey. They're certainly far more attentive than Jean during her period in charge, and not nearly as afraid as Mr. Harrington and the Yawkey trust to spend a little money on the situation. None of the previous iterations of Yawkey family money owning the Red Sox ever really considered the idea of renovating Fenway Park rather than replacing it.
Now, all of that seems a bit insane. The group now known as Fenway Sports Group transformed the idling area around Fenway Park into a thriving neighborhood with eateries, hotels, and entertainment spots galore. They turned what John Harrington wanted to replace into the most recognizable landmark in the city of Boston. (One can't even put a Boston-based character in a movie these days without that character referencing Fenway Park. This has been true of everything from Ted to Inglourious Basterds.)
Whatever is going wrong in 2012, fans in 2002 would have taken it in a heartbeat.
It stands to reason that Fenway Sports Group is not actually going to give up on the Red Sox. Unlike the NFL owners with EPL ties, baseball teams are not protected by their league's revenue policies. The Red Sox have to make money on their own, and FSG knows that. Because of that, they will not let their baseball club fall off the map.
The Green Monster in July of 2002. Looks a world different, doesn't it?
While the Red Sox are clearly underperforming, and seem to be in an untenable situation with their clubhouse, there is no question that there is still plenty of talent on their roster. Carl Crawford says he's still hurt, but he's playing pretty well for not being at 100 percent. Despite his behavior this season, Dustin Pedroia certainly has plenty left in the tank. Jacoby Ellsbury, despite his occasional injury issues, remains a tremendously skilled outfielder.
Jon Lester and Josh Beckett may not be done, either, but circumstances seem to indicate that they need a change of scenery. Who knows what this offseason's trade market will look like? Who can say with any certainty what the Red Sox will look like in 2013?
This season has unfolded in a way that suggests big changes are coming. Big changes turned a seemingly hopeless 2002 team into the 2003 and 2004 teams that were so much fun to watch. Between their money and the resources available on their roster, the Red Sox certainly would have the flexibility to change things in the offseason.
Great team chemistry gave the author of this column an excuse to post something related to 2004.
This season, team chemistry has been under the microscope before pitchers and catchers reported. There's supposed discord with the manager. Players continue to drink beer in the clubhouse. Josh Beckett played golf on an off day when he was supposed to be sick in bed.
Wait. Stop the presses. Beckett played golf when given a day off due to a malady? How dare he! Certainly, none of the golf enthusiasts reading this column would ever dare to try something like that.
One wonders if everybody reading this loves all of their co-workers, or if “twenty-five guys in twenty-five cabs” is a closer representation of their work environment. If one does not get along with their co-workers, does that necessarily mean that their work performance will fall off of a cliff?
This is not to say that clubhouse chemistry is overrated or underrated. Nobody knows what clubhouse chemistry means outside of that particular clubhouse. Certainly it appears to the fan that certain baseball teams have ridden an apparent love for one another to tremendous success. The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates and 2004 Boston Red Sox come to mind. Then again, the Yankees of the late seventies and early eighties are infamous for their poor chemistry, yet they have some hardware from that Bronx Zoo era. Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds came one game from winning a championship together.
Clubhouse chemistry does not seem to be a universal force like gravity. It appears, by media reports, that the Red Sox currently do not get along very well. People have even gone so far as to call Josh Beckett a clubhouse “cancer,” as we all know so well that malignant tumors often have two championship rings. (Somehow it seems doubtful, however, that teammate Jon Lester or former teammate Mike Lowell would call Beckett that. Just a hunch.)
Chicken and beer were a problem in 2011 and beer is a problem in 2012. In 2007, Jonathan Papelbon was dancing on the field in his underwear, soaked in beer. After the 2004 season, Kevin Millar made some comments about lucky shots of bourbon before games. At the time, both things seemed to be indicators of good chemistry.
The fact is that nobody knows what goes on in clubhouses but the players. This includes the hard-working reporters who spend a portion of their time in those clubhouses. Citing chemistry as the Red Sox' biggest problem is like trying to guess as to the practical applications of CERN and their Large Hadron Collider without an advanced physics degree. Even if you're right, it's out of sheer luck.