7 Ways the Boston Red Sox Can Totally Change Their Leadership for 2013
It's hard to believe, but despite last season's Red Sox finishing the year with the largest September collapse in baseball history, the 2012 squad will instead be remembered for having one of the most dysfunctional clubhouses ever.
This is what happens when no player steps up to lead.
When captain Jason Varitek retired following last season, the "C" on his chest was supposed to metaphorically transfer to the jersey of the new de facto captain Dustin Pedroia.
Or so everyone thought.
The transition to Pedroia never seemed to happen, as the second baseman hasn't stepped up to the plate and acknowledged his new role; even though it was never formally bestowed upon him.
Perhaps, this would have been acceptable if there had been someone else in the clubhouse to lead, either vocally or by example.
There hasn't been.
Instead, the clubhouse has run rampant with tattletaling, mutiny and overall tomfoolery.
Luckily, there are ways to fix these issues and start anew in 2013.
Ownership Needs to Take a Step Back
It starts from the top.
Principal owner John Henry famously said last season on Boston-area sports radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub, "Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox."
Well, Larry Lucchino is running the Red Sox into the ground.
When former general manager Theo Epstein left after last season to take his whiz-kid talents to Chicago, his replacement, Ben Cherington, had his reins cut short by Lucchino on one of the first moves he tried to make.
Replacing Terry Francona at the helm was no simple task, but when Cherington found his guy in Dale Sveum, Lucchino essentially said, "Sorry, kid. We know better."
And that's how Bobby Valentine was hired.
If there's dysfunction at the very, very top of the organization, it sets a bad example and gives an undertone of "every man for himself" that trickles down into the clubhouse.
Cherington might not end up being a great general manager, but let him do his job to find out.
Once roles in the organization are clearly defined from the top down, the pecking order will sort itself out from there.
Ben Cherington Needs to Grow a Pair
Yes, ownership stepped over Cherington in order to sign Valentine.
But he let them.
At no point in Epstein's career would he have let himself be bullied by ownership into making a blatantly bone-headed move.
If Cherington didn't agree with the ownership's decision to hire Valentine, he must have asked himself "Why am I here? What did they give me this job for if they don't let me make these kinds of decisions?"
What he should have been asking himself was "WWTD?"
What would Theo do?
Just a season removed from orchestrating the end of Boston's 86-year World Series title drought, Epstein resigned from his position in October 2005 over a disagreement with upper management.
That takes cojones, my friend.
As it turned out, ownership deemed him invaluable and brought him back less than three months later for what was assuredly a boatload of cash.
It's tough to say that Cherington should have stepped down once they wouldn't listen to him right off the bat, but he does need to stand up for himself and be bold.
That sort message sent across the organization would do wonders for everyone involved, especially the players.
Bobby Valentine Needs to Make Like a Tree and Leave by Example
The title to this slide is a play on words.
Valentine's managerial career is a play on managerial careers.
He's a joke.
At no point did he belong in this Red Sox clubhouse.
In fact, the idea that he was even interviewed for this position in the first place made no sense.
The way he was billed to the fans, players and media was that he was going to come in here, clean things up, be stern with his guys and not take any bull from anybody.
So much for the new sheriff in town.
Valentine keeled over immediately after his first attempt at shaking things up by calling out Kevin Youkilis, rapidly losing the respect of the entire town of Boston, the players in the clubhouse and probably his fans back in Japan.
The man needs to be sent packing. As soon as possible.
If the manager can't stand by his word, why should the players?
Bring in a manager who will actually do the things Valentine promised.
The Fans Need to Take a Stand and Stop Supporting a Team That Doesn't Love Them
Why are the fans continuing to put up with this?
The ownership is clearly more into stretching their current sellout streak than putting good baseball on the field.
And the fans don't seem to care.
Over the past 15 years, the average Red Sox fan has transformed from the die-hard, "win or lose, we'll still complain about them, but also support them because we love baseball and we're from Boston" fan, into a soft, pink-hat-wearing, Jacoby Ellsbury-adoring-because-he's-cute super fan.
In fact, the fans in the stands in "Major League II" are very much like what the Red Sox fan pre-2004 generally was.
They cared about the baseball being played.
Now, the fans care about singing along to Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," drinking $9 beers and texting.
It's more of a social event now.
This helps the ownership get away with what they're getting away with, and the real fans need to stand up and combat this trend.
If the real fans can lead a charge and have their voices heard, changes will be made.
Clay Buchholz Needs to Continue His Dominance and Become the Ace
He's the guy.
He's the pitcher that is going to head this rotation for the next five years (club options for 2016-17) and be the team's stopper.
It's hard to believe that it's been five years since a wiry 23-year-old righty no-hit the Baltimore Orioles in his second major league start.
It's also hard to believe that Buchholz, who was 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in 2010, started this season so poorly.
Buchholz's second-half numbers are sparkling, however.
After a dismal first half of a misleading 8-2 record (he had a 5.53 ERA), he's recovered nicely by allowing just 12 earned runs since the All-Star break.
This is the true Clay Buchholz.
If there has been one player to step up at the right time this season, it's been the right-hander, who recently celebrated his 28th birthday.
After news surfaced that Buchholz was suffering from esophagitis earlier in the season, there hasn't been an ounce of reason to believe that once he was over his medical issues that he wouldn't return to the path of dominance he was bound for.
He's a quiet leader, but he sets the right example.
If he keeps doing what he's doing, he'll be on the mound on Opening Day 2013 and beyond.
Jon Lester Needs to Be His Own Man
Did Pedro Martinez follow in anyone's shadow?
Did Curt Schilling?
And neither should Jon Lester.
Lester desperately wants to be considered a serious ace on this staff, but can't be until he cuts his ties with Josh Beckett. He's been riding his coattails for too long and needs to really go out on his own and make a name for himself.
It's quite possible that this wasn't as big of an issue prior to late last season, when it was revealed that he, Beckett and John Lackey basically had partner shares in Popeye's and Budweiser. However, now that the perception by nearly everyone is that Lester is Beckett's lap dog, the southpaw needs to separate himself from Beckett and shake this image.
Only those casting the shadows can be leaders, not the ones following them.
If Carl Crawford Is Ready for Opening Day, He Needs to Be the Offensive Leader
Crawford is done for the 2012 season.
He should have had his Tommy John surgery months ago, but that is a whole other argument.
If the prized free agent from the 2010 offseason is on the field on Opening Day 2013, look for the outfielder to have so much fire in his eyes that he could burn turf.
The rebound that he needs to have to not only make the Boston fans actually cheer for him, but to resurrect the image of what was once a promising career, will be colossal.
There won't be a player on the field next season more determined than Crawford.
If he can get out there and show what he's made of, expect the rest of the team to follow suit.