Dan Shaughnessy

Season is suddenly ripe for gripes

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / May 19, 2010

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NEW YORK — Rain delayed the start of last night’s Red Sox-Yankees game. The day-long downpour canceled batting practice and made life miserable for fans who arrived on schedule.

But the worst thing about the rain was that it gave the Red Sox more time to spend with one another in the visitors’ clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. The way things are going these days, you don’t want these 25 guys locked into a room together for long stretches.

It’s almost like 2000, when Carl Everett and Darren Lewis were rolling around on the clubhouse carpet, or 2001, when the team imploded after Jimy Williams was fired and nutty professor Joe Kerrigan insisted, “All is well!’’

Tim Wakefield, a 15-year veteran with the Sox, was on those teams and remembered, “It wasn’t fun. I remember in 2001 Jimy got fired and we were still in the hunt and then it went downhill.’’

What about this season?

“I think if we win, we’ll be OK,’’ said Wake.

About seven hours later, the Sox were 7-6 winners in a nine-inning war of attrition with the hated Yankees. It lasted four hours and nine minutes (take that, Joe West!) and ended early this morning when Jonathan Papelbon gained some revenge with a heart-attack save in the ninth.

Before the game, manager Terry Francona pledged the Sox would not quit, and they made him look good, winning after trailing CC Sabathia, 5-0, in the sixth inning.

“There’s nothing else to do but keep playing and we did that,’’ said Francona.

Unfortunately, one hard-fought win against the Yankees cannot undo the damage done as the season passes the quarter mark. The Sox clubhouse in 2010 is not a happy place. Too many guys have gripes.

Start with the old bones. Wakefield wants to be a starting pitcher but isn’t allowed to start. Monday he warmed up in the first inning because the increasingly annoying Daisuke Matsuzaka couldn’t get anybody out. Wakefield got into the game a couple of hours after Dice-K’s ridiculous first and pitched well. Then his first victory since last July was erased when Papelbon surrendered a pair of two-run homers in the ninth.

Mike Lowell is clearly miffed. The Sox traded him last winter, but reluctantly took him back when the deal was voided. Now he’s sharing the DH spot with David Ortiz, but Ortiz was given the start last night even though the Sox were facing the lefty Sabathia. Lowell spoke at some length in front of his locker after the lineup was posted, said he has no role on the team, and suggested all parties might benefit if the Sox release him.

Francona was not happy with Lowell and when asked about the aging third baseman would only say, “He hasn’t said anything to me.’’

Meanwhile we have Ortiz, who has been coddled and protected by his bosses, yet sees a conspiracy in which the Boston brass is using NESN as a weapon to turn fans against the slugger. In an impressive opus for, Howard Bryant uncovered the Ortiz conspiracy theory and also reported that sources in the Sox front office claim Ortiz left the ballpark early in Toronto April 27.

Asked about leaving a game early, Ortiz last night said, “That’s a lie.’’ Francona also disputed the report.

Let’s not forget Matsuzaka and Victor Martinez. V-Mart was clearly annoyed with Dice-K shaking him off in the first inning Monday and said, “I don’t know. He’s the one . . . I’m just back there trying to help him go through the game. At the end, he’s the one who has the ball in his hand.’’

Francona and pitching coach John Farrell gathered Dice-K and Martinez for a clear-the-air meeting yesterday.

Matsuzaka further confused his bosses by claiming that he knows why he’s having one bad inning per start, but he doesn’t want to reveal the reason. It’s pretty clear Matsuzaka has worn out his welcome with the Sox. He’s never been viewed as a team guy and his performance and manner are getting under everyone’s skin.

The manager has remained impressively composed through this spate of spite. Francona generally equates trips to Yankee Stadium with root canals, but he was in good humor for most of the two-game trip.

Referencing Papelbon’s crucial play in the ninth (with men on first and third and the runner breaking, Papelbon stabbed a Juan Miranda scorcher, turned toward second, turned toward home, then got the out at first) Francona said, “Pap fielded that ball like John Belushi.’’

Perfect imagery. Papelbon certainly looked like Bluto making his night moves for Delta House.

Before the game, when Francona talked about Dice-K learning to “stop the bleeding’’ in his sloppy innings, Tito paused and said, “I hate to bring coagulation into it.’’

Francona, who takes blood-thinning medication, might need antidepressants to get through this season.

General manager Theo Epstein is also in for a long, hot summer. Some fans didn’t like it when Theo was spotted at a Pearl Jam concert in Boston Monday while the Sox were enduring an epic collapse at Yankee Stadium. More serious fans are concerned with the dysfunctional roster and new players who are not performing as expected. Marco Scutaro committed two bad errors on routine balls last night, good for three unearned runs.

Wakefield says the chemistry will be OK if they win. After 40 games, the Sox are a .500 team and a lot of players are unhappy.

Fans, too.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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