Wind of change
It’s back to the bad old days over on Yawkey Way. The Red Sox of 2011 are the Red Sox of Buddy LeRoux and Haywood Sullivan - doofus co-owners wrestling on the carpet of their Fenway Park offices back in 1983. They are the Red Sox of Tom Yawkey and his chorus line of drunken employees finishing out of the money from the 1930s through the ’60s.
There are so many things wrong with the Sox at this hour, it’s difficult to know where to start. The manager is gone, the general manager is gone, the owners are in hiding, and the players are a loathsome lot totally unworthy of the money and adulation they receive.
Theo Epstein’s gone. It was a seismic event when he quit in 2005. This time, his departure is lost in the mix as the Sox go from freefall to nuclear fallout. The Fenway lawn is scorched earth.
Did we ever think the vaunted “new’’ owners would make Frank McCourt look good?
Apologies are in order, all around. John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino need to come out of hiding and say they are sorry for this embarrassment.
Ditto for the cowardly ballplayers. Instead of blasting a reporter (“where’d you get this number?’’), phony captain Jason Varitek needs to explain how the ballplayers in the clubhouse abandoned their professionalism on his watch. Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and John Lackey need to drop the bad-ass act (none of them returned calls from Bob Hohler before his explosive story in Wednesday’s Globe) and apologize to fans for their disrespect of the manager and the franchise. Put down the long-necks and the Double Down sandwiches and tell the fans you are sorry.
But why would they? They are joyless and enabled. We learn from Hohler’s story that when players complained about having to play a day-night doubleheader, out-of-touch Sox owners gave them $300 headphones and a night on Henry’s yacht.
The worst collapse in the history of baseball wasn’t enough shame for this crew. They had to take on the persona of entitled rock stars who flip off the fans and demand only red M&Ms in their dressing room.
John Henry and friends have lived a charmed existence since buying the ball club in December of 2001. They have won a couple of World Series and made Fenway Park a tourist destination on a par with the Bunker Hill Monument and Old Ironsides. They sold their baseball souls to sell a few Fenway bricks and boost the ratings of their hideous network.
Now we’ve all had enough with Roush Racing and Liverpool soccer. Yankee fans never had to worry about George Steinbrenner taking his eyes off the prize in the interest of building ships.
Try this on with your pink hat: On the final night of the regular season, while the Sox were playing in Baltimore, fighting for their playoff lives, virtual ads during the baseball broadcast reminded you to watch Liverpool-Wolverhampton the next day at 4 p.m. That’s the same time that the Sox would have been playing their one-game playoff against Tampa Bay on TBS.
Got that? On Thursday, Sept. 29, at 4 p.m., the geniuses at NESN wanted you to watch soccer - instead of a one-game playoff involving the Red Sox.
Consistent with this insult, NESN the next day cut away from analysis of a postmortem press conference featuring Terry Francona and Theo Epstein (remember them?) at Fenway. While NESN rival Comcast went knee-deep into analysis, the Sox flagship TV station went to soccer.
And now we have nothing from the owners since the night Francona was fired - unless you count the Baghdad Bob hour they granted to their flagship radio station that was simulcast on their own television network. There was plenty of talk about “shelf life’’ that day. Lucchino finished a lot of Henry’s sentences.
Can anyone blame Epstein for wanting to get away from this? Any chance he was encouraged to look elsewhere? I know one thing: Sox fans won’t be happy to see the ball club lose the still-under-contract-Theo in exchange for more cash for Henry. What happened to getting Matt Garza? Or couldn’t the Sox have at least made the Cubs take Lackey in a package deal with the beleaguered GM?
When Epstein quit in 2005, there was much anguish in Red Sox Nation. This time the departure gets lost in the avalanche of negativity that washes over the franchise. It’s, “Thanks for playing, Theo. We’ll think of you every time Carl Crawford strikes out for the next six years.’’
The rebuilding of the brand can begin only when Epstein is officially gone. The Sox need to name Ben Cherington GM, then go about the business of regaining the fans’ trust. It would be nice if they’d hire a strong-willed field manager, but we fear they’re going to go with a no-name who’ll carry out the orders of Carmine the Computer, Tom Tippett, and Bill James.
The Sox expected to spend this winter preparing for the glorious 100th celebration of Fenway Park. Instead they are picking up pieces of their broken brand as they prepare to raise the third-place banner and celebrate Fenway’s centennial on April 20, 2012.
Maybe it’s time to show real fans that you are back in the business of baseball and junk “Sweet Caroline’’ in the middle of the eighth.
Bad times never seemed so bad.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.