A memo to Red Sox management

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  October 22, 2011 11:49 AM

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Martin Alintuck, a lifelong Red Sox fan from Natick, is an international businessman who was most recently CEO/president of the American presence at the Shanghai World Expo in China. In 2004, he traveled from Beijing to Boston and back – 20,000 miles – to see the Sox win it all. In this guest blog entry, he applies both his business acumen and his fan's perspective to provide some advice for is favorite team.

The theatrical and tragic show now playing in Boston – known as the Collapse of the 2011 Red Sox – has now devolved into allegations of pain killer addictions, beer drinking, fried-chicken eating, video-game playing and a lack of team spirit, And perhaps worst of all, the team’s designated hitter – once pronounced by the owners as “the greatest clutch-hitter in the history of the Boston Red Sox" – is hinting that he might consider joining the dreaded Evil Empire, a.k.a. the Yankees.

soxowners.jpgWhether or not you think Terry Francona should be blamed, whether or not you feel Theo Epstein was run out the door, whether or not you think the outside walls of Fenway should be draped in black as we mourn the collapse, we can all agree that the Olde Towne’s latest soap opera has been handled poorly.

The Red Sox owners have failed Public Relations 101 rules for crisis management and have greatly damaged their relationship with the fans, their most important stakeholders.

As we learned from Richard Nixon (he must have hated the Sox, because Massachusetts was the only state to stand with George McGovern), it is not often the deed itself but how the crisis is handled. This rule applies to the Red Sox. When you have a crisis and don’t handle it well, you damage the relationship with your stakeholders.

The Red Sox have done this.

But as we know every April, “hope springs eternal” in Boston and we will always believe. With that in mind, wearing my frayed Sox cap, waiting for George “Boomer” Scott’s book on his “taters,” and before I head to the post office to send my 6-year-old niece a pink Ellsbury T-shirt, I offer eight ways for the Red Sox management to start to repair its relationship with Red Sox Nation.


1. The Truth Will Set You Free -- Part 1
This recent fumbling, half-statement press conference about Tito’s departure was, to be kind, less than professional. Why not just be honest about the fact that organizations of all kinds sometimes succeed, sometimes fail, and sometimes need change? Tell fans this was not the way you had planned it, that great organizations are constantly changing and innovating and that change was not only necessary, it was inevitable.

Remind everyone what a hero Tito is in Boston and reinforce that this is not about blaming one individual, but it’s about the desire to meet the standards of the greatest fans in the world. And try to smile while you say this.

2. The Truth Will Set You Free -- Part 2
Say something similar about the departure of Theo Epstein. Don’t whitewash it, obfuscate the truth or try to finesse what happened. (And by the way, follow the same approach for future developments.) And keep smiling.

3. Hold Your “Pink” Press Conference…No, It’s Not About the Pink Hats.
In 1994, as First Lady, Hillary Clinton, dressed all in pink, held her famous 66-minute press conference where she addressed every question the media could think to ask her regarding whether she or the President had made money improperly from various business deals they were connected to. You need to be open to answering any and all questions about the collapse, why Tito is gone, why Theo is gone, how you view the season, etc. Let the media and Red Sox Nation see you have nothing to hide.

4. This is Not TMZ … Apologize to Tito.
It’s bad the Sox had an epic collapse. But to have tawdry allegations of pill-popping and marital problems appear, well, that is just heartbreaking. Instead of calling the allegations “an interesting set of theories” as Larry Lucchino said, apologize to Terry Francona on behalf of Red Sox Nation. Even if you do not admit culpability in the smears, “represent,” and show the fans that baseball is what matters, not character assassination and “the blame game.” Man up … and take one for the team and for the Nation.

5. Bye, Bye Lackey.
Ask any Red Sox fan, and trading away John Lackey and his bad attitude is a no-brainer. Lackey is the “poster child” for everything that is wrong with this team. From the bloated salary, to the lack of being in shape, to making excuses for badly played baseball to the willingness to sneer at media, fans and even his (ever-supportive) manager, this guy needs to go. Even if you have to dump him – addition by subtraction – and “eat” $40 million, do it. Remember that great line: “money talks and (everything else) walks.”

6. No More Muddy Chicken…Give Us a Captain.
Thank Jason Varitek on his great career with the team, but it is time to move on. If a captain is supposed to show leadership, push his teammates to work harder and be representative of the type of player little kids from around New England want to be like, then there is no one better than Dustin Pedroia. With Captain Pedey, you can be assured there will be no beer pong in the clubhouse during games.

7. Give Them a Gift (not $300 headphones)…to Show You Care
The team has done a great job ingratiating itself into the fabric of Boston and New England. But now, more than ever, it’s vital you show Red Sox Nation you appreciate how much the Sox mean to Boston and New England. This is an area that historically has put great value in its institutions. Whether it is the Catholic Church, the Great & General Court of Massachusetts or the Globe, people expect and demand to know the institution understands its special place in the Hub of the Universe. Task your PR people with creating a way to showcase true commitment to the Nation.

8. Be Moses: Publish the Red Sox Ten Commandments
This collapse has been called “biblical” and there is no question the passion for the Red Sox around these parts is religious and beyond. So why not create a “ten commandments” where you outline a credo for the Red Sox organization. It could start with: “We will do everything we can to win a World Series championship every year.” It might suggest: “We are a team, we will act like a team and always have each other’s backs.”

It could proffer: “We will be a team of ‘dirt dogs’ doing whatever we can to win.” You get the idea. Grab the moral high ground (assuming you have apologized already, see # 5 above) and set some standards. And then, most important, live by them!

Here are eight ideas. Red Sox Nation is waiting…

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