Chris Sale, David Price, Craig Kimbrel, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez: what do these players have in common? Two things; first, if you put them all on a hypothetical team together, you’d assume that team would be pretty good. Second, they’re all part of a baseball team right now, and it’s not looking as good as you’d think.
A week or two ago, the Red Sox had over an 85% chance of winning the division. Now, radio hosts in Boston sports media are wondering if Farrell will be fired on the team’s day off tomorrow if there’s a loss tonight. Sometimes, when a player is seeing the ball well at the plate, people say “it looks like a beach ball for him right now”. For the 2017 Sox, it must look like a pistachio.
The biggest problem on this team isn’t the bats, though—the team is being run like an AAU squad filled with jerky 14-year old adolescents. When the team was 4 games up on 1st place, cruising towards October, no one was talking about their success. They were talking about David Price and his antics, John Farrell and the media, and whether or not Dustin Pedroia is a leader. He’s not, and that’s a huge problem.
Let’s begin with “Dirt Dog”, shall we? Actually, let me call him by the new nickname I’ve created; “the Dirt-Douche”. When Matt Barnes threw at Manny Machado’s head after the controversial slide that injured Pedey, Pedroia put all the blame on the pitching staff. He literally said “that’s not me, it’s them”. Who, in the history of baseball and the media, has ever called members of his OWN TEAM “them”? At the end of that interview, Pedroia let his frustration out, asking “seriously? Can I go home now?” What a whiny, childish way to handle a situation. After a hot and controversial fight between yourself and a division rival, Pedroia deflected blame and came across with the same professionalism as those 14-year old’s playing AAU.
Pedroia was supposed to be the leader after David Ortiz rode off into the sunset. He’s not. What about other veterans? There’s not many—many of your players are too young, including Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, Benintendi, Vazquez, Marrero, Devers, E-Rod, and even Drew Pomeranz. Maybe it’s Price, the veteran ace who has been in many playoff races in this division and has been on 4 teams. Nope! He’s pulling schoolyard bully intimidation tactics on Dennis Eckersley, Hall of Fame closer, on the team freaking plane. He’s blasting music during media availability to make the lives of reporters more difficult. Congratulations, Boston; you paid $217MM for the softest, pettiest, and most sensitive baseball player in Red Sox history.
It isn’t just youth—this Red Sox team was constructed with absolutely zero eye towards chemistry, the clubhouse, or even the personalities of the guys on the team.
I blame this on Dave Dombrowski 100%. Your two best pitchers, Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel, are both introverted guys who fit the “strong silent type” mantra perfectly. They’re not going to take control of the clubhouse. They probably have their noise cancelling headphones on while all this is happening to avoid this nightmare completely. Same thing with the young stars; Xander, Jackie, and Benintendi are the quietest players you could find. Their talent is great, but if you know your core players are guys who need to be lead…. Get a leader.
This team wasn’t constructed like Theo Epstein’s teams were. There is no Kevin Millar, no Mike Lowell, no Jonny Gomes, and clearly no David Ortiz. Those guys are more than just players—people say that to boost their value when they end up here, but it’s more than just a nice guy to hang around. You have created a 25-man roster full of people who are either spoiled, self-important A-holes who care about cashing their checks and maintaining their image, or players who are too gun-shy to take control over a toxic environment.
Why are Price and Porcello attacking Dennis Eckersley? The NESN broadcasters are providing entertainment for the fans, not the players. How many times do you think David Price has said “Do you know who I am?” in his life? Yes, David, I know who you are; you’re the guy with a 3.82 ERA making $30MM to be a negative center of attention. You’re the second-best pitcher on a team that can’t score runs and has lost 4 games in a row.
The MLB is not a video game. This is not MLB: The Show, where you can acquire players with the highest overalls and win championships until they’re all 35. These are adult men who spend over half the calendar year together every day. If you have a bunch of losers, or guys who need to be led by winners to be successful, you’re not even going to win the division. Look at the Yankees. Look at that team, and the way they play together and interact. It’s shocking—the Yankees are the lovable bunch of idiots who are playing hard every night, and the Red Sox are the pompous hitmen for hire who only care about the check clearing.
If this team loses a Chris Sale start today, John Farrell’s job is in immediate danger. Once this team slips out of first, all hell will break loose. Get prepared, folks; this collapse is going to be worse than 2011. This team needs an identity, and fast, or else their identity will be “Pompous A-holes Working on their Golf Game”.