One could easily make the case that the Red Sox have been the best baseball franchise in the world since the turn of the century. Their three World Series titles in that time are only matched by the San Francisco Giants, and Fenway Park is packed almost every single night.
Part of the Sox’ success has been their cut-throat style - dropping beloved players, coaches, front office people and even announcers at the drop of a hat. It’s just “business,” John Henry and Co. will tell you – but unlike Bill Belichick and the Patriots, the Red Sox’ “business” decisions work, maybe, half of the time? A quarter of the time?
So today, hours after the Sox were swept out of the playoffs by the Cleveland Indians, it is a good time to ponder whether or not the right people are still running this franchise. Yeah, there’s been plenty of success with this ownership group – but they need to know that the media and the fans in this town can be just as cut-throat as they are.
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I mean, that sweep we just saw was downright embarrassing. Outside of the chicken and beer fiasco of 2011 and the Theo Epstein gorilla suit episode of 2005, it’s hard to imagine an uglier time in the Henry ownership (I’ll play nicey nice and not even mention the last place finishes in 2012, 2014 and 2015 … oops, just did).
Guys like Theo Epstein, Terry Francona, Jon Lester, Andrew Miller, Mike Napoli, David Ross, John Lackey, Coco Crisp and Ben Cherington are all alive in the 2016 MLB postseason right now. Sean McDonough is now the lead play-by-play man for Monday Night Football, and your grandma still misses Don Orsillo. All of these people are former Red Sox employees, most were run out of town by ownership, and all are laughing their asses off at the state of the Sox right now.
The Lester stuff is the most embarrassing of all. The Red Sox ultimately chose to give David Price $217 million over seven years instead of keeping a proven postseason commodity for five years, $120 million. In case you haven’t heard, Price was last seen getting rocked by Francona’s Indians in Cleveland last Friday in Game 2, going just 3.1 innings on 65 pitches and allowing five earned runs on six hits in a Sox loss. He finished this postseason with an ERA of 13.50. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Jon Lester is doing the things Jon Lester does in October. He went eight innings against the Giants last week and did not allow a run in a 1-0 Cubs win.
The guy who brought Lester to Chicago was aforementioned Brookline native Theo Epstein, a guy who is well-positioned right now to be the architect behind breaking the two most notorious “curses” in North American pro sports. Epstein famously clashed with Larry Lucchino time and time again in Boston, and just wouldn’t stand for being a Henry puppet. Henry told WBZ in 2011 that he believed the reason that Theo left was because being the GM for the Red Sox was “too stressful of a job.”
Gee, wonder who made the job for Theo so stressful? And if stress truly was a major deterrent for Theo – why did he voluntarily go to fix the friggin’ Chicago Cubs, who have the most ridiculous championship drought in the history of man?
A lot of these guys thriving in this year’s postseason helped the Red Sox to titles in 2004, 2007 and/or 2013 – but if you watched any Red Sox pre-game ceremonies this past season you would have thought David Ortiz won all three of those titles by himself.
Where was that type of hero worship for Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling or Theo or Francona or even Manny Ramirez? I won’t hold my breath for Henry and Co. to go to bat for Schilling and/or Manny when it comes to either of them landing in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Yeah, Ortiz deserved a swan song, but it was entirely over the top from April through last week. You just know that the Red Sox were disgusted that they couldn’t have squeezed one last dollar out of Ortiz’s organic trot back out to the Fenway mound and tip of the cap 20 minutes after Game 3 ended Monday night.
“The Official David Ortiz Curtain Call, sponsored by W.B. Mason” could have been a thing, after all.