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The 2011 Red Sox: “a story of disunity, disloyalty, and dysfunction like few others in franchise history”

Oct 12, 2011, 6:09 AM EDT

File image of Boston Red Sox manager Francona walking back to the dugout during their MLB American League baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park in Boston

There’s a long and rich history of the folks in the Red Sox organization casting blame, settling scores and throwing people under the bus after things have gone sideways on the field.  It’s been a subdued dynamic for the past several years as success and a new professionalism has asserted itself, but with Terry Francona gone and Theo Epstein just about out the door, it has come roaring back.

Bob Hohler’s story in today’s Boston Globe is a classic of the genre. He spoke with “individuals familiar with the Sox operation at all levels” who told him “a story of disunity, disloyalty, and dysfunction like few others in franchise history.”  The knives are out and it’s kind of glorious in a sick way. Highlights:

  • Team sources claim that Terry Francona’s marital problems and use of pain medication affected his performance; Francona vehemently denied it. Sources also say that Francona increasingly took on the role of a lame duck manager with his effectiveness at reaching his players reduced as his suspicion that the team would not exercise his 2012 option grew;
  • There was acrimony and resentment on the part of the players surrounding the scheduling of a double header against the A’s in August due to Hurricane Irene;
  • Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and John Lackey not only drank beer, but played video games and ate takeout chicken and biscuits in the clubhouse during games and cut back on their exercise regimes against the advice and wishes of team trainers;
  • Kevin Youkilis became increasingly frustrated and detached as he battled injuries, and his public spat with Jacoby Ellsbury last year had the effect of Ellbury withdrawing from interaction with most of his teammates this year;
  • Adrian Gonzalez hit the ball, but “he provided none of the energy or passion off the field that the Sox sorely needed.”  David Ortiz was a clubhouse disruption too; and
  • Theo Epstein, you may have heard, signed Carl Crawford and Bobby Jenks and those guys kind of stunk.

What to make of all of this? Old-style Boston blood-letting, I reckon. Not to say that the things listed above weren’t all real problems.  They were. But they’re all things you never hear about if, over the course of six months, the Red Sox win one more game and make the playoffs.  Indeed, Francona said that exact thing in response to all of this:

“You never heard any of these complaints when we were going 80-41 [from April 15 to Aug. 27] because there was nothing there. But we absolutely stunk in the last month, so now we have to deal with a lot of this stuff because expectations were so high.’’

Never change, Boston!

  1. visnovsky - Oct 12, 2011 at 6:44 AM

    Epic hot potato blame game here. Too bad the knives aren’t out for Gardenhire and Bill Smith. The 2011 Twins were an actual disaster.

    • Walk - Oct 12, 2011 at 7:15 AM

      Stories like this one “betrayal” always seem way overblown to me. Sure the guy made some bad deals and left. It was cause and effect he made bad deals so he stunk it up and he had to go. It is not like he was making out with the starters best girls behind their back while they drank beer. Or did he?

    • tashkalucy - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:05 AM

      Red Sox……Yankees
      Yankees……Red Sox
      Red Sox……Yankees
      Yankees……Red Sox
      Red Sox……Yankees
      Yankees……Red Sox

      Do any national outlets know that there are 28 other teams in MLB – albeit they’re not interesting to write about..

      How about a series of articles on the shake-up with the large market – big spending Angels?

      Of course not.

      As far as the national media s concerned, there are only 2 teams in MLB. And the 2 others they talk about are the other New York team and the nearby Phillies.

      What a bunch of bull MLB has turned out to be over the last few decades.

      26 MLB teams that don’t count at all. Just throw them in once in a while when they have a quality free agent or are looking to trade a vet in a salary dump. Then instantaneously we get stories about how
      the Red Sox and Yankees are interested in the guy.

      Now that Puhols and Fielder are free agents, they’ll be getting ungodly amounts of press, and you can be sure that the rumors will start abut the Red Sox and Yankees being interested in them.

      The Onion has the 2 team league down pat.

      • buddaley - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:09 PM

        Again, the same hobby horse and the same nonsense.

        There probably is more news, especially on ESPN, about NY and Boston. But why comment on this site when it is clearly not true here-or at least not in this case.

        As usual, there are 20 posts on this page. 3 of them concern the Red Sox directly. This one refers to an exceptionally provocative article that, had a similar one been written about any team, would be highlighted. The fact that Boston’s collapse was so unique means that articles about their plight will proliferate, and this site would be remiss not to link to them.

        Of the remaining 17, there is one about Cashman and one about Dominic Brown of the Phillies. The Cashman story refers to an ongoing question about the post-season that is larger than the Yankees, and the Phillies reference concerns a major prospect any fan would be interested in.

        That leaves 15 stories. 3 are about the Cubs. Coincidentally, the Red Sox are peripherally involved, and one of the Boston stories relates as Epstein’s leaving raises an important question for Boston. Should the site ignore stories about the GM opening in Boston? And given Epstein’s place in the game and the Cubs situation, his move there is big news.

        The other 12 stories are about the Rangers, Rays, Posey, Orioles, Stow, Pirates and White Sox (2). And finally, there are 4 stories about the playoffs.

        So where is the bias? This continuing harping on too much Boston/NY content is silly unless you can demonstrate it is crowding out other, more interesting, stories. Note that on a recent page, there was an article about the Angels shakeup which followed other stories on the same subject.

      • loki311 - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:03 AM

        It is Pujols, don’t complain if you aren’t knowledgable.

  2. dailyrev - Oct 12, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    “like few [?] others in franchise history.”

    C’mon, let’s at least give it the dignity of uniqueness. Really, has there been any season like it? Can’t wait to hear about all the 6-figure book deals being signed…

  3. xpensivewinos - Oct 12, 2011 at 7:27 AM

    Reality check. This is a team that won 90 games and missed the post-season by one game.

    Everyone is reacting like this team lost 100 games. I think they’re going to be just fine.

    There’s no question there are some really bad guys on this team and Theo has made some horrible decisions in terms of character and/or dollars as it relates to certain people, but some of them are leaving, nearly 40 million in payroll is being freed up and unlike teams that have to worry about money, if they agree to pay Lackey’s contract, someone will be dumb enough to take him.

    They do have a lot of guys who appear to be grotesquely out of shape. That’s a concern.

    • Ari Collins - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:01 AM

      Sadly, most of the money coming off the book will go to pay for raises to the current roster (backloaded contracts and arbitration raises).

      I think it will be a quiet offseason. Not that much to replace, not that many free agent fits.

    • uyf1950 - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:08 AM

      I’m not sure how you come up with $40M being freed up. Coming off the 2011 there are basically: Drew $14M, Cameron $7.7M, Veritek 2M, Wakefield 2M and Papelbon $12M and Ortiz $12.5M. That comes to roughly $50M plus or minus.

      Add back in Papelbon and probably Ortiz for roughly the same amount as they made in 2011 that brings that $50M down to about $26M now add in Gonzalez newly signed contract at about $23M per year. There is virtually nothing coming off the books. Now factor in that the Sox have to replace players like Wakefield and Dice K and with Buchholz new contract kicking in and Bard, Ellsbury and others due arbitration increases and the Sox 2012 payroll could easily jump by $20M over the 2011 payroll and could top $180M if not more in 2012.

  4. proudlycanadian - Oct 12, 2011 at 7:35 AM

    Funny thing about the Boston media. I have noticed that they often come up with leaked information that subsequently turns out to be fairly accurate. There seems to be a culture on that team which causes people in the head office to spill the beans.

    • psousa1 - Oct 12, 2011 at 10:16 AM

      It’s called Theo Epstein. He usually would leak it through Peter Gammons.

  5. ramsyanks - Oct 12, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    Chicken and Biscuts…WOW! 3 rednecks!

    • paperlions - Oct 12, 2011 at 8:22 AM

      What is wrong with chicken and biscuits?

      • natstowngreg - Oct 12, 2011 at 8:58 AM

        mmmm…chicken and biscuits…mmmm

        And I’m not from the South.

      • paperlions - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:24 AM

        I know, right? I F’n love chicken and biscuits.

      • Old Gator - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:28 PM

        How was this permitted to happen? How did chicken and biscuits go undetected by the league office all season long? Don’t they do random urine tests anymore?

    • deathmonkey41 - Oct 12, 2011 at 4:15 PM

      Are you a St. Louis Rams and Yankees fans.

  6. hooks024 - Oct 12, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    You stay classy, boston red sux!

    • CJ - Oct 12, 2011 at 10:48 AM

      how creative. must be a yankee fan with such intelligence. 😀

  7. legacybroken - Oct 12, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    If all this is true then the problems with Boston wont be solved with spending more money but likely having to blow up the team, rebuild the farm and concede the East to NY and Tampa for a few years. That would be the smart move, we’ll find out if they are smart.

    • paperlions - Oct 12, 2011 at 8:29 AM

      Yeah, teams that are 80-41 at some point in the season always benefit from a 6 yr rebuilding plan.

  8. paperlions - Oct 12, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    Imagine that in your job, a critical and usually negative evaluation of every level of your organization was published by multiple outlets every single day, even when you were winning, and the venom in those evaluations did nothing but escalate at even a hint of adversity or decline in performance.

    In that environment, without very strong leadership and open communication, and often even with it, everyone at all levels will always have a list of who to blame at the ready.

    How much fun would it be to work there? How long before you found another place to work? How much more likely would that environment bring out negative qualities of character that may not manifest otherwise?

    Sorry Boston (the city, fans, and media, not the team), but I think you are getting exactly what you asked for….seasons over, better winterize those torches and pitchforks so they are ready for 2012.

  9. xmatt0926x - Oct 12, 2011 at 8:36 AM

    I have it on good information that Lackey would make all sorts of intimidating faces while gobbling up that chicken in the clubhouse! Wow. What a bulldog !!!!

  10. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    “But they’re all things you never hear about if, over the course of six months, the Red Sox win one more game and make the playoffs.”

    Maybe those things helped contribute to the Red Sox not winning that one more game?

    “But we absolutely stunk in the last month, so now we have to deal with a lot of this stuff because expectations were so high.”

    Maybe, Tito, your team stunk in the last month precisely because of all the shit that was going on throughout the season? Could 60% of your starting rotation not giving a damn during games they weren’t playing have contributed to the team stinking the last month? Maybe they got fat and happy and forgot that there are 162 games in a baseball season and not 121?

    • franklapidus316 - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:17 AM

      yeah, there’s this total disconnect. The attitude here, on any stats-based site, and even apparently on the Red Sox themselves,was that none of the nonsense mattered when they went on this 80-41 run, and it only matters now because they sucked down the stretch. And if they sucked 1 less game, even that wouldn’t matter. But hey, maybe it does actually matter. Maybe that dysfunction snowballed as the slide got worse. Who knows. But its silly to kind of dismiss it as post facto analysis.

      • phillyphreak - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:25 AM

        Equally silly to use it as “post facto analysis?”

  11. pellypell - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    They didn’t call him FranCOMA for nothing. This guy was a zombie, the use of sleep inducing, pain reducing drugs doesn’t surprise me at all.

    • antlerclaws - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:39 AM

      Francona seemed pretty animated when he acted as a color analyst during the Rangers-Tigers first 2 ALCS games. I liked him as a broadcaster, thought he was better than McCarver. New career? Seems like a lot less stress.

      • pellypell - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:46 AM

        Of course he did, he can’t refill his prescription until the 15th. Give it another few days, they will have to wheel him around like Weekend at Bernies.

  12. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    God I love the #OldHossRadbourn twitter account:

    Imagine how angry the Boston Globe would have been at my Providence Grays.

    The collapse began when C. Radbourn in a drunken stupor set a fan on fire. Despite a team retreat to the owner’s slaughterhouse and the gift of a rasher of bacon to each player, harmony could not be restored. Especially disturbing were the actions of the team’s skipper, who was found face-down at Madam Chang’s Opium-house, wed to his pet goat.

    Far more exciting than the drivel spewed by the Globe.

  13. Cran Boy - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:14 AM

    Gee, and to think I thought the September swoon was due to playing in the toughest division in baseball with Buchholz and Drew and Youkilis out and others, notably Gonzalez, obviously playing hurt.

  14. yankeesfanlen - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    I prefer the Yankees “sweep it under the rug” position. Lupica, for all his glorious eforts, never figures out which rug it is.

  15. cur68 - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    Boson as a whole should do what Toronto does after (another) season of mediocrity; focus on the upcoming hockey season and the Leaf’s excellent chances for hockey mediocrity again. This was the cycle of anger and bewilderment at how a team with money and talent can suck for so long. The constant, low levels of frustration will keep the ups an downs of disgust from cycling out of control. This “championship” winning stuff only creates unsustainable expectations, IMO.

  16. bucsraysboltsfan - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:44 AM


    • guypatsfan - Oct 12, 2011 at 10:44 AM


  17. cerowb - Oct 12, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    I love all the stories about these “dysfunctional” Red Sox teams. Two World Series titles in eight years. I’ll take that dysfunction any day.

    • mgp1219 - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:44 PM

      Then it will be another 86 years before you see another World Series champion in Boston.
      Smart comment, cerowb.

  18. acheron2112 - Oct 12, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    My favorite part: All year, we hear rumors about how Theo wasn’t that enthusiastic about signing Crawford, but the ownership kind of pushed him into it. Now that Theo’s about to leave, suddenly an “unnamed source” (and obviously I don’t know who, but if I had to guess I’d say his name rhymes with “Barry Bucchino”) puts out there that actually it was all Theo’s idea and it was the ownership who was against it all along. Uh huh.

  19. Jack Marshall - Oct 12, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    This article is one of the best illustrations of hindsight bias I have ever seen. Change one factor—say, Carl Crawford playing up to his career average, or Clay Buchholtz staying healthy, or Daniel Bard not losing the strike zone for two weeks—and nobody cares about what the starting pitchers were doing during games.

    • lovesmesomeme - Oct 12, 2011 at 10:54 AM

      Excellent point

  20. paperlions - Oct 12, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    The dysfunction was obviously all Manny’s fault.

    It is Boston, when things do go perfectly, the media finds the easiest target(s), aims their venom at him/them, and the mindless masses follow.

  21. guypatsfan - Oct 12, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    If I was a baseball free agent Boston would be the last place I’d want to go. I’ve never seen a city go through such angst every time one of its sports teams loses. It’s like everybody slaps on hairshirts and flogs their backs with chains over every loss!

  22. brewcrewfan54 - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    Gotta love the after the fact smear campaign against guys who led ya to 2 World Series Championships. Sox lost for 86 years because they didn’t have the right guys making decisions. Apparently they think these people are easy to find.

  23. jamkarat - Oct 12, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    It became increasingly apparent during the season that the BoSox were self involved and the “” was heard from top to bottom in the organization.
    The entire organization’s immature handling of success is obvious.

  24. tominma - Oct 12, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    This collapse is 100% on the players. Francona’s style is that he expects his players to conduct themselves in a way that fosters tean unity and professionalism. He was always considerate of his players and never called them out in public! It’s the players that failed HIM–not the other way around! He could have been harder on them, but then he wouldnt be the namager that he is! Itis true that Theo Epstein made 3 HUGE mistakes in the last couple of years, with Lackey ( who had marital problems), Crawford who is NOT worth his contract ( tho mebbe they signed him to keep him away from the Yankees and short right field), and Bobby Jenks. Ownership lost confidence in both because they couldnt solve the problems but it was 100% on the players! That’s my view anyway.

    Re-signing Papelbon and Ortiz is a must as is rebuilding the farm system!

  25. meteor32 - Oct 12, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    Does this mean we can blame the 1985 World Series collapse on Wade Boggs for eating fried chicken in the club house before every game of his major league career?

    • tominma - Oct 12, 2011 at 5:32 PM

      The Red Sox werent in the World Series in 1985! And I’ve never heard anything about Wade Boggs eating and drinking DURING the game! Maybe Bill Buckner did tho!

    • meteor32 - Oct 13, 2011 at 12:21 AM

      Sorry, 1986 World Series. I doubt Wade Boggs caused the Cardinals to collapse against Kansas City.

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