Thursday, August 23, 2012

Red Sox Omega

Before the beginning of the 2011 baseball season an article was written in the Boston Globe that essentially guaranteed that the Red Sox would win the World Series in October.  The article went through the opening day line-up and pitching staff and concluded, as if asking rhetorically--hands splayed and palms opened--"who could beat such a team."

For most of the 2011 season, the Red Sox were the best team in baseball. But then, a year ago, the team disintegrated--just began to lose in a way that was difficult to believe.  Somehow they squandered an insurmountable lead, and found themselves out of the playoffs.  The owners fired the manager, vowed to make changes, and resurrect the team that would be king.

This year, the Red Sox have not recovered.  And the wizards on the airwaves are shmoozing about why.  An issue that keeps surfacing is a lack of communication.  Another is clubhouse discontent.  The manager is cited as not being able to get the most out of players. The pitching coach has been fired.  Talk is that the manager is soon to follow.

As I drove back from the grocery store an hour ago, I heard another announcer wail about problems in communication and the fact that there just isn't cohesion among the players.

The reason the Red Sox are not winning has not much to do with communication or lack of cohesion.  I am a big proponent of the importance of communication and a positive team culture, but that is not the reason the Red Sox are--to use an expression my mother and father are wont to use--"from hunger."

The reason the Red Sox have gone from presumptive alpha to incontrovertible omega is because their players are not playing well, and many are injured.  Josh Becket, the ace of the pitching staff, is just pitching poorly.  Every game he gets rocked early. Jon  Lester, the second best pitcher on the team, has had a poor year as well, losing as often as he is winning.  So, the top two pitchers are not only not "stoppers" but not stopping anybody. (A "stopper" is a pitcher who can stop a losing streak, by pitching excellently and therefore ending a team slump before it gains momentum).

The best hitter on the team is out with a hamstring injury and has been so out since mid July. A shmeggeggi who was having a decent year got mad at himself after making an out during July so he smashed his hand into the clubhouse door, breaking it to put him out for the season. A zillionaire left fielder came back late and promptly showed that he was still injured and recently went out for surgery. The team traded its reliable third basemen so that a young phenom can play. As soon as the trade was made, the phenom showed himself to be quite ordinary and then had his hand broken a week or so ago.

The reason the Sox are losing is because they could not beat the Bad News Bears with the lineup they have. It is not about communication problems; it's because the catcher is not batting his weight, the cleanup hitter should be batting sixth, the third basemen is a 27 year old minor league pick up, and the pitchers could not strike out my paternal grandmother--now deceased since 1966.

It is amusing to listen to radio announcers blame the manager.   Casey Stengel once quipped that he got very smart once Mantle and Maris started hitting homeruns in the early 1960s.  Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox manager, would be Einstein if Beckett and Lester pitched like we thought they could and if David Ortiz was not injured.  If that were to occur, the communication in the clubhouse would be just grand.

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