Boston's prism of failure
The stories about the Red Sox, told on and off the record, have sounded like the final days of the Roman Empire, with the structure crumbling around inhabitants who are too entrenched in their personal failings to do anything about it. The latest story along these lines comes from Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe today.
It's worth a reminder that if the Red Sox had won one more game, none of this would be discussed. If the Yankees had finished off their first-and-third-and-nobody-out rally against the Rays in extra innings, and if Jonathan Papelbon had closed out the Orioles, Boston would've been propelled into the playoffs and maybe into the World Series. With one more victory and one more Tampa Bay loss, the Red Sox ownership would've been compelled to pick up Francona's contract options.
But the Red Sox lost, and in the wake of their defeat, the weakness of their clubhouse culture has been illuminated. When Francona spoke at his last press conferences about players who weren't pulling together, some folks in the Boston front office were stunned -- angry, even -- because this had not been something that had been raised day after day. In the Boston chain of command, Francona was the guy in charge of the clubhouse, the guy charged with making the initial effort to compel fattened pitchers to do their running. Josh Beckett and John Lackey and Jon Lester put on weight during the season, and if there were red flags to be seen in that, it was Francona's responsibility to be the first responder. And if there was push-back from the players, well, it needed to go up the line.
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