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The mess grows in Boston
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
It was close to 5:15 Wednesday afternoon, just about halfway between games of a day-night doubleheader. In the grandstands, a group of ushers were sitting, on break, some of them eating. "How do you like your garbage for $45 a seat?" one asked a season-ticket holder who happened to walk by. "We don't even try to clean anything between games."
The usher has heard many a complaint recently about the state of Fenway Park; the lack of effort to clean anything between games two days in a row left the lower box seats, the ones that run $45 apiece, looking like Sunday morning at the Weymouth Dump. Two scouts that came into Boston following the Indians for postseason coverage complained about the constant smell of garbage in the park. Media members who work late after games talk about the rats that scurry around when the park empties. "What's happening to this place?" asked another usher. "Are these people broke? This place has become a pigsty."
Right around the time the ushers sat down on break between games, in the Red Sox clubhouse Carl Everett had launched into an obscenity-filled, threatening tirade at Boston Globe writer Gordon Edes. There were club officials present, but they did nothing until Edes replied, "Nice game, Carl," and walked away so his teammates could have some peace. Edes was then confronted by those club officials and accused of a cheap shot. Just an hour earlier, when bench coach Buddy Bailey had taken over for the ejected Jimy Williams, he was yelled at and ridiculed in the dugout by Everett for not having Donnie Sadler steal. In case you're wondering, one Red Sox official did apologize to Edes on behalf of the Red Sox organization.
At 10:30 Thursday morning, before the fourth game of the five-game, 51-hour series with the Indians, Williams wrote out a lineup so that his players would know who was playing in the 1:05 game. "Everett ran well on that ball he hit so hard in the gap in the nightcap," said Williams. "He may be ready to play in the field in the day, and I'll DH him at night." There was no BP that morning. Reporting time was on the blackboard: "Dressed at 11:30."
Right about noon, Everett strolled in, and when he saw his name was in the lineup, he erupted. He unleashed a tirade of 12-letter words, made an obscenity-filled reference to the manager's future and then was confronted by teammate Darren Lewis, whose character is so respected that Dusty Baker named his son after the outfielder. Lewis quietly told Everett that he and the team did not appreciate the lack of respect he showed his teammates and manager by showing up as he did. Everett screamed that Lewis had disrespected him and coaches Jim Rice and Tommy Harper had to separate them.
After the day game, Williams made it clear that he was not happy with Everett's reporting time and noted that all Everett had to do was call and say he was going to be late and could not play. Earlier this season, Williams had been the subject of an obscenity-filled tirade from Everett when the manager fined him for leaving the team without permission at the end of a road trip.
The manager made it clear that after run-ins with him, an umpire, a coach, two Globe writers and now a teammate, the constant late arrivals and temper tantrums had worn thin.
But then during the night game, GM Dan Duquette assembled the print media and backed Everett. "All that counts is performance, and Carl Everett is a big reason we're in the wild-card race," said Duquette, who said they could address his late arrivals. Now, when Everett launched into his first verbal attack towards the manager, then got four hits, Duquette said, "Maybe he should do that every day if he gets four hits."
Then, when the papers and talk shows were ablaze Friday, Duquette ripped "the perception of a rift" between him and the manager. Sorry, but that's the perception held by players, coaches, the media and almost everyone near the Red Sox. "Jimy's office is bugged," said one opposing coach this week, only half-kidding.
And Saturday afternoon, Williams called writers into his office and ripped back at the GM. When Derek Lowe called the Red Sox "a dysfunctional family," he wasn't kidding, and when he said it, a couple of players pointed upstairs.
Williams told the media that he felt that he had not received proper backing, and repeated it on his radio program. He then refuted Duquette's claims that they had talked.
"He hasn't talked to me," said Williams, then in a clear reference to DukeSpeak's repeated statements about Everett's statistics, said "stats don't win games, stats don't help you come back from a seven-run deficit." Hmm. Everett didn't play in that game. Williams said he would not quit, but made it clear that he, his coaches and the players want respect from the general manager.
On his pregame radio show, Duquette talked like the voice in the tram that runs between terminals at the Atlanta Airport. Everett arrived at the park and announced, "I don't have to apologize to anyone." And that includes Darren Lewis, Buddy Bailey, the manager he cursed twice, the media, umpire Ron Kulpa and even Bret Saberhagen (whom he almost beheaded with his bat). Everett sees nothing wrong with anything he's done.
And Duquette and the owner-in-hiding, John Harrington, cleary condone all of Everett's aberrational social behavior.
Now, the Everett issue is complex, starting with the fact that Everett is a complex man with a rage issue. Between games Thursday, six hours after his run-in with Lewis, Everett was carrying his two children around the hallway outside the clubhouse, soft-spoken, so likeable a figure. He can be delightfully engaging, and he almost always plays very hard; but when he failed to run out a pop fly that was caught in fair territory by Scott Brosius in a tight, crucial game with the Yankees, the New York players were laughing at him because of his trash-talking about them in the spring, when he called Derek Jeter "overrated" and Paul O'Neill "washed up."
Then for Duquette to tell reporters that Everett's issue is tardiness when there have been these attacks on writers, a manager, a coach, a teammate, an umpire and who knows who else. However, Everett isn't the primary issue. Duquette and Red Sox owner John Harrington are. As Fenway Park becomes the Fenway Dump and Duquette acts indignant about the perception that he and his manager are light years apart and laughs when his PR columns about Williams' future always includes "if he wants to return," reality is that the owner and the CEO have been so insulated in their tower that they have lost touch with what goes on down in the real world.
A real estate development financier, down amidst the garbage, offered the opinion that Harrington knows he can't get the financing for the new park and has to sell, and doesn't care about the fans except raising ticket prices to $65 to cover the team's inflated payroll. A player/coach discussion around the clubhouse table Thursday morning included speculation that Duquette knows he's leaving and collecting the final three years and $2.7 million on his contract, which is why he's let the budget get so out of whack (the 2001 payroll may be close to $90-95 million before making any acquisitions) in trying to win this year, and has let the farm system turn to ashes.
Unfair? Of course, but while perception may not be reality, they have created a lot of perceptions by hiding in the tower. Harrington is so secluded he may have lost touch, he may have so mishandled the stadium issue that he's in a hole, but he does care about the fans. Duquette has his childhood dream job.
However, Duquette dug himself a hole in this Everett-Williams affair not only because he did not cut it short or confront Everett's outbursts, but because his comments following both run-ins with the manager were miscommunications. Remember, this is the general manager who instead of signing Mo Vaughn for four years and $42 million in March 1998 decided that Vaughn was not his kind of team person, despite the respect held for the first baseman by his teammates.
What is goling on here? Duquette has slashed scouting director Wayne Britton's budget to laughable levels and spent millions in the Far East instead. They could have the nation's best college hitter, Mark Teixeira, playing third base in the minors and heading towards superstardom, but refuse to spend on American players. Their Asian program has had so many complaints from other clubs that it has been brought to the attention of the commissioner's office. Duquette is so insulated that he seldom talks to other general managers or even returns their calls. He never talked to Jim Bowden or Dan O'Dowd on the Dante Bichette or Rolando Arrojo deals, leaving assistant Lee Thomas to do his dealing.
There are two sides to all this, and Duquette did tell Williams that if he brought up Izzy Alcantara, he couldn't be sent back, so when the likeable outfielder failed to go hard after a couple of balls and the manager wanted him out, Duquette made him stay and Williams made him sit. Duquette feels Williams shouldn't have given Steve Avery and Mike Stanley the playing time to trigger options in recent years.
Considering that in two years Duquette hasn't been able to come up with any starter other than Pedro Martinez to win 11 games and that Nomar Garciaparra, Trot Nixon, Jose Offerman and John Valentin have been hurt, Williams has done an amazing job, although he sometimes drives fans and front-office types crazy with his bizarre lineups.
Harrington has to come out from underneath his desk and make a decision. What does he want the Boston Red Sox to be? Four teams have already decided that they cannot have Carl Everett in their organizations, even if he was a productive member of the ballclub (that's DukeSpeak for "we are now approaching Terminal B"). Then he has to decide if asking customers to pay $60 a seat to sit in amongst garbage is fair when his organization has a laughingstock payroll for the talent they put out on the field.
Jimy Williams can go anywhere he wants, and be it from Joe Torre, Pat Gillick, John Schuerholz, David Justice or Mike Stanley, people respect him. And let Dan Duquette, who characterized future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn as bad people, rest his reputation on Carl Everett.
News and notes
Billy Beane's name has been out there, but his new contract would make it practically impossible for him to leave Oakland. Terry Ryan may be out in Minnesota, perhaps headed to the Cubs with Andy MacPhail and Jim Hendry. Paul Molitor has been talked to and asked friends about being a GM, and was advised to stay in uniform, which could mean the Twins managing job if Tom Kelly leaves, perhaps headed somewhere like L.A. or Arizona.
Toronto's new ownership wants to get GM Gord Ash re-upped, but don't be shocked if Ash shocks people and keeps Jim Fregosi, which would mean Dave Stewart would have to go back upstairs. Ash has indicated that he won't fire Fregosi unless there is someone far better available.
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