It wasn’t long ago, 7 years actually since the sports world really sympathized with and enjoyed the Boston Red Sox. After 86 years with no World Series they had become one of baseball’s “loveable losers”. Though they came close a few times over the years they hadn’t won the coveted prize since 1918. Most fans in Boston both seriously and sarcastically pointed to “The Curse of the Bambino” as the reason for their team’s losing. You see, in 1920 the owner of the Boston Red Sox actually sold Herman “The Babe” Ruth to the New York Yankees. From the date of that sale in 1920 to 2004, the Red Sox didn’t win one World Series while the Yankees went on to win 26. By the time 2004 rolled around, most people were able to sympathize with the Red Sox and their inability to come through. The Yankees had spent most of the 90’s and early 2000’s buying every free-agent on their way to 4 World Series in 5 years drawing the ire of most sports fan not located in the 5 boroughs. And while the rest of the sports world spent that time hating the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox spent that time losing to the Yankees. For that reason I think most people would always side with the Red Sox and hoped they were the team who could upend the Yankees and make us all happy. No doubt they drew our highest praise in 2004 when they erased a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS and went on to win the World Series and once and for all reversed the curse!
But something else happened that October in 2004, the Red Sox changed. They were no longer the loveable losers from Boston, they had become something else. It wasn’t apparent back then but sitting here in 2011 these last 7 years have shown us their true colors. They aren’t the loveable losers anymore, they are something else, dare I say – annoying? Just more than a week ago the Sox parted ways with manager Terry Francona. Given the catastrophic meltdown of the team at the end of this season it was hard for anyone to wonder why he was fired. Francona himself admitted in his farewell press conference that it was perhaps time to go because he felt that the players were not responding to him anymore. With his firing, the Red Sox could put this season behind them and start anew in 2012. But, as it turns out, his firing was only the beginning of the drama and chaos in Boston. In the last two weeks we have seen the media and “team sources” going back and forth with allegations about the team, Francona, the players, and the general manager. The team is saying Francona didn’t want to come back, he is saying they didn’t offer to pick up his option for 2012. Many media outlets are reporting that the starting pitchers would drink beer, eat chicken, and play video games in the club house during their off days while the team was on the field. Then you have “Big Papi” basically saying he wants out of Boston because he is tired of the drama. Theo Epstein is on the first plane out of town to Chicago. Jon Lester is calling all the local papers and stations to defend his team and his credibility. In the midst of all this, the Red Sox, through these mysterious “team sources” threw Terry Francona under the bus. Only to have owner John Henry come out the next day and vehemently deny releasing the information. Now ordinarily I couldn’t care less what is going on up in Boston, the way I see it, the more drama they have the better. But, I took exception to what the Red Sox did to Francona and here is why;
The “team sources”, who apparently don’t include owner John Henry, or soon to be former GM Theo Epstein told various media outlets that Francona was fired because they felt his divorce from his wife of 30 years was affecting his ability to manage the team and further, that they felt he was addicted to painkillers. These two allegations, even if they were true, are a total violation on behalf of the Red Sox and are only further compacted by their cowardice to not even come out and say it openly but to release it through team sources. The only thing I can say to John Henry and the rest of the Red Sox brass it next time, don’t be a douche-bag.
When Francona was questioned about the allegations he expressly denied that his divorce affected his ability to manage the team. He said that he did move out of his home and into a hotel but that he spent more time at the ballpark with the team this year than he did in any of his eight years in Boston. And I believe Francona on this one, it seems fairly obvious, no wife to go home to, hence, more time to spend at the ballpark doing what you love. Without the old ball and chain calling you home every five minutes, you can actually get some work done at the ballpark. As for the allegations of addiction to painkillers, Francona addressed that as well. He has had over 20 surgeries on his knees, including one over this past off-season. He had fluid drained from his knee at least 5 times during the course of this past season. He says that he used painkillers to relieve discomfort when he would have fluid drained. Francona even consulted a team doctor about said pain killers earlier this year, if there was really an issue I think we would have had heard about it before.
The fact is, the Red Sox were wrong to throw him under the bus in the media whether it be true or false. When a man is separating from his wife of 30 years, you don’t use that against him. To me that seems untouchable. I am not going to claim that his divorce or his supposed addiction to painkillers didn’t affect his ability to manage a baseball team. In my opinion, both of these points are moot when it comes to the Boston Red Sox. This is the manager that led your team from 86 years of losing and then three years later helped you to another World Series. Quite honestly, I don’t care if Francona spent the entire year in the dugout crying his eyes out pining for his wife or if he started a freakin’ meth lab out back of Fenway Park, you owed him more loyalty and respect than that. This is the sort of thing I expect from the Yankees who notoriously left Joe Torre off the video tribute to Yankee Stadium or the Philadelphia Eagles who sent the heart and soul of their football team packing to Denver. This is not the sort of thing we expected from the Red Sox, we thought they were run by better men than that.
Something happened to the Boston Red Sox in 2004. Maybe they forgot who they were or maybe we thought they were something they weren’t. The winning went to their heads I guess. Sitting here in 2011 we have seen their true colors and looking back on it maybe they were kind of annoying all along but we just didn’t see it. Think about it, the whole “Red Sox Nation” thing, taking over other teams ballparks (kind of annoying), ESPN’s exaggerated coverage of Curt Schilling’s bloody sock (kind of gross), “Manny being Manny” (really stupid), Josh Beckett and Jon Paplebon (are just dicks), “Big Papi” (well, Big Papi is actually pretty cool except for the whole steroid allegation thing) but I digress. The point is, Terry Francona is a stand-up character who led this team from the abyss. The Red Sox should have treated him much better. And because they didn’t, I hope they don’t win another World Series for 86 more years! And in the year 2093 I hope they are still talking about the day they fired Tito and how they are doomed by “the Curse of the Terry Francona”!