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Caution: “Toxic” Elements in Red Sox Clubhouse

With the Red Sox clubhouse reportedly "toxic," the Red Sox can't get out of their own way on or off the field. (AP Photo/Na Y. Huh)

Buster Olney of ESPN provided some insight of his own on the state of the Red Sox clubhouse this past weekend. He had an up close and personal look as the Red Sox and Cubs played on Sunday night in a game televised by ESPN. According to Olney, “The unhappiness that exists among Boston players and staff is multi-layered and deep.”

Olney’s article does not go into specific details of who is disgruntled, but after watching the collapse of last September it is obvious this clubhouse is far from in sync. The only question is what should, or could, be done to fix this problem and get this team back to its winning ways?

Since last September, this Red Sox team is 40-53. Fielding a sub-.500 team with a payroll close to $200 million is completely unacceptable. The belief is if you are going to spend that much money, it should yield positive results and playoff-caliber teams. The Red Sox have not reached the playoffs since they lost game 7 of the ALCS against the Rays in 2008. That’s three straight seasons of missing the playoffs, and unless they get their act together, this will be the fourth.

Theo tried to score big in back-to-back offseasons by signing John Lackey and Carl Crawford to long expensive contracts. He also traded for Adrian Gonzalez and gave him a lengthy, lucrative extension of his own. Needless to say, these signings have not played out how anyone in Boston expected or hoped they would. Even Theo admitted that he made some mistakes because he “gave into the monster,” in regards to the pressure of making a big splash in free agency after missing the playoffs.

Lackey has barely been a reliable starter, and last season he had the highest ERA in Red Sox history at 6.41. Lackey then underwent Tommy John surgery, shelving him for the entire 2012 campaign (I don’t think Sox fans hate the idea of no Lackey all season). Crawford stumbled mightily in his first season as a Red Sox outfielder, batting .255 with just 11 home runs, 56 runs batted in, and only 18 stolen bases. I thought J.D. Drew didn’t earn his contract, but Crawford gave the word “overpaid” an entirely new meaning. Crawford has battled injuries all season and has yet to play a game in the majors this year. Gonzalez proved to be the only silver lining in the last of the moves by Theo. He had a tremendous 2011 season, but so far has struggled to find himself at the plate this year.

Who is Really to Blame?

While it’s easy to blame Bobby Valentine, or some of the personalities in the locker room, all of this stems from the apathy of the ownership. John Henry, Larry Luchino, and Tom Werner only care about one thing: making money. They only cared about winning championships when it meant keeping the Fenway sell-out streak alive. They got their wish and had a great manager in Terry Francona who was able to lead two teams to World Series titles, and led another to Game 7 of the ALCS. How did they repay all the great work Francona did for this team? They blamed the September collapse on him, fired him, and then trashed his name and reputation on the way out. They attributed his inability to manage this team to the playoffs to a painkiller addiction, uncalled for as Francona has undergone multiple knee surgeries and had his knee drained numerous times during that season. Instead of calling out the lack of effort from the bigger stars on the team, Henry brought them out to party on his yacht and gave them each $300 headphones as a token of his “appreciation.”

What exactly was there to appreciate, though? The Red Sox blew a nine game lead with one month to play. They only needed to win ten games that month, and they couldn’t even do that. But in John Henry’s mind, that’s okay, because he’s still making money off all of the fans who pay for the highest priced ticket in baseball to watch a bunch of overpaid athletes play beneath their ability.

I’m sorry to say this, Sox fans, but if you want a change, it’s not going to happen until this group is no longer in charge. They do not care about what the fans want. They do not care about winning anymore. They milked all they could out of the 100 year anniversary of Fenway Park, jamming as many seats, uncomfortably, into “America’s most beloved” ballpark and charging as much money as they possibly could. Then they went and partied on Henry’s yacht, waving in every fan’s face just how much they do not care.

What’s Next?

Blowing up this team is completely inconceivable. Any of the big contracts they have, they are stuck with. If they want to trade Josh BeckettKevin Youkilis, Crawford, Gonzalez, or Lackey, they will have to pay the majority, if not all, of the money that is still owed to them.

As much as I would love to blame Valentine, I simply can’t. He came into this scenario in the worst possible circumstance. He was replacing arguably the best manager in the history of the team, and he was replacing him after the team quit a month early the year before. I don’t envy Bobby V, but he is handling this situation to the best of his ability — that’s not to say that he’s doing a phenomenal job. The outfield has been decimated with injuries, Gonzalez can’t find his stride at the plate, and the Youkilis trade rumors will continue to swirl until the deadline passes, whether they trade him or not.

What’s shocking is this team isn’t completely out of it. They stand 33-33, which is not where we would like them to be, but all things considered, it may be the best case scenario. Jacoby Ellsbury and Crawford are both rehabbing injuries and recovering nicely. There’s no way to say that Ellsbury will come back and produce as well as he did last year, or that Crawford will come back and be better than last year, but it will provide stability to a lineup that has been increasingly unstable. There is always the prospect of Gonzalez finding his swing after suffering from Bobby Abreu syndrome, in the sense that his swing hasn’t quite been the same since participating in the Home Run Derby. Then there remains the question of whether the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles can maintain their level of play, but I’m not sold on either of those teams being in the playoff hunt come September/October. This Red Sox team still has a shot to compete towards the end of the season. To completely sell out now would be a poor move.

The only thing that can be done is for this team to play this season out. They need to get over the collapse of last year and forget that it happened. Obsessing over last September will do nothing but set them back; it’s time to move forward. As fans, all we can do is sit back and keep cheering these guys on, because there are plenty of guys on the team who still want to play and win. And last but not least, we all need to pray to whatever God we may believe in that these owners sell the team after this season. Their apathy is apparent, and it’s a slap in the face to every fan when these guys try to act like they actually care about any of us.

About Steve Bastek - @sbastek12

Graduate of Bridgewater State University with a BA in Communication studies. I've been a Boston sports fan all my life and enjoy having the opportunity to write about it.

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