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During the All-Star break, Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino sent a letter to season ticket holders, addressing the state of the nation at the unofficial midway point of the 2012 season. Given the team was attempting to avoid falling further out in the American League East standings after a disappointing series loss at Fenway Park against the rival New York Yankees, it would seem logical that such a message to the fans would acknowledge the struggles while promoting enthusiasm for a stronger second half.
Instead, the letter — which can be read in its entirety here — discussed the team as if it were a little league softball roster where everyone wins a trophy. The attitude of the organization as the team deals with a frustrating season has been unacceptable, highlighted by Lucchino’s absurd message to the fans.
In perhaps the greatest understatement of the letter, Lucchino saying that the Sox performance thus far in 2012 has “tested the mettle of the faithful” completely misses the reality of one of the most baffling and unpredictable years in recent memory. The feeling of the 2011 September collapse is still a presence in both the performances of the pitching staff and in the clubhouse. Despite the managerial change from Terry Francona to Bobby Valentine, the players are still the heart of the problem, and Valentine has clearly been unable to make much of a difference.
It’s not simply a test to the hardcore fans who watch this team everyday to see a lineup posted against the Yankees featuring the likes of Pedro Ciriaco, Mauro Gomez, Ryan Kalish, Kelly Shoppach, and Brent Lillibridge. Some of those guys weren’t even on the radar of fans at the start of the season when it comes to starting in such significant games. Lillibridge wasn’t even in the organization, coming over in the Kevin Youkilis trade.
Lucchino refers to the transaction which sent Youkilis to Chicago, saying that the team “bade farewell” to the third baseman as Will Middlebrooks “forced his way into the lineup.” Lucchino’s words act as if the entire process was smooth and painless for all involved. It was clear that Youkilis didn’t enjoy playing for his job with the pressure of Middlebrooks rising to a blossoming star, and multiple disputes from the start of spring training with Valentine only manifested into more unnecessary drama.
To make matters worse, Middlebrooks is just coming back from an injury while Youkilis has sparked a strong White Sox lineup, hitting .340 with more runs batted in than he produced in three times as many games with the Red Sox. He’s become a serious impact bat for Chicago, raising his average nearly thirty points on the year while half the Boston lineup on a given night looks like it belongs in AAA. His performance isn’t just testing Boston fans; it’s infuriating to know that deep down the Youkilis of years ago was still there, but couldn’t produce for a dysfunctional organization.
Maybe I’m the only one, but I wasn’t sure there was such thing as chemistry on this roster. As Lucchino says, “we have watched the team coalesce into a close group” throughout the year. Such a statement is so 2004. This team isn’t anything like the ‘idiots’ who brought the first championship to Boston in 86 years. Rather, it’s a high-profile roster filled with aging stars on huge contracts and young players with the potential to rise to that level someday.
Instead of a true team, the Sox have resorted to spending money carelessly over the past few years, and it has cost them severely. The contributions to the team’s little success has come from the players making the least amount of cash, as well as those like David Ortiz who feel they’ve been disrespected by the organization for not receiving contracts similar to unproductive teammates. Lucchino masks this ongoing issue by celebrating Big Papi’s 400th home run, calling the front office “thrilled” with his accomplishment despite a clear rift between the player and ownership. Lucchino’s praise feels just as forced and phony as the honoring of Ortiz’s milestone before the Yankees series a week ago.
Lucchino’s letter also includes an interesting analyis of some of the Sox players with notable contributions this year. He describes “the cheerful Cody Ross, the friendly Mike Aviles, and the inspiring story of Daniel Nava.” It’s hard to imagine an elementary school principle using such childish words without being mocked, never mind the President and CEO of the Red Sox. The painful cringes induced by reading such a letter of lies is already bad enough, but Lucchino only makes matters worse with his next comment.
“As we begin the second half, we look forward to the return of the ‘varsity,’ including Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Andrew Bailey, and the ever-dirty Dustin Pedroia.” As an avid follower of all things Red Sox, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard such insulting comments. While Lucchino doesn’t directly call the fill-in roster members for the injured stars “junior varsity” players, it’s certainly implied.
No one’s going to debate that the players Lucchino mentions are some of the key members of the roster, and if all of them are playing up to their potential the team can soar into the postseason this year. But for the highest ranking member of the organization to distinguish these stars (an acceptable term) from the players who have enabled this bad baseball team to stay afloat is an absurd cheap shot at some of the hardest working players on the roster.
One thing that Lucchino does well in his letter is give credit to those who have and who continue to work hard in the organization. But apparently that excludes just about anyone who has been under a high degree of scrutiny thus far in the 2012 campaign. Despite complimenting general manager Ben Cherington, as well as a number of players on the roster and the “gelling” bullpen, Lucchino fails to reference manager Bobby Valentine.
He also leaves out the front two pitchers in the rotation, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, who have struggled to pitch consistently well this year, as the team holds a losing record in their starts. Lucchino is insulting the intelligence of Red Sox fans by treating his greeting as more of an assurance that all is well in the world of the Red Sox instead of being honest about the situation. It is truly remarkable that such a positively toned letter to the fans describes a vastly underperforming .500 baseball club.
But none of that matters to Lucchino and those responsible for creating the letter amongst his colleagues. It’s clearer than ever that the goal of the Red Sox organization is to make money selling tickets instead of having a successful baseball club. To be fair, given all the money dished out by the franchise to put together a talented roster, they shouldn’t really have to worry about the performance of the team because the Sox should be winning at least 90 games every year. Yet by acting like everything’s peachy in Red Sox Nation, Lucchino adds to the pain of those following the team closely.
Because honestly, a ridiculous letter like this goes along with all the other bizarre issues with the Red Sox this year.
Tags: Andrew Bailey, Ben Cherington, Bobby Valentine, Brent Lillibridge, Carl Crawford, Cody Ross, Daniel Nava, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, Larry Lucchino, Terry Francona, Will Middlebrooks