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According to a report by WEEI’s Rob Bradford, the Red Sox have fired strength and conditioning coach Dave Page as well as assistant trainer Greg Barajas.
The move hardly comes as a surprise after players admitted to drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse this past season. There were also allegations of players neglecting to work out and gaining weight.
Was this move by new general manager Ben Cherington justified? Or was this just a knee-jerk (over)reaction to the firestorm of leaks and media reporting in the aftermath of the September collapse?
At first glance, it appears Cherington had no choice to fire members of a staff who allowed players to drink beer and eat fried chicken (even if it was in moderation, instead of like college freshmen). Allegations of players, specifically starting pitchers, missing workouts and training certainly reflects poorly on the staff responsible for their conditioning, just as their poor play reflected negatively on manager Terry Francona. Even if such reflections are unfair.
Ultimately, how much can a strength and conditioning coach and an assistant trainer do to challenge someone like Josh Beckett or Kevin Youkilis? Making millions of dollars a year in the limelight of the Boston media, how much would star players, literal All-Stars, heed the motivational words of someone like Barajas? Players need to earn their salaries and be able to motivate themselves. It is their responsibility to train hard and work hard to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities.
That said, the Red Sox have seen an abundance of players end up on the disabled list in recent years, including Youkilis, Beckett, Jon Lester, and Dustin Pedroia. It seems the Red Sox medical staff has been hard-pressed to prevent injuries from derailing the Red Sox season each of the last two years.
Even worse, the Red Sox saw Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz spend extended periods on the DL because of misdiagnosed and mistreated injuries. Ellsbury missed all but 18 games in 2010 when the Red Sox didn’t initially discover that his ribs were cracked. This past season, Buchholz made just 14 starts after what was initially treated as a muscle injury in his back actually turned out to be a stress fracture in his spine (surprise!). In both cases, their injuries proved to be worse than expected or more severe than originally identified, setting both players back in their recovery and costing the Red Sox wins by inhibiting two key players from contributing on the field.
Taking all these factors into account, the Red Sox reportedly (and predictably) plan to reconfigure their strength and conditioning programs and their medical approach for the 2012 season. Just as Theo Epstein decided to fire Cubs manager Mike Quade to start with a clean slate, Cherington had to fire Page to truly revamp Red Sox training. It’s unclear why Barajas also had to go (after all, he was just an assistant trainer) but – and this is pure speculation – perhaps he was suspected or involved as one of the anonymous sources in the bevy of leaks springing from Fenway Park.
Regardless, the combination of embarrassing reports and the rash of injuries undermined the credibility of the training and the medical staff. Cherington had no choice but to hold someone accountable.
It was the only way to leave the ghosts of September behind.