Curt Schilling said he didn’t think the Red Sox were going to make the playoffs to which Terry Francona responded with an expletive and former Schilling teammates reiterated the in-one-ear-and-out-the-other nature of Schilling-speak.
All of this is fine.
But it doesn’t justify losing 2 of the first 3 games in a series with the Orioles; it doesn’t explain away a superstar-laden team—injuries or not—blowing a substantial playoff lead; and it doesn’t do any good to take responsibility when there are no consequences.
If Papelbon were to say he’d return his salary for the month of September; or if Crawford were to nullify the remaining years on his contract, then the acceptance of fault would actually mean something.
Unless there’s a trade-off accompanying these self-pitying statements designed for media and fan consumption, they’re just noise.
There’s a price to pay for winning and winning with a confidence bordering on arrogance. This sense of entitlement is natural to any fan base and club that has experienced sustained success; it stems from the top of the organization on down. With the accolades lavished on the entire Red Sox franchise from the way they rebuilt and created a cash cow after the wreckage of 86 years of futility, they—John Henry to Larry Lucchino to Theo Epstein and through the players—earned the right to strut.
But along the way, they—knowingly or not—morphed into some semblance of what they despised and envied for so long, the Yankees.
Big money; a desirable location; a chance to win; media and fan expectations such that anything other than a World Series win was cause for a bloddletting—all the character traits are in place. They’re mirror images of one another.
The annual failure they sustained for so long became an identity; they seemed to wallow in the pain as if it was a friend that would never abandon nor betray them.
2004 exorcised the demons. They won their second championship three years later. Suddenly an annual playoff appearance looked like a birthright rather than something to be achieved; the aura of hubris became more pronounced and widespread.
Schilling’s personality was part of the Red Sox culture in 2004 and 2007; the fiery leadership of Jason Varitek; the loudness of Dustin Pedroia; the “dirty job but someone’s gotta do it” tone of Kevin Youkilis; the bullying of Josh Beckett; the fist-shaking of Papelbon—these things invited a vitriol around baseball that couldn’t be counteracted by the professionalism and likability of manager Francona and Jon Lester.
You discover the underlying truth about any entity during times of struggle and the Red Sox are currently preparing themselves to lose; formulating how they’ll frame a catastrophic collapse after-the-fact.
It’s a resignation that no amount of team meetings, threats or oratories can overcome.
They have to win some games.
Angry responses to obnoxious former teammates?
None of this is conducive to escaping the quicksand engulfing them.
They’re mentally reconciling with their current reality and it’s not doing any good.
This has become a self-fulfilling prophecy not seen in Boston since 2003 and 85 years before that when there was a ready-made excuse every single season.
The curse was broken.
What’s the excuse now?
Is there one?