The Red Sox Beat Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 7-4

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I wish I could take credit for the title, but it’s an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter.

Were the Yankees subtly saying to the Red Sox, “here, take the game” by not playing Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter when the situations called for them?

Are they letting the Red Sox have a slight advantage going into the final three games?

Maybe.

It’s subtle, but it’s possible.

With the Yankees playing 3 games against the Rays in Tampa and the Red Sox playing 3 against the Orioles in Baltimore; as the Red Sox are holding a 1 game lead in the Wild Card, common sense says that the Yankees would prefer to have the Red Sox—in their current hapless configuration—in the playoffs ahead of the younger, stronger, fresher, faster and pitching-rich Rays.

So did they shun using Jeter and A-Rod to that end? Did they put Scott Proctor into the game to pitch knowing what was likely to happen?

Any everyday player will tell you that it’s far more emotionally exhausting to sit on the bench for a game—especially a 14-inning game—rather than play in it; Jeter and A-Rod didn’t exactly get to “rest” even though they didn’t play.

The Red Sox are a horrible team right now; it took them 14 innings to beat what was essentially a Triple A lineup.

But now they’re heading to Baltimore with that 1 game lead; the Yankees are going to play the Rays who they beat in 3 of 4 games last week.

If the Yankees go all out tonight to beat the Rays, hoping that the Red Sox take care of business against the Orioles, it will be clear what was happening last night. They’ll deny it, but obviously they would prefer the wounded Red Sox in the playoffs to the Rays.

In retrospect, it could be a mistake if the Red Sox get themselves together in time for the playoffs, but you can’t deny the appearance of competitive impropriety.

The Yankees don’t owe the Rays or Red Sox anything, but don’t tell that to the Rays who were watching and presumably screaming at the TV while it was occurring.

Tonight will give a clearer indication of whether that was a “full rest” night for the Yankees star players or if they were manipulating the situation to their perceived advantage.

The answer’s clear from my end.

//

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The Polar Opposites Of Genius/Idiot

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So now Theo Epstein’s no longer a genius?

Jack Zduriencik’s not a truly amazin’ exec?

Billy Beane—forever canonized in film and books of creative non-fiction—is finally receiving questioning looks and rightful dissection of his true history rather than what some agenda-driven writer is trying to convey (and adjust on the fly)?

What happened?

Genius is fleeting and a matter of opinion?

I thought it was either there or it wasn’t; now it’s based on a myriad of factors out of someone’s control? And who’s making the determination as to whom is a genius and who isn’t?

On the other side of the spectrum, Brian Cashman is receiving credit for basically having failed last winter in his attempts to get Cliff Lee and that he scraped the bottom of the barrel for the likes of Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Russell Martin; those moves happened to have worked.

Here’s news: it was luck; Brian Cashman will tell you it was luck.

Buck Showalter, whose mere presence with the Orioles, was going to craft a full 180 degree turn for that stagnant ship, has also lost his luster.

Know why? Because he doesn’t have any pitching and spent a good deal of the 2011 season using Kevin Gregg as his closer.

Who’s the next genius?

The next moron?

Is Kevin Towers a “genius” for tweaking what was already in place in Arizona with a few extra bullpen pieces?

Is Epstein now a fool because some of his name players haven’t performed?

Are we going to stop with the polar opposites of genius/idiot when it comes to analyzing baseball executives?

The word “genius” is thrown around so liberally and based on absolutely nothing other than factional debates and similar belief systems that it’s lost all meaning.

A genius is someone who creates a life-saving vaccine or builds something out of nothing, not the guy who signed Scott Hatteberg because he walked a lot and has taken endless advantage of a portrayal that is an absolute and utter farce; an image has been notoriously quick to use as an impenetrable shield to protect himself from the fact that his team is terrible.

And don’t you dare come back at me with the “oh, the A’s need a new ballpark and their options are limited”. The same people trying to use that tack were the ones who picked the A’s to win the AL West. You can’t have it both ways.

People are quizzical now as to Beane’s “genius”. It’s simplistic to ask, “well if Beane’s such a genius, why haven’t the A’s ever won a World Series?”

But maybe it’s not so simplistic in a world of genius/idiot.

Maybe if those who are benefiting from the appellation are going to advance because of it, they should decline because of it as well.

And perhaps those who are trying to pompously “explain” the concept of Moneyball as an “idea” rather than a strategy from which one must not deviate for fear of not being part of the herd are being exposed for what they are.

That contextualized version wasn’t the book I read. But you’ll find people who’ll call me a genius and an idiot.

And I don’t care either way.

There are no geniuses in baseball, but the public doesn’t want to hear that; they don’t want to hear about the labor pains, they just want to see the baby. And in the case of Beane and Moneyball, the baby was supposed to be a showpiece—gorgeous, intelligent and perfect.

The movie apparently says so.

But look at the A’s. Look at the desperation with which the myth is being protected and shifted to suit themselves.

By those metrics, it’s easier to have the separate and ironclad labels of either-or.

And under those parameters, where do the media darlings and targets wind up? Are they geniuses? Idiots? Or fantasies based on selfish ends?

You tell me.

***

I’ve decided: no review of the film Moneyball to be published here. It’ll be in my book, will be aboveboard and based on my own judgments. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

It’s sheer GENIUS!!!!!!!

//

The AL/NL MVP Dichotomy

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On one side, you have a pitcher who has to deal with the dogmatism of the self-involved voters who feel as if they’re the interpreters and adjusters of stated rules.

On the other, you have a player who’s put up numbers that justify a Most Valuable Player season, but is on a team that is out of contention.

How’s this going to go?

Justin Verlander of the Tigers is a clear MVP candidate as well as the AL Cy Young Award winner.

Matt Kemp of the Dodgers is leading the National League in homers and RBI and is right behind Jose Reyes and Ryan Braun for the lead in batting average.

Of course stat people will scoff at the value of both RBI and average, but the Triple Crown is the Triple Crown—it still has meaning as a symbol even if the results aren’t showing up in the won/lost column for the Dodgers.

The Tigers pulled away from the NL Central pack with a 12 game winning streak, but before that their playoff hopes rested largely on the shoulders of Verlander and Miguel Cabrera; without Verlander, they would’ve been barely in contention, if at all.

This is a situation where Wins Above Replacement—in context—is a valuable stat.

Kemp’s WAR is 9.6; let’s say the Dodgers found someone who was serviceable in center field, they still would be well below the 79-77 record they’ve posted with a second half string of good play after an awful start.

Verlander’s WAR is 8.6 and the Tigers would have no chance of replicating even a quarter of what Verlander has meant to the team given the dearth of pitching available. If the Tigers were to lose Cabrera, they would’ve found someone—Carlos Beltran; Josh Willingham; Michael Cuddyer—to make up for some semblance of that lost offense. Such was not the case with Verlander.

The other MVP candidates in the National League like Albert Pujols are just as irreplaceable as Kemp; the Brewers strength has been on the mound and they have enough offense to function if Braun were injured; in fact, there’s an argument that Prince Fielder has been more valuable to the Brewers than Braun has.

In the American League, the same holds true for the Red Sox with Adrian Gonzalez and the Yankees with Curtis Granderson. Had either player gone down, the Red Sox could’ve plugged someone in at either first or third base and gotten by without Gonzalez; the Yankees would’ve gotten a corner outfield bat, shifted Brett Gardner to center and survived with the rest of the lineup picking up the slack.

So does it come down to the “best” player? The “most valuable”?

And are these arguments going to mirror one another in each league while, in some way, validating both?

I only hope that George King of the New York Post no longer has a vote. It was King who famously left Pedro Martinez off his 1999 ballot because he was supposedly convinced by people he respected the year before that pitchers didn’t deserve MVP votes (EUREKA!!!) and left the deserving winner off his ballot entirely depriving him of the award that went to Ivan Rodriguez. In a ludicrous bit of backpedaling and stupid “explanation”, King said that he thought then-Red Sox manager Jimy Williams was more valuable to the Red Sox than Martinez.

If he has a vote this season, one can only hope that King hasn’t been studiously watching the job done by Eric Wedge with the Mariners and deemed it more important than Verlander’s work; if that’s the case, then Verlander’s going to be left out in the cold just like Martinez was and it’ll be a case of idiocy all over again.

//

It Takes At Least Two To Complete A Collapse

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Not only does the collapsing team have to come completely apart and allow their pursuer(s) to catch and pass them, but the pursuer(s) have to do their part by winning a few games.

And the Rays, Angels and Cardinals have made the lives of the Red Sox and Braves easier by losing repeatedly.

The Rays lost 3 of 4 games to the Yankees (and only won that one game because the Yankees were still in a division-clinching celebratory stupor and didn’t show up until they were down 13-0); the Rays also lost to the Blue Jays last night.

The Angels lost 2 of 3 to the Orioles before winning 2 of 3 from the Blue Jays; they lost to the woeful Athletics last night. (Maybe the Angels had gone—as a group—to see Moneyball and thought they were playing a team that was, y’know, good and the product of a, y’know, genius.)

The Cardinals suffered a defeat to the Mets on Thursday that, despite the “brave” (see what I did there?) face being put up by manager Tony LaRussa, can only be called devastating. If you blow a 6-2 ninth inning lead to a team like the Mets, you don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. The Cardinals lost 5-1 to the Cubs last night.

If a team is making a late and desperate run to the playoffs, they can’t be losing games with their aces on the mound and that’s exactly what happened to all three teams with David Price, Jered Weaver and Chris Carpenter all starting; Price and Weaver lost; Carpenter went 7 innings, allowed one run and got a no-decision.

The 1964 Cardinals were 6 1/2 games behind the Phillies with 13 games to play and went 10-3 as the Phillies, with 12 left to play, went 2-10. The Cardinals won just as much as the Phillies lost.

The 2007 Phillies were 7 games behind the Mets on September 12th with 17 left to play and went 13-4 to win the division by one game.

The Mets blew it, but the Phillies also did their part by winning their games.

The Red Sox were rained out against the Yankees last night and, unless they lose all the rest of their games, are going to the playoffs.

The Braves beat the Nationals and are now leading in the Wild Card by 3 with 5 to play; I don’t think even Fredi Gonzalez can manage his way out of that.

So both the Red Sox and Braves are going to the playoffs through little recent work of their own.

It’s not their fault.

It just is.

//

Firing Francona Is Plain Stupid

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I’m the first one to say fire the manager when things don’t go as planned.

It doesn’t have to be his fault. If the team isn’t responding; if a shakeup is needed; if there are strategic blunders; or if there’s someone better available—all are viable reasons.

There doesn’t even have to be a reason. This is one of the things I never understood about the Billy Beane decision to fire Ken Macha after the 2006 ALCS playoff loss and he was searching for something to feed to his media idolators and claimed it was due to “lack of communication”; Beane didn’t exactly distinguish himself with Macha or Bob Geren when he blamed Geren’s firing on the continued media onslaught that was questioning Geren’s job security. Geren was the one who didn’t communicate with his players—the higher paid ones as well including Brian Fuentes.

Macha didn’t talk to backup catcher Adam Melhuse.

What could he possibly have to say to a fringe major leaguer and backup catcher? “Go warm up the pitcher.” What else is there?

All the GM has to say is, “I felt like making a change.”

End of story. But there always has to be some litany of criticisms to justify it; this is a new phenomenon accompanying the rock star status of some GMs in today’s game.

With the Red Sox, Theo Epstein is a rock star and there’s talk that Terry Francona could be in trouble if they blow their playoff spot.

It’s an easy decision to make if it’s decided that it’s Francona’s fault that John Lackey is one of the worst free agent signings in the history of the sport this side of Carl Pavano and Jason Schmidt. But at least Pavano and Schmidt were hurt; Lackey’s just awful.

Is Francona the one who caused the injuries to Clay Buchholz and Bobby Jenks? Has he sabotaged Daniel Bard?

Francona is a good man and a good manager. He acquitted himself well managing the Phillies as they were terrible on an annual basis—they had no talent.

He handled the media firestorm of being Michael Jordan’s manager during the basketball legend’s foray into baseball in Double A for the White Sox; he was a bench coach and a front office assistant with some very well-run teams with the Athletics and Indians.

Francona did not get the Red Sox job because of his managerial brilliance nor that experience. They were part of the work experiences that made him a candidate, but not the most enticing aspects of his resume.

These are in no particular order, but Francona got the job because he was willing to take a short-money contract for the opportunity; he would acquiesce to front office edicts in terms of strategy based on stats; he was agreeable to Curt Schilling, whom he’d managed with the Phillies and the Red Sox were desperate to acquire; and he wasn’t Grady Little.

The Red Sox were notoriously adamant about having a manager who wouldn’t ignore orders as Little did.

My question regarding the Red Sox and Little goes back well before the fateful decision to leave Pedro Martinez in the game when he was clearly exhausted in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

Why did it get to that point?

If the Red Sox didn’t trust Little to manage correctly (or the way they wanted) in the biggest game of the year without going off the reservation, they should’ve fired him long before the ALCS.

After dumping Little, the Red Sox spoke to Bobby Valentine while they were searching for a new manager. Valentine refused to criticize Little’s decision saying that he wasn’t in the dugout and didn’t know what he would’ve done in that situation.

That’s not what the Red Sox wanted to hear.

So Francona got the job; the Red Sox got a calm, guiding hand that players want to play for and someone who can navigate the all-but-impossible terrain of managing that team in that town.

Now if they miss the playoffs because of circumstances out of his control, he might be in trouble?

Fine.

He’ll be out of work for five seconds and will get another job in a good situation or he’ll sit out and wait until a high-profile, big money job opens up.

I can only hope that the Red Sox won’t use the corporate crud they used when they fired Little by saying they simply weren’t renewing Francona’s contract.

And I can’t wait to start writing if they go the road of Beane and provide some incomprehensible and unbelievable bit of spin to the media hordes who think every word is gospel. If they fire him, say what it is: We’re blaming Terry for our own mishaps.

It would be nothing more and nothing less than the search for an undeserving scapegoat; if they do that, they’ll deserve their collective fates.

//

Leo Nunez? ¿Quién es?

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Marlins closer Leo Nunez was placed on the restricted list by the Marlins.

At first there were the requisite snide comments about the Marlins being part of the problem; the questions as to why everyone with the Marlins misbehaves; wondering if they have a cage set-up at the new ballpark and other witticisms.

That one was mine and I didn’t say it publicly because—contrary to the popular notion that I’m a loose cannon—I think before I speak, tweet, write, link, comment.

Well, I do now anyway.

But as it turns out the problem isn’t any behavioral issue as it was with Logan Morrison, Mike Cameron and Wes Helms; it’s that Nunez has been playing under an assumed name and his real name is apparently Juan Carlos Oviedo and he’s a year older than “Nunez’s” age of 28.

The Marlins are out of contention and have been since the summer; his absence is not an issue. But what of the teams that have been affected by “Nunez” participating in games after the Marlins knew that Leo Nunez wasn’t Leo Nunez? Could the Braves—who have had their Wild Card hopes damaged by losing games to the Marlins—lodge a complaint that a player’s illegal status in the country automatically rendered him ineligible to play in the big leagues?

This could create a disaster of epic proportions if legal issues interfere with a player right to participate in games. There’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it after-the-fact in terms of game results, but is MLB going to let the Marlins get away with keeping this a secret (unless MLB knew about it and I can’t imagine they did) and having “Nunez” pitch when he wasn’t “Nunez”?

He wasn’t a legal worker in the United States.

Isn’t the failure to disclose the information, nor putting “Nunez” on the restricted list months ago, somehow sabotaging the validity of games he pitched after this was discovered?

If the Marlins knew about this, why didn’t they handle it immediately?

This isn’t the NCAA. Scholarships, bowl victories and other sanctions aren’t part of the process—they can’t wipe out the games in which “Nunez” played after the club supposedly knew about his status; but the Marlins can certainly be punished for this breach of competitive legitimacy.

This isn’t the decision to send a misbehaving player to the minors; it’s not the releasing of two finished veterans; it’s a willful act of criminality by “Nunez” and perhaps a coverup by the Marlins.

I’m curious to see what MLB does about it, if anything at all.

Bud Selig had better head to his rotary phone and handle this decisively or it’s going to explode into a political and competitive football.

He can barely handle baseball as it is; the last thing he needs is a football.

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Putting The Red In Red Sox

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Given the unquantifiable nature of intangibles, you can’t account for pride, desperation and anger as meaning anything.

Every time I mention the word “pride” in a sports context, I think back to the interminable Mike Francesa show from Bar A with the unlistenable Southside Johnny. Francesa had the lead singer (is his name even Johnny?) as a guest, asked him how he thought the Yankees were going to do this year and “Johnny” began muttering something about wondering whether they were “gonna have the pride”.

If a caller presented that to Francesa, he’d have scrunched up his face in bewildered disgust, condescendingly asked him what he was talking about and hung up on him.

In this case, it’s not so much pride as it is the rivalry and history between the Yankees and Red Sox that could be like the red cape to the bull.

In the aftermath of their division clinching win last night, the Yankees are already squawking about the Red Sox as Russell Martin said he’d love to bounce them from the playoffs.

I don’t expect the Yankees to lay down to the Red Sox or Rays. While they absolutely have their preferences as to whom they’re going to play in the playoffs, manipulating the match-ups has a great chance of backfiring. Of the three teams that are fighting for the Wild Card, the Yankees won’t want any part of the Angels.

They can’t control that.

With the Red Sox collapse and full-blown panic engulfing the club, media and fan base, they need something to wake them up. Could the sight of pinstripes, undisguised smugness, smirking and barely concealed laughter at the way the Red Sox team that was supposed to challenge the 1927 Yankees has come apart spur them to play the way they did in the summer and not like the one that lost 3 of 4 games to the Orioles and is staggering around like a punch-drunk boxer?

The Red Sox need something to awaken them. Would it be such a shock if it wound up being the Yankees?

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Frediot—Fredi Gonzalez Has Converted Me

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No. That’s not a good thing.

When he was hired as Braves manager to replace Bobby Cox, I tried to assuage the fears of Braves fans who’d only seen snippets of his managing style with the Marlins; who were concerned that there was no actual interview process and that Fredi Gonzalez taking over was more of an old boys’ club anointing; that his history with the Marlins didn’t bode well for a team like the Braves who were expected to win.

I was wrong.

The Braves are teetering precariously close to gacking up a playoff spot that should’ve been wrapped up a week ago and a large part of that is due to their manager.

I’m not quibbling with his benching/platooning of Jason Heyward—Heyward’s obviously not 100% and he’s been atrocious against lefties. Nor am I going to get too crazy about the lack of patience among the lineup. While the aggressive approach is espoused by hitting coach Larry Parrish and obviously supported by Gonzalez, the Braves don’t exactly have an intimidating lineup; nor have the hitters—apart from Chipper Jones—ever been historically patient. Dan Uggla‘s walks are down, but he accumulated the high walk totals earlier in his career playing for…Fredi Gonzalez.

He might have been use his relievers more judiciously—but he hasn’t had a great deal of choice given the way his starting rotation has been decimated by injuries; he could conceivably have taken his foot off the gas and used Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel and Eric O’Flaherty less frequently, but their velocity and stuff has been consistent all year.

As for some of his maneuvers, there’s no defense. The one I remember most vividly was his brain-dead, “I’m gonna manage using stragety” in April against the reeling Mets when he called for a suicide squeeze with one out and the bases loaded; two strikes on pitcher Tommy Hanson with Eric Hinske was on third.

I understood the thought process—Hanson was the pitcher; Gonzalez could have Martin Prado leading off the next inning if it didn’t work—but the correct call was to tell Hanson to keep the bat on his shoulder, hope for a walk and leave it up to the speedy Prado to try to hit one into the gap or wreak some havoc with his legs.

Hanson missed the bunt and struck out, Hinske got caught in a rundown.

Just like that the Mets were out of the inning.

It was inexplicably horrible decision-making.

Last night he committed another egregious gaffe.

The Marlins were leading 3-0 in top of the seventh inning when, with 2 outs, Heyward doubled sending Brian McCann to third base against Marlins starter Javier Vazquez.

Jack Wilson came to the plate.

Jack Wilson can’t hit.

Worse, he’s gone from Jack Wilson to “Hack” Wilson with 9 walks in over 200 at bats this season.

Hinske was on the bench.

Neither Wilson nor Hinske have hit Vazquez well, but at least Hisnke is a threat to do something.

Wilson popped out to right field.

The next inning, Hinske was sent in to pinch hit for Jose Constanza.

Presumably it was because….

I have no idea what it was “because” of.

What good did it have to use Hinske to lead off the 8th inning when the proper time to use him was in the 7th when there were two runners in scoring position and the Braves were trailing by three?

These are just two examples and I’m quite certain that Braves fans will be able to point out at least a dozen more in which Gonzalez has either cost his team a game; could have cost his team a game; or misused his pitchers to accrue a possible cumulative fatigue that is affecting them as the season winds down.

I was wrong about Gonzalez.

I said he’d be fine. I said he’d make a few blunders, but for the most part would run the bullpen well and keep the team in line off the field while dealing with the media.

He has handled the clubhouse well and the media adequately while saying stupid things to explain away his ridiculous decisions; but he’s doing the one thing a manager cannot afford to do—costing his team games because of strategic mishaps.

The Braves won’t do it, but one of my criteria to make a managerial change is if the manager directly and negatively influences his club’s finish.

If the Braves miss the playoffs, it will be due to their manager Fredi Gonzalez.

And on that basis, I’d fire him.

//

Donnie Baseball’s Crisis Control

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We’ll never know what would’ve happened had Don Mattingly gotten the job to manage the Yankees after the 2007 season. Undoubtedly, things would’ve been different—perhaps for the better; perhaps for the worse. He most certainly wouldn’t be on the Yankees firing line as Joe Girardi is for anything he does that is deemed wrong. Whether it’s the handling of the Jorge Posada situation; massaging the massive egos of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter; or negligible strategic maneuvers, Girardi has run the Yankees about as well as anyone could’ve.

The vitriol that surrounds Girardi is similar to that which accompanied him when he was a light-hitting catcher acquired to replace the power hitting and popular Mike Stanley. Fans expected the worst and were spitting fire before he’d even had a chance to put the uniform on. It turned out that Girardi was exactly what the pitching staff and manager Joe Torre needed—skillful at calling a game and a defensive standout who was a better hitter than he was ever given credit for.

Mattingly was beloved for whatever he did and that would’ve extended to a honeymoon period if he was managing the Yankees. There would’ve been criticisms of his strategy, but not to the extent of Girardi criticism.

Because he had never managed before and was essentially unfireable, Mattingly didn’t get the job.

Girardi has followed organizational edicts and been a cog in the machine rather than the focal point.

These aspects—more than anything—were what drew GM Brian Cashman to Girardi.

Mattingly was more of a gamble.

Beneath that charming, aw shucks persona is an intense competitor who could easily have used his cozy relationship with the media and idol status with the fans to try and marginalize the GM. Who could ever think that Mattingly would be underhanded and sneaky even if he was being underhanded and sneaky?

Cashman made his choice based on maintaining control. You can’t say he was wrong.

Mattingly took over as the Dodgers manager this season and amid all the distractions of the Frank McCourt circus; injuries to key players Andre Ethier, Casey Blake, Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Jon Garland; and glaring holes in the roster, he somehow has the team over the .500 mark.

What prepared him for this and allowed him to overcome the clear obstacles?

Was his apprenticeship under Torre part of the reason he was able to stay calm while the Dodgers universe was crumbling around him? Could it have been all those years spent in the Bronx Zoo as the team star and frequent target of owner George Steinbrenner’s capricious lunacy? Has he used his status as a player who was better than anyone currently on the Dodgers roster to subtly let them know that they’re not going to push him around despite his gentle demeanor?

Is it all of the above?

For all the viable reasons Cashman had for selecting Girardi over Mattingly, the way the Dodgers have played and shunned the temptation to go through the motions and get the season over with makes me wonder what would’ve happened had Mattingly gotten the job to manage the Yankees. They could’ve been worse that they’ve been under Girardi. But they also could’ve been better.

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Red Sox Wallow In Self-Pity

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Jonathan Papelbon accepted “full responsibility” for last night’s loss.

Carl Crawford apologized to the fans.

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.

It’s great.

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.

Responsibility?

Apologies?

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.

“We’re cursed.”

The curse was broken.

What’s the excuse now?

Is there one?

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