The problem with inviting everyone to a celebration like this is that there are bound to be people who you don’t want to show up but only invited because you were inviting everyone and it would cause more of a distraction if you picked and chose who could and couldn’t come.
What makes it worse than the person showing up is when they make a great show of pronouncing that they’re not showing up and go into graphic detail as to why.
It’s like a wedding. “Well, if we invite X, then we have to invite Y! We have to!”
The Red Sox have done a Mets-like job of botching things since the final month of the 2011 season when they acted as if a playoff spot was an entitlement rather than something they earned; as if spending money on stars and formulating mathematical calculations based on runs scored and runs allowed that they’d make the playoffs on an annual basis and waltz into another “ultimate matchup” between themselves, the Yankees and the Phillies.
None of those teams made it past the first round of the playoffs.
There’s no right or wrong answer in designing this type of party, but like the aforementioned analogy of a wedding, for the organizers, it’s a case of not having it degenerate into a YouTube disaster.
The Red Sox made the mistake of adding fuel to the fire from the fallout of 2011 with the public dustups with Theo Epstein’s and Terry Francona’s “are they coming or are they not?” twin gaffes.
Francona was invited and initially declined because of the circumstances in which he was dismissed, then reversed course. He did it publicly and it was intentional.
Apparently, Epstein hadn’t been invited at all—a horrific mistake in propriety.
The way to handle situations like this is to rise above the fray. What the Red Sox should’ve done was asked Francona and Epstein to come and left it there.
If Francona said no, they needn’t have called him or gotten into a war of words in the media (dutifully blown up to increase the scrutiny on the reeling organization and shift the onus away from the “beloved” former manager) to rehash the back-and-forth that went on all winter as to whom said what and who’s been allocated the majority of blame for the collapse.
The right answer was the simplest. “We invited Tito and Theo. Of course we want them here for the celebration. It’s not about 2011. It’s about 1912 to 2012 and they contributed greatly to this organization. If they don’t come because of any lingering animosity, we regret that and they’re going to miss a beautiful ceremony.”
Who looks worse if Epstein and Francona decline?
Francona’s not Mr. Innocent here.
Don’t think he was hit by a bolt from the blue of magnanimity and changed his mind after dredging up accusations of what led to the ugly split between him and the club. If you believe that, I have a ballpark on 4 Yawkey Way in Boston to sell you.
It’s 100 years old, but was recently refurbished and is a beloved landmark.
Make an offer.
Ask yourself this: if the Red Sox were 10-2 instead of 4-8 and reeling on and off the field under new manager Bobby Valentine, would Francona have so willingly decided to attend?
To an absurd degree, Francona’s been shielded from his part in this club’s decline. In truth, he’s lucky he’s out of there because as long as they keep playing like this and resorting to organizational cannibalism and self-preservation (“Hey, don’t blame me!!!”), he looks better and better when he probably shouldn’t.
Francona is getting his revenge on and off the field and when he steps out and hears the cheers and chanting (“Come back Ti-to!!!”). It’s a kick in the groin for Larry Lucchino, John Henry and Valentine.
Players on the roster will seek Francona out, hug him, shake their heads and complain about the new regime; they’ll express their regret for Francona being dismissed while shirking the reality that their behaviors caused the dismissal. That’s what players do.
The Red Sox are coming apart. Valentine is under fire from the players and media as the lightning rod when much of what’s gone wrong falls at the desks of both Epstein and Francona.
With Epstein, it’s ridiculous that he wasn’t invited. Both he and Dan Duquette played major roles in the rejuvenation of the franchise and deserve acknowledgement for that. They’re not among the generic “non-uniformed personnel” who were, as a rule, not asked to come.
All of the responsibility for what’s currently going wrong for the Red Sox is falling on the remaining actors in the ongoing tragi-comedy. Lucchino, Henry, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis were there for the explosion and are dealing with the fallout. Valentine was parachuted in like a banished general who hadn’t been in combat for a decade and is seeing first hand the factional disagreement, media vultures and fan anger. It’s becoming clear that even the polarizing Valentine had no idea what he was getting into. He thought he was managing a baseball team, not overseeing a zoo.
The entire off-field drama is a distraction from what this celebration is meant to be about: the ballpark and the history of the franchise.
Like it or not, that history going to be intensified by this downfall. It was inevitable as soon as they abandoned the initial blueprint they’d designed and altered the template to be the Yankees and purchased gaudy trophies in lieu of maintaining financial sanity and getting needs over wants.
They’ve succeeded in becoming the Yankees.
But it wasn’t the 1965 Yankees they had in mind.
Let them enjoy their day.
It’s going to get worse from here.