These Red Sox chemistry problems weren’t discussed until after the fact; until after they’d completely come apart.
Before then, no one said a word about how unlikable and dysfunctional the Red Sox were; about the accusations of pitchers drinking on days they weren’t scheduled to start; about rifts, disputes, factions and selfishness.
Now after the wheels came off and the team somehow—inexplicably—missed the playoffs, are we hearing these excuses.
And that’s what they are.
Does it help if teams are all buddies and pal around together and genuinely like one another?
It probably helps morale and makes a more pleasant workplace, but as far as on-field play, the one thing that would’ve helped the Red Sox in September was finding a couple of pitchers who weren’t going to give up 6 runs by the third inning; who weren’t going to tax the bullpen on a nightly basis or force the offense to score 10 runs to win.
This is going to get worse before it gets better. There are going to be significant aftershocks or they’ll examine their circumstances and realize that a full-blown rebuild is out of the question given the length and immovability of certain contracts.
Is it an isolated incident that pitchers were drinking beers in the clubhouse on their off days? No. Steve Carlton—one of the best pitchers in history, but an egocentric recluse—used to sleep in the clubhouse when he wasn’t pitching. Far more players find other ways to occupy themselves during a long season and they’re ignored. There’s little former manager Terry Francona could’ve done to stop the in-game drinking short of removing beer from the clubhouse and with his own status clearly precarious, that would’ve done more harm than good.
The days of a manager being a tyrant are long dead and despite Francona’s two World Series wins and status as a respected baseball man, his power wasn’t as great as one would expect. With players holding contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, they know who has the leverage in the relationship, so any sanctions must be done smoothly and politically; if Francona was unable to reach consensus with certain players, that has more to do with the players than the manager.
Sniping, shifting of blame and alibis are the only post-season this disastrous 2011 Red Sox team has; the in-fighting that is referenced as a large portion of what cost them their playoff spot in September is continuing into a barren October; it’s going to get worse because there are no games played by the Red Sox to function as a distraction. The media is sniffing around for a story. Every utterance by a Red Sox player—past and present—will be a headline until the club’s direction is determined.
Would it be better for Epstein to leave? He’s not going to get the “full autonomy” that’s often a stated fact for a GM who’s joining a new club. He doesn’t have it now; he won’t get it with the Cubs and he definitely won’t get it with the Angels. No GM anywhere has it.
But perhaps he no longer wants to deal with the diminishing returns of being the Red Sox GM where anything short of a World Series is a catastrophe.
They’ve become the Yankees.
They’ve become that which they used to simultaneously envy and revile and it’s permeating the organization from the front office to the field personnel to the fans and media.
And this is just the beginning.
Those who are wondering why Epstein would want to leave the team he rooted for as a child in a town where he’ll forever be known as the man who built the team that broke the curse need to ask a different question.
Given the way this team is no longer enjoyable to be around and is teetering on the verge of a drastic downslide that few—no one—saw coming, here’s a better question: Why would he want to stay?
Because no one has categorically denied the potential for Epstein to follow Francona out the door, that question may be what Epstein himself is asking.
Francona looked exhausted and frustrated.
Would it be such a shock if Epstein felt the exact same way? If he wanted out too?