If Red Sox fans weren’t overly concerned about their club’s mediocre first half, clear lack of a coherent plan and inability of organizational factions to get on the same page, then the latest news should wake them up with the cold fear of a premonition of an oncoming natural disaster that they can neither avoid nor stop.
Team President/CEO Larry Lucchino sent the following letter to season ticket holders.
|Dear Season Ticket Holder:
As we cross the midpoint of our 2012 season, we thank you for your loyal support thus far. We met many of you at our new spring home, JetBlue Park at Fenway South, and renewed more acquaintances as we opened the 100th Anniversary season at Fenway Park. We sensed that the nostalgia touched you, and we hope to continue to celebrate this special anniversary from time to time throughout the year.
Our play on the field has at times tested the mettle of the faithful. It could be maddening one day, enthralling the next day. Along the way, we have seen our bullpen gel, young players emerge, and veterans lead. We have watched the team coalesce into a close group. Personalities are enhancing the chemistry, such as the cheerful Cody Ross, the friendly Mike Aviles, and the inspiring story of Daniel Nava. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has shown power, in the clutch, worthy of an All-Star. And as the talented Will Middlebrooks forced his way into the lineup, we bade farewell, with gratitude, to Kevin Youkilis, who helped us win two World Championships.
The one constant on the field has been our beloved Big Papi, David Ortiz. How thrilled we were that our gregarious leader reached the 400-home run plateau in a career that we hope will forever be with the Red Sox.
The one constant off the field is that we have had a veritable All-Star Team on the disabled list. As we begin the second half, we look forward to the return of the “varsity,” including Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Andrew Bailey, and the ever-dirty Dustin Pedroia.
While this infusion of such talent in late July may make other General Managers green with envy, you can be sure that Ben Cherington and his Baseball Operations Staff will approach the July 31 trading deadline with their tireless work ethic. If someone can further help this club, and if the deal makes sense, we will be aggressive. We want to play October Baseball this year.
Meanwhile, as you come to Fenway Park throughout this season, we hope you will come early—the secret to fully enjoying a sports venue. Now “A Living Museum,” Fenway Park probably leads the league in bronze plaques and commemorative displays along the concourses. Enjoy them at your leisure early, well before the escalation of excitement as game time approaches. And as always, if you have reactions, suggestions, or ideas that will make the ballpark experience even better, we invite you to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the way, if we’re in your neighborhood for a visit during “Acts of Kindness Month” this month, please come over and say hello. We enjoy listening to you, and we enjoy talking baseball with you. We’re your biggest fans. So, on behalf of John Henry, Tom Werner, our partners, and our entire organization, we thank you again, and we look forward to seeing you at Fenway Park.
Keep the Faith,
I’ll ignore the obvious laughlines like “cheerful Cody Ross,” “friendly Mike Aviles,” and “the return of the ‘varsity’”. What would concern me if I were a Red Sox fan is that Lucchino is sending a letter like this out in the first place and is implying that the Red Sox are going to be “aggressive” at the trading deadline in order to play October baseball this year.
There are times to be aggressive and there are times to hold one’s fire, wait and let things play out without chasing the past—a past that had the Red Sox in legitimate title contention for almost the entire decade of 2000 to 2011. I don’t see this letter as an organizational boss assuaging the concerns of an angry (and somewhat spoiled) fanbase. I see it as the man behind the scenes putting his voice out there in the public and pulling levers to make sure he’s having a significant influence in team construction.
This is a problem that’s been ongoing since the departure of Theo Epstein and will continue until owner John Henry steps in and lets someone—anyone—take charge as he did with Epstein. The letter is not baseball related and coincides with the series of decisions that were made last winter to try and patch over the issues that caused the self-destruction on and off the field of a club that, before the fact, was compared to the 1927 Yankees.
There’s no one in charge and willing to say, “I’m in charge.” Cherington’s certainly not running things because if he was, Bobby Valentine would not be the manager. And that’s not a defense of Cherington’s preferred choices because neither John Farrell nor Dale Sveum are lighting up the world with their baseball brilliance as the respective managers of the Blue Jays and Cubs.
Lucchino wanted Valentine, again, to have a “name” to replace Terry Francona and lay down the law that the lack of discipline that was blamed for the club’s demise last season wouldn’t happen again. Naturally Valentine has butted heads with the veterans and his almost immediate battle with Youkilis greased the skids for Youkilis’s departure from the team. Not that that’s a bad thing. Even though they gave him away, they probably should’ve traded Youkilis over the winter to shake things up before the inevitable happened with Valentine.
Lucchino sending out this letter to keep the season ticket holders happy is indicative of a fanbase that’s gotten so greedy that they’re blind to the reality that they’ve become mirror images of that which they despise more than anything: the Yankees. Do they need to be given assurances that the Red Sox are going to try and win? Wasn’t the breaking of The Curse in 2004 and another championship 3 years later enough to keep them happy for awhile? To maintain loyalty and, even if the team isn’t performing up to expectations and lofty payroll, ensure that the season ticket holders will keep their plans intact due to reciprocal appreciation?
Like him or not, Lucchino helmed the rise of the Red Sox and was a major part of turning Fenway Park into a rebuilt place to be where the tickets were hot rather than an aging and dilapidated relic with players, coaches, managers and front office people who only cared about themselves. If a lean year or two is necessary for the greater good and to prevent the whole thing from crashing to the ground, isn’t it worth it to accept that and say, “We’ll take an 81-81 season if it means we’ll be contending for a title in 2014 or 2015”?
Epstein was a check on Lucchino. Cherington can’t be that same check. Now there’s no one in command and no single voice to put a stop to a lunatic maneuver designed to steal the headlines for a week, perhaps help the club win 2 more games than they would have otherwise and wind up in the exact same position they would’ve been in had they been prudent and held onto whatever assets they surrendered to make that incremental and meaningless “improvement”.
As the head of the organization, Lucchino is addressing fan concerns and trying to please his customers, but the customer isn’t always right and because the fans want the Red Sox to do something drastic doesn’t mean it’s wise. There’s a difference between compromising within reason for the constituency and compromising for expediency and self-immolating in the process. If he’s going to try and make sure his word is proven true and Cherington and the baseball people are forced to do something they don’t want to do, it’s only going to make the current predicament worse. Except now it won’t be short-term, it will be long term, deep and that much harder to dig their way out of.