Red Sox Collapse

Hello fellow TSMers, Rob here (“little TSM”?) with a post regarding the 5:20 segment on Prime Time Sports Wednesday evening. TSM introduced me to you back in August, and the combination of a day job, summer vacation, and a lack of inspiring topics (translation – lack of real Leafs news, Jays out of the pennant race, basketball lockout, Argos inconsistency) on my part bring us to today. Reading this morning that TSM will be posting more frequently is good news, and I plan to as well.

I have to thank Bob McCown and Damien Cox and their interview of Joe Sullivan, editor of the Boston Globe, regarding Robert Hohler’s “terrific” (tongue in cheek) piece in which he documents the going’s on (McCown’s words) that led to the collapse of the Boston Red Sox. According to Cox, it’s a throwback to “old time journalism”. To suggest that the shenanigans described in the article led to the collapse of the Red Sox is absurd.

In case you haven’t heard, the story broke in the Boston Globe describing a number of incendiary things occurring in the Red Sox clubhouse. The allegations include beer drinking in the clubhouse during games, ordering fast food/eating chicken during games, and playing video games during games. Cox replied “wow” to the allegations. Are you telling me that most writers associated with baseball haven’t heard this kind of thing before? Perhaps Cox should touch base with Richard Griffin at his paper – Griffin might indicate this isn’t necessarily a shocking revelation.

Now, a rhetorical question – how easy is it to produce a story such as this when the allegations are off the record as the editor admitted? Second, Hohler was on the Red Sox beat for 3 years prior to becoming a columnist. Perhaps he heard of these shenanigans going on in his old role.

Next, I have to question how familiar Joe Sullivan and Damien Cox are with the history of baseball. Frankly, I’m surprised McCown gave this story much credence, as I was under the impression he had a solid understanding of “flavor” of the game. There’s a litany of stories that litter this game highlighting such “goings on” as McCown categorized them – from Babe Ruth, to Dock Ellis, to the story yesterday. This isn’t meant to excuse the allegations, but rather to highlight the fact that this particular story shouldn’t be a surprise, let alone be described as a wonderful job, a piece of “old time journalism” (whatever that means), or be termed a terrific piece. What we ended up with was a 10 minute interview where fellow journalists/broadcasters held hands singing Kumbaya regarding what a wonderful job that was done.

Was the Red Sox demise stunning? Yes, but was it a complete surprise? Hardly – this team essentially finished off their season the way they started it – on a horrible losing streak. Their starting pitching was adequate at best, and when Lackey began to show his age and Bucholtz got injured, this team began its descent from its lofty peak, long before a cold Bud and some fried chicken were the daily special.

Sullivan said the Boston Herald was the first to report about drinking in the clubhouse. Next, he indicated that this type of occurrence was unprecedented (really?). Further, he stated the biggest part of the team failed – the starting pitchers. So the beer drinking, deep fried chicken eaters are Clay Bucholtz, on the 60 day DL? Or the other healthy starting pitchers (Lackey, Beckett, Wakefield, Lester), who aren’t necessarily available for duty that day? Sullivan was asked if you can fix this team, and he believed with new management, and new rules that the team can be set straight. Is this guy out of touch or what?

Finally, why were the anonymous sources willing to talk about the situation? Hmmm, let me see…perhaps because the GM is bolting for the Cubs and the manager was relieved of his duties? Isn’t it shocking that the anonymous sources are sticking their necks out to talk the press now.

Why didn’t Francona stop it? Was he incapable of stopping it? Did his alleged personal problems (troubled marriage? prescription drug issues?) play a role in this? Or, could it be because all of this was nothing out of the norm when they won the World Series in 2004 and 2007? Dan Patrick had a great interview with AJ Pierzynski (catcher with the White Sox, and analyst on FOX in the Championship Series) today in regards to this story. Pierzynski talked about the Sox doing team beer “rally shots” before an ALDS game against the Rays a few years back. It’s also been documented that the 2004 Red Sox team, led by the always interesting Kevin Millar, conducted themselves in a similar fashion on occasion. Patrick summed this entire story up best when he said that if you don’t win, this type of story looks bad, but if the Red Sox had won, as they did in ’04 and ’07, then they are nothing more than a clubhouse of interesting, eclectic guys that don’t follow the norm.

This piece was fluff journalism, and McCown and Cox took the bait – hook, line and sinker. What a waste of 10 minutes.

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October 13, 2011 8:39 am

I thought that article was inflamatory and couldn’t believe an editor would let it get published…claiming Francona’s personal problems (use of pain killers and impending divorce) caused him to lose control of the team.

Everyone in markets like Boston and NY wants to blame an individual, not their “heroes” for quitting, or not having enough talent or desire.

Not surprised that Cox would get a boh_ner over that stuff, that’s his style of journalism…PTS is just awful, I can’t listen any more. I gave it a try. I’ll take Cybulski (evern with his obsession with MMA and UFC) over “Father Time” McCown.

October 13, 2011 9:06 am

” Are you telling me that most writers associated with baseball haven’t heard this kind of thing before?”

Its Damien cox.

He’s not familiar with baseball.

Gerry (Burlington)
Gerry (Burlington)
October 13, 2011 10:34 am

Dan Patrick had Al Leiter on this morning to discuss this, ridiculous for Cox to think this is some new thing in Baseball. Patrick made reference to Leiter about the Mets having a Porn room, which Leiter did not deny.

Baseball rightly or wrongly has always had a very different set of clubhouse rules than many other sports.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
October 13, 2011 11:18 am

when you win then these things are part of the game. when you lose these things are part of the team.

it’s implausible to think that clubhouse culture doesn’t affect in-game mindset, preparation, composure, team support, and so on. These are of course intangibles, but so long as the game is played by human beings then intangibles are part of the game.

i have no problem with the media reporting on these things after a historical collapse. if they were reporting about clubhouse drinking on the Jays it would be a different issue — that would be an attempt to stir up a story where there isn’t one. there’s a story to be told about the statistically astonishing failure of the 2011 Red Sox.

Lee (Oakville)
Lee (Oakville)
October 13, 2011 12:04 pm

A couple of thoughts on the Red Sox article:

i) Why are people so hung up on anonymous sources? Who was Brunt’s source on his story on the Thrashers move to Winnipeg? Who are the sources when TSN or Sportsnet reports on a possible trade? It appears that some get hung up about the anonymity of sources only when the story is somewhat personal in nature (and then they decry the reliability of these sources), but are openly accepting of mainstream stories and journalists using the same technique.

ii) I see nothing offside about the Red Sox story. It is a legitimate story, in my mind, to question lack of clubhouse and management leadership during this epic collapse and actually have examples of possible reasons. The Toronto MSM would never have published this story because of their co-dependence with the Toronto sports franchises, and we are all poorer as consumers for this.

iii) Why would we be surprised with the McCown and Cox reactions to the interview? Cox has superficial knowledge of most sports and McCown is mailing it in way too often these days. I’d be surprised if the reaction was educated and insightful.

Il Duce
Il Duce
October 13, 2011 1:34 pm

Well said Rob

Listening to Cox is nauseating. He’s not funny yet attempts to be. He asks the ‘tough’ questions unless of course he’s writing a Bio book on the athlete (Brodeur). Regarding the Red Sox collapse, Cox went as far as to say that there had to be reasons for it and loved that Hohler wrote the piece, what great journalism! Hey Einstein, this sort of behavior has been going on in club houses and dressing rooms forever. I’m sure Cox knows a few stories but keeps them in his pocket for later use. Cox is pathetic.

I was surprised that McCown even discussed this Boston Globe article having been around club house in the past himself. I’ve lost a lot of respect for Mcown ever since he’s had his buddy Eric Tillman on after all that went on in his personal life. Friends are friends but this would be equal to wanting to interview O.J. just because he was always a nice guy to you before. Ya right!

The Red Sox collapse was nothing but extraordinary. Trying to pin it on all these issues written in the Globe is nothing but sensational journalism, not investigative like Mcown and Cox would have you believe.

October 13, 2011 3:14 pm

As a Red Sox fan, I agree with most of this. Boston didn’t make the playoffs because Lackey was inconsistent (hardly any different than last year) and two of their four best pitchers (Matsuzaka and even more so Buchholz) were injured. Would have the Rangers made the playoffs without CJ Wilson for the last two months? The Rays without James Shields? Boston probably lost 5+ games just because Tim Wakefield was on the mount instead of Clay Buchholz.

As David Ortiz said to ESPN, this is nothing new. Boston did it in 2004, they did it in 2007. It is simply the Boston media looking for a reason why they lost after calling the team “the best ever” on opening day.

October 13, 2011 4:04 pm

If Papelbon throws one more strike and Corey Wade throws one more strike against Dan Johnson, none of the things going on in the Red Sox clubhouse that have always been happening are an issue.

I hate how any kind of collapse is covered in hindsight where you turn normal behaviour into some kind of catalyst for the eventual result.

Bob Canuck
Bob Canuck
October 13, 2011 5:02 pm

In my opinion, the Boston Globe article was a well-sourced and thoughtful piece about an epic collapse of the 2011 Boston Red Sox. From a journalistic quality perspective, multiple sources were used to paint the story and key players were given the opportunity to comment on the story. The fact that there has been no refutation of the key facts strongly indicates that the Boston Globe painted a very accurate picture of what happened to the Red Sox.

With respect to the content, the article cited many factors that led to the Red Sox collapse, including the following: a lack of dedication to conditioning (Beckett, Lackey and Lester); poor leadership (veteran players, Francona and Epstein); poor signings (Jenks, Lackey and, to a lesser extent, Crawford); a decline in the performance of formerly key players (Varitek and Youklis); and a lack of team unity, as exemplified by the three pitchers eating chicken, drinking beer and playing video games DURING THE GAME.

As a final point, the interview with Cox, McCown and Sullivan was interesting radio. Sullivan spoke about why the investigative reporter was the principal writer of the piece and why anonymous sources were used. I thought the radio segment was an intelligent conversation between three media professionals.

In summary, I heard a good radio segment concerning a well-crafted sports news article about an interesting topic. As a consumer of stories about sports and sports media, I was well-served by the Boston Globe and the Fan 590.

Sam in Oshawa
October 13, 2011 7:15 pm

Thank-you Bob Canuck,very well said…

October 13, 2011 8:37 pm

nice rebuttal Bob Canuck

October 13, 2011 9:30 pm

YAWWWWN. Talk about a waste of 10 minutes and fluff journalism. You need an editor, Little TSM.

Bob Canuck
Bob Canuck
October 13, 2011 9:41 pm


Thanks, your comments are much appreciated.

Another Steve
Another Steve
October 13, 2011 10:03 pm

I haven’t had/made time to read the article yet, Bob Canuck, but what bothered me was the reference to Francona’s personal life (i.e. his failing marriage). That struck me as rather mean-spiriited and more than gossipy. What are the thoughts about that?

Bob Canuck
Bob Canuck
October 13, 2011 11:12 pm

Another Steve,

I can’t comment on whether or not the reference to Francona’s personal life was mean spirited: I can’t speculate on the motivation of the writer. However, I agree that making reference to Francona’s marital situation and his use of pain killers was speculative, if not gossipy. The article did not sufficiently link Francona’s personal life to his lack of leadership. Accordingly, I would have omitted reference to Francona’s personal life unless I could have made a stronger connection. In the end, I gave little weight to Francona’s personal life as far as assessing what happened to the 2011 Red Sox. Therefore, it was unnecessary to highlight Francona’s personal situation in the article.

Another Steve
Another Steve
October 13, 2011 11:21 pm

Bob Canuck – thanks.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
October 14, 2011 7:55 pm

just listened to the interview. I agree for the most part with Bob Canuck and his well written comment.

the issue of including Francona’s marital problems was raised during the interview: the supposition put forth was that part of Francona’s inability to rein in the bad behaviour was due to his dealing with his own life. Given how dysfunctional the clubhouse became (as confirmed by the actual and former players) i think it is fair to look for reasons why the manager was unable to maintain control.

i don’t see any justifying reason for mentioning his use of pain-killers. that was completely out of bounds, and if the leak came from management, then it could be legally actionable.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x