Wednesday, October 12, 2011

America's Snitches' Team

Bob Hohler of the Globe is a good reporter, more than good enough to have mastered reporting's primary skill -- knowing just which persons involved in a story are eager to explain why what happened wasn't really their fault. When it came to the Boston Red Sox organization, that was evidently a long list.

Given the poltroon's privilege of anonymity (it's essential in journalism, but that doesn't make it any nicer), lots of folks were happy to discuss the Sox collapse of September 2011 in vivid and excruciating detail, some of which might even be true. Hohler's also a real straight shooter, so I'll bet that somewhere in his heart, he wished his story could have the following headline and by line.

"Why you should keep buying things from us in 2012," by John Henry and Friends.

Strike that. It's obvious from the story that nobody on the Red Sox has any friends, at least not any others on the team or in the organization. Nobody who told those tales has much if any decency either. And if, as I'd be willing to bet significant money, the sources for Hohler's story were senior members of management and those with equity in the franchise, they don't have too many smarts.

Let's deal with the despicable first. Accusing Terry Francona of prescription drug abuse and saying his marriage was affecting his work is beneath comment, beyond my poor capacity to sufficiently abuse and just plain stupid. When it comes to baseball, there are basically two kinds of marriages. Ones where the wife can take being alone an awful lot of the time, and marriages with problems. That's just a sad fact of the business, and it applies to baseball writers as much as anyone.

As for substance abuse causing a manager to make poor decision and "lose control of the team," well, I don't know. Maybe Billy Martin, Earl Weaver and I will get together for a beer tonight and discuss the issue. The Raging Alcoholic wing of the Hall of Fame, should it ever get built, will be a large annex.

Here's even more stupid. Francona is well liked, not just by fans, but in the tiny inbred world of his sport, too. His version of events, delivered in private, will carry more weight than Hohler's story, even if every word of it was gospel truth. The Sox ownership/management team will now be doing business with peers who have reason to believe they're dealing with deceitful and nasty people. There will be a surcharge for that suspicion.

Penultimate stupidity. The villians of Hohler's piece, John Lackey, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, are also multimillion dollar long term investments of the sources who dissed them. They can only be replaced at a cost of hundreds of million of dollars and several lost seasons. Tim Wakefield for Opening Day pitcher, anyone?

The Sox are stuck with Lester and Beckett, and probably Lackey, too. I don't think many teams would trade for him if the Sox assumed his whole salary and threw in Adrian Gonzalez. They can't win without Lester and Beckett pitching well, as September proved. Why then in the name of Abner Doubleday and Peter Drucker did management go out of its way to paint them as twirling cancers? Rest assured, both pitchers have agents, and those agents were quick to assure them that they are valuable commodities whose paychecks will keep flowing come what may. In short, Lester and Beckett have the whip hand in their relationships with their employer. What point did blackening their reputations prove? How did it increase the value of the Red Sox as an investment?

Ultimate stupidity. Through their own anonymous words, the Red Sox as an organization stand revealed as a place where there's no one you can trust, or should trust. Since the franchise is now searching for both a manager and general manager, this could impede recruiting -- at least recruiting of anyone worth a damn.

There are hundreds of proverbial good baseball men for every job in baseball, let alone the glamorous big-paying ones. The line of applicants for both Sox positions will doubtless metaphorically stretch around Fenway Park and all the back to Charlestown. But the list of applicants who might make a difference in the job is apt to be shorter.

If I'm a potential manager or general manager with the slightest confidence in my own abilities, here's how I see the Red Sox. It's a place where you can't turn your back on your employees or your employers, where you're expected to stay in the background in success and stand front and center in failure, and oh, yes, when failure comes, as is inevitable, the franchise will do its best to make you unemployable anywhere else, out of the spiteful cruelty at which true cowards excel.

I'm thinking, you know, maybe I'll just wait for that cushy Astros job to open up.


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