Saturday, August 25, 2012

Divorce in Haste, Repent at Leisure

By his own standards, Adrian Gonzalez is having a poor season at the plate, the worst of his career, in fact.

By the standards of the 2012 Red Sox, Gonzalez is/was the best hitter they had. Why he has become the baby that had to be thrown out with the roster's bathwater escapes me, or it would if we talking about baseball and not the Boston baseball franchise.

The Waiver Wire Purge of August is most assuredly not about baseball. It's about panic, a superstitious expiation of the Gods, or at least of the voices in the heads of Red Sox management/ownership who keep whispering "The customers might really mean it this time when they say they won't come back." It is the time-dishonored mistake made every sports season in these parts when a team goes bad -- mistaking the unhappiness, pettiness and miserable attitudes created by losing for the REASON there's losing.

"If we get rid of the guys fans bitch about, the fans will stop bitching." Uh-huh. Get rid of players fans bitch about, and fans don't stop bitching, they stop caring. Bums are never booed.

Why the Los Angeles Dodgers want $270 million worth of contracts to get one player (Gonzalez) worth having, one pitcher worth avoiding and a question mark who won't hit the field until 2014 escapes me too, but at least Dodger management has a pennant fever excuse. Wouldn't Tylenol have been a cheaper remedy?

But enough about the lesser losers of this trade. The Red Sox Purge is unique in that it's the people conducting the show trial who're making the groveling public confession, to wit; we don't know what the hell we're doing.

Give out hundreds of millions in contracts to acquire two players you say make you the best team in franchise history in March of 2011. Dump the very same players in August 2012. The business model here is extraordinarily reminiscent of high tech dying dinosaurs like Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo. When the core operation heads south, plunge headlong into whatever buzzword you heard last at a cost of millions. When that too heads south, repeat process until the stockholders throw your ass out of the corner office.

A fresh start. That's the line that'll be peddled from now until next Opening Day. It's sort of true. There will be new faces in the Boston dugout. But it's a funny thing. Stars are almost impossible to replace, even when they are stars who have been playing like bums, or at least like mediocrities.

The 2012 Josh Beckett will be easy to replace. The 2012 Carl Crawford wasn't even really ever here. The 2012 Adrian Gonzalez, struggles and all, not so much. Hundred-plus RBI guys seldom come on the market. Of course, there's always Josh Hamilton. Safe as the 10-year Treasury as an investment, right?

Now that Sox ownership/management is admitting, no, bragging that its three biggest personnel decisions of the last six years were horrible mistakes,  why should any fan have faith in the next personnel decisions that will be made to erase the mistakes? More relevantly, why should any potential free agent ever want to come to the nuthouse on Lansdowne St. to be the next redeemer without demanding super-top dollar for the privilege of working for guys who take Mike Felger and Dan Shaughnessy's complaints seriously? 

Oh, well, it's an ill wind, etc. At least that's what David Ortiz's agent is saying this morning. As the last power hitter standing in the Sox clubhouse, he'll likely be standing in it next spring, too -- on favorable terms. There's a long-range solution for you.

Gonzalez is gone because without dumping him, Beckett and Crawford could never have been removed except by outright release. He is gone because of a lack of perceived cheerfulness which caused rabble-rousers and rabble fans to blame him for much of the disaster that began last year about this time.

Trading your best hitter for public relations is not sound baseball. It is not even sound public relations. My guess is the 2013 Boston Red Sox will have a smaller section of the public to try and relate to.


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