Who’s to blame? None of the above.

I haven’t written much about the Red Sox this year — at least not here. I’ve found that Twitter’s 140-character limit is a pretty good match for my baseball knowledge.

But with the team in free fall, I’ve been listening to a lot of sports radio. The consensus seems to be that Terry Francona bears some of the blame, and Theo Epstein a great deal more. Both propositions strike me as wrong. I’d say Francona is largely blameless — not entirely, but no one is perfect. And though Epstein clearly has had a bad couple of years given the way guys like John Lackey and Carl Crawford turned out, I don’t think he deserves that much of a thrashing either.

I could go on and on, but Earl Weaver explained it perfectly: “Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.” The Red Sox’ five-man rotation consists of three disasters and two aces, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, who haven’t been at their best during the collapse. Notice I stayed away from saying that “they haven’t stepped up” or “they haven’t risen to the occasion.” Do we not think they’re giving it a full effort, or that they feel terrible about their recent failures? As for the disasters — well, that’s where Epstein has to look in the mirror over the winter and figure out what to do. Only the loss of Clay Buchholz was completely unanticipated.

Two other observations. Francona’s getting a lot of heat for not doing anything when Lackey stared him down the other night. Not doing anything? Tito had come out to remove Lackey, and he did. Mission accomplished. Seriously? As for the sloppiness and errors that have crept in, I think you’d have to be a robot not to be affected by being down by five or six runs early in every game. You’d like to think they players could rise above it and maintain focus, but they’re not really any different from the rest of us.

If it turns out to be true that Epstein used Peter Gammons to deflect the blame onto Francona, well, shame on him. Francona is the best manager in Red Sox history, and Epstein is among the best general managers in the business. I hope they’re both still here after the Sox’ likely playoff run comes to what we all imagine will be a short and ugly conclusion.

10 thoughts on “Who’s to blame? None of the above.

  1. Jill DeCoursey

    How *dare* you be reasonable and measured about the Red Sox in this sports radio, must-have-someone-to-blame culture? Thanks, Dan!

  2. BP Myers

    Hard to disagree with most anything, except Theo put together this train wreck and bears the ultimate responsibility.

    And though I’m unfamiliar with the dynamics of a baseball clubhouse, I’ve long been led to believe that one cardinal rule is that a ballplayer does not show up another ballplayer, and John Lackey has been doing that for two seasons now, with petulant eyerolls and throwing up of the hands, for the whole world to see.

    He does it one more time, and a teammate doesn’t pop him one, then yes, I’ll believe they’ve stopped caring.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @BP: By all accounts, Lackey is great in the clubhouse and well-liked by his teammates. I know, we’ve all seen the same things you’ve seen. I think the guy is just a hypercompetitive bulldog who can’t understand why he can’t get anyone out anymore.

  3. LFNeilson

    Yawn! I’m amazed at how many people go hyper over sports analysis. It’s supposed to be a game, but of course, it’s big business. I confess, when I was 12 years old, I was a big Red Sox fan. Must be all those people who wish they were still 12.

  4. Mike Benedict

    I don’t listen much to talk radio, and my feelings on the local sportswriters/toy department are well known. But I do pine for the day when the Boston area has one — just one will do — sportswriter (an archaic term, I know) well-groomed in the science of numbers vs. the “art” of speaking/writing like a petulant 5-year-old. There are so many other ways to address the question of What’s Wrong with the Red Sox than the outdated and crude ways they shamelessly foist upon the public.

    Boston sportsfolks: Was sitting in the corner wearing the dunce cap so much fun in grade school that you feel compelled to relive the sensation by continuing to flap your jaws?

  5. tobe berkovitz

    My oft stated theory of the Sox slide is that it is due to the stupid nicknames used by the Red Sox on-air announcers. If they called the players by their names instead of having everything end in”eeeee”, Pedeeeeeee, Salteeeeee or other
    sad and uncreative names, Gonzo, Tech, the Sox would have cruised. Then again, maybe it is the fault of Theo or Francona or anything else you want to come up with. Hey, I remember where I was when Bucky Dent hit his pathetic homer. Enough said.

  6. I agree with you about Francona. He’s a very, very good manager. And that’s clear. That said, the season started out a disaster and it’s ending a disaster after a very good overall season. We can’t win them all. We’ve won two world championships in the last seven years and broke the curse. I’m pretty happy with that. 🙂

  7. Mike Benedict

    So why did the Globe pull its punches about whomever sent Lackey the text last night:

    “Lackey had an angry postgame press conference, accusing an unnamed reporter — later learned to be a gossip columnist not affiliated with the baseball media — of sending him a text message about a personal issue before the game. He basically refused to answer questions after a quick tirade that seemed way out of place given the circumstances.”

    If the Globe knows the name, why not disclose it?

  8. Michael Corcoran

    I think you are a bit soft on Theo. It is not as though Lackey and Crawford are his only mistakes. Dice-K, Renteria, Jenks, JD Drew. I am struggling to think of a quality Free Agent pickup he has made for large dollars. (He has done well with big-ticket trades: Shilling, and gonzales). Also, he gets credit for 2004 and 2007. But it is worth remembering that so much of the 2004 team was Dan Duquette’s team – Damon, Pedro, Lowe, Varitek etc ….

    Even in 2007, he gets too much credit. Beckett largely won that World Series, and that trade was made when Theo was gone. I want to like Theo and accept that he is so very good. But, his list of mistakes is really hard to ignore. I do agree that Tito should be offered this job as long as he wants it (which may be the question).

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