By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Beer facts about the Red Sox’ collapse

Boston Herald reporter John Tomase’s Sept. 30 article, in which he reported that some Red Sox pitchers were drinking beer in the clubhouse during games, is looking more and more like the story of this bitter off-season. “According to multiple sources,” Tomase wrote that day, “more than one pitcher drank beer in the clubhouse during games on the days he didn’t pitch.”

It’s been the talk of the town ever since, especially given that no one associated with the team has denied it. And today the Boston Globe’s Bob Hohler, in an all-known-facts takeout on the Sox’ historic collapse, names names: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey. Lackey is no surprise, and neither is Beckett. For Lester to show up on that list is a little disappointing, given that he was thought to be close to Terry Francona. But, as Hohler notes, all three collapsed down the stretch, the single biggest factor in the Sox’ third-place finish.

Hohler offers some other details as well. It’s pretty clear now that it was time for Francona to leave, if only for the sake of his health. The acquisition of Carl Crawford is described as a Theo Epstein move, contradicting sports-radio chatter that Crawford must have been imposed on Theo by ownership. And it sounds like it’s long past time for Kevin Youkilis to apologize to Jacoby Ellsbury, privately and publicly.

Photo (cc) by Tim “Avatar” Bartel and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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The Globe, the tipster and the FBI (III)


The Globe, the tipster and the FBI (IV)


  1. BP Myers

    Not much more to say. Fascinating dynamic that it was Tomase (of all people) who broke this story, critical of a hometown team, and it had almost the opposite reaction as his other well-known article critical of a hometown team, and was almost universally accepted as truth. I’m happy for him.

    I think Lester is simply easily led. He’s a country music fan who no doubt holds the big Texans Lackey and Beckett in awe. Fascinating too that each of them has won the clinching game of a World Series. No wonder they had a little club.

    In terms of Youk, I was always on Manny’s side after their little dust-up in the dugout. His histrionics are simply (at times) disrespectful, certainly to the umpires, and by extension the game. But you’ve offered a solution to at least one little inter-personal drama. Let’s see him do that, and take some anger management classes as well.

    But between this article and Stan Grossfeld’s, what an awesome sports section today.

  2. Mike Benedict

    It would appear Tito relied heavily on veterans like Mike Lowell, Victor Martinez and an effective Jason Varitek to police the clubhouse. Once those players had left or, in Varitek’s case, saw their skills so diminished that they ceased to be a factor, the younger veterans (Youkilis, for one) clearly have failed to step up and become positive forces.

    Even injured, Youkilis is an effective (and cost-effective) player. But if Ellsbury is both the present and the future, it seems Youk will have to be dispatched. (Same goes for Varitek. It’s hard to lead by example when you have been reduced to being one pitcher’s personal catcher.)

  3. Jeffrey Cox

    Wow! Where is this reporting the rest of the year. Finally, some facts that do not sound that it was created by RED SOX NATION. Part of me thinks that the Boston media scene has been too close to Red Sox Management to accurately report what has been going on.

    Can you imagine this article on Labor Day? What might have happened?

  4. Mike Benedict

    I just finished reading Hohler’s article. This is what passes for analysis?

    What disturbs me is how distant all of the reporting has been. Let me explain.

    Hohler (whom I generally like) doesn’t follow the team. He hasn’t been a beat reporter for years. All of his reporting about the clubhouse is secondhand. Not a single defining event was directly observed by him.

    This is true not just of Hohler’s reporting, but all those media who follow the Red Sox. It’s all hearsay. Whatever happened to reporting with your eyes? What are the local outlets paying their staffs for, anyway?

    Finally, had the Sox won one more game, all they would be talking about is how fried chicken and beer created the coziest little clubhouse this side of Hank Williams Jr.’s outhouse. It’s all a bunch of garbage, if you ask me. How about actually talking about, you know, baseball.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Mike: Well, come on, we know why Hohler got the assignment. You never ask the beat guy to do the takedown.

  5. BP Myers

    @Mike: There’s no doubt the Sox missed the leadership provided by the players you mention. But I suspect the loss of Brad Mills was felt more. It was long noted during his tenure that he was the one unafraid to read the riot act to guys when they needed it.

  6. Adam Riglian

    Mike is dead on here, the reporting on this is beyond distant. Aside from Francona and Pedroia, no one on the entire team is willing to speak? Maybe that’s more indicative of the Red Sox’ failings than the Globe’s, but still, in a piece that lengthy it’d be nice to have more than just a rehashing of what has been discussed on the radio for the past two weeks.

    The litany of phrases such as “By numerous accounts,” “By all accounts,” “numerous Sox players,” “team sources” etc. make for a very weak article.

    I also felt that a lot of the assertions made against Francona, especially the ones involving painkillers, are unfair unless someone is willing to put their name on it. “Team sources expressing concern” doesn’t really cut it for me.

  7. Mike Benedict

    @Dan: I understand that, but the problem doesn’t end with Hohler. The rest of that motley crew continues to engage in hearsay, too.

  8. Mike Rice

    The decline and fall of the Red Sox Empire is now complete and they only have themselves to blame.

  9. Michael Corcoran

    I am uncomfortable with the sourcing here. How much came from ownership looking for scapegoats as a popular GM and coach leave town? I understand why, in the rarest of cases, anonymous sources are important; but this isn’t an expose of government corruption, organized crime or war crimes — it is a baseball team (which has an odd relationship with the Globe parent company.)

    It was an interesting read, sure, even though most of it has been covered before. But given how much time and thought the Globe put into it (Sullivan did a q and a on confirming as much), I wish they would have waited to get people to speak on the record, find other ways to substantiate the harshest accusations (especially regarding Tito), or just live without a tell-all based on anonymous sources.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Michael: What if you can never get people to go on the record? This isn’t a mental exercise. Believe me, you’re never going to get people to go on the record with a story like this. Do you just let it go? Oh, well, wait till next year. Too bad Beckett had a few bad games down the stretch, eh? I’m uncomfortable with not knowing the motivations of the anonymous sources. I’d really like to know who threw Francona under the bus. But still, I think it was a story worth doing.

  10. Matt Kelly

    I think the bigger issue is that half the pitching lineup threw like they were intoxicated to begin with.

  11. Mike Benedict

    @Dan: What you are saying, in effect, is that hearing the salacious details of the story — true or not — is worth
    more than knowing whether those details are, in fact, true.

    That’s the same model usually reserved for the other Globe.

    This has become a classic he said, she said, and the media are accomplishing nothing more than piling on. It’s an embarrassment. They aren’t uncovering anything new. In fact, Ortiz today said the drinking in the clubhouse has been going on since he’s been there.

    The Boston media is so eager to cast blame, it forgets that sometimes events can simply be attributed to bad luck. But then you get the hacktastic Howard Bryant (the black Shaughnessy) claiming the Boston manager job is the least attractive in the majors. Right…. The 1977 Yankees was the epitome of dysfunction: fistfights between manager and the star player, money squabbles among teammates, a meddling owner, a local press that was embittered and relentless, a star relief pitcher demanding a trade, and oh, by the way, they won the World Series. So obviously what the Red Sox, who led the majors in scoring and won 179 games the past two years, are going through cannot be fixed.

    In stats, the input is more important than the output. Would that the local media would take a breath and realize the same truth applies to them.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Mike: Hope you heard Curt Schilling this morning.

  12. Mike Benedict

    @Dan: I didn’t. Anything new?

    • Dan Kennedy

      Mike: It’s probably online. Basically confirmed everything on the basis of his own checking.

  13. Mike Benedict

    Dan: I just listened to it. He seemed to veer around a bit. He starts off saying that the stuff that happened in the clubhouse (drinking and eating during games) was no big deal and that it he saw that stuff throughout his 20-year big league career. Then he got defensive about Francona, saying someone inside the team FO or the trainer must have leaked the med allegations, as no one else would have known. (Was Francona really that private?) He really lays out the ownership — not by name, of course — for throwing Tito under the bus, but keep in mind Schilling wasn’t happy with how things ended for himself in Boston (if I remember right, he wanted to have surgery; the team wanted him to defer), even though he pocketed $8M+ his final season (in which he pitched exactly 0 innings). Payback?

    He also noted the lack of real clubhouse leaders, which I believe undermines his support of Tito, for what it suggests is that Tito wasn’t strong enough to rule the clubhouse by himself.

    He gets more animated near the end — his voice moves into frequencies that would disrupt most radio signals. But again, I never got the sense Schilling actually saw any of this stuff himself. More hearsay.

  14. Michael Corcoran

    @Dan — I said “uncomfortable” but not outraged. I suppose I think the Tito allegations may have gone over the line. Fried chicken is one thing, but the stuff about Tito’s personal life was pretty harsh. So I do wonder if printing the speculation over his possible off-the-field problems was going too far. Especially given that we don’t know who gave that info, or even what their relationship to the team was.

    Sullivan said in his chat that there was a lot of internal debate/discussion on those Tito accusations, so they at least must have considered holding that stuff back.

    I guess it is never easy to know when to draw the line on these issues and when a story is worth using this type of sourcing. Grantland had a good debate on these issues.

    This quote is interesting. I don’t agree with it entirely, but it raises some good points.

    1. Does this story qualify as important enough to the public interest that granting anonymity is justified, the way it would be if, say, corruption in the CIA were uncovered? One could argue that few matters are of greater public interest than baseball in Boston. I don’t share that view.

    2. Generally speaking, anonymity should be reserved for the weak, not the strong. If this article was sourced entirely from clubbies and assistant trainers and wasn’t, say, Red Sox upper management kicking Francona in the ass on his way out the door, then that becomes somewhat more understandable. But that’s the thing about anonymity. We can’t possibly know who provided this information, so we don’t know what positions of power these people held.

    I have no doubt that Hohler and his colleagues worked their asses off to report on and write this story, and I don’t believe they intended any harm per se in their methods. I appreciate their efforts to contact all of the accused. I guess I’m just a zealot when it comes to using anonymous sources. I’d sooner not run the story at all than run it this way. That would cost my publication a zillion page views and the attention of the entire sports world today, making my decision (likely) economically dubious.

    Oh, well. I’m lame that way.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Michael: I agree that the stuff about Francona’s use of painkillers, in particular, was way over the line. But Francona confirmed it. On the other hand, it’s kind of a weak part of the story in that there’s no evidence that it affected Francona’s ability to manage. I wish we at least knew whether this was coming from Lucchino and ownership, because if it does, I think it says a lot about them — none of it positive.

  15. Mike Benedict

    And there goes Gordon Edes, laying the blame for the leaks about Francona squarely at the feet of Boston ownership:

    Yet Edes, one of the guys who does follow the team daily, still hasn’t come clean about what he knew, and when.

    And what about the cat fight involving Mike Felger, some other runt, and Heidi Watney? Watney showed she’s not just a pretty face: she took him to the cleaners. If I’m Felger, I’m on the same bus as Epstein out of town. What a dolt!

  16. Mike Benedict

    And so it comes full circle. The local media trashed the Henry ownership group for being carpetbaggers when they beat out the locals to buy the team from the Yawkey Trust. Then they win one WS in 2004, and the press (most prominently The CHB) takes the owners’ side in its fight with Epstein in 2005. Now those same media are smelling blood in the water because the Sox collapsed, Epstein and Francona are out and there’s no one left to blame.

    What the local knights (small “k”) conveniently forget, of course, is that they are the ones the owners reportedly used (if by “team sources,” it means “owners”) to get the the dirt in the papers in the first place.

    So the messengers were paid to peddle the message, then turned around and whined about both the message and the persons who spoonfed it to them.

    Ortiz was wrong: the drama isn’t in the clubhouse; it’s in the press box.

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