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

Thinking about the big Red Sox trade

Josh Beckett and Kevin Youkilis meet President Obama at the 2009 All-Star Game.

I used to write about the Red Sox quite a bit here, but I’ve found that Facebook and Twitter are generally more than sufficient to express a few opinions and get a discussion going. Still, with the Sox having pulled off perhaps the biggest trade in team history, I’ve got to say something.

So here’s something: I like it. I’m thrilled to see Josh Beckett leaving, of course. I like Carl Crawford, but his body’s been breaking down since he got here. And though there are going to be many days when we’d love to see Adrian Gonzalez in the middle of the Red Sox’ lineup, the fact is that Ben Cherington, Larry Lucchino and company didn’t have the financial flexibility to fix what’s killing them — a lack of starting pitching. Now they do.

Bobby Valentine? I don’t know. I’ve got no problem with Bobby V. He’s not as good a manager as Terry Francona, but he’s been maligned since he got here for reasons that I don’t understand. No one was going to win with this team, especially with all the injuries.

The role of the sports media in the Red Sox drama this year deserves deeper exploration. Thanks to the competition between sports-talk radio stations WEEI and WBZ-FM, the environment seems more toxic than it has in many years.

No doubt there were and are problems with the clubhouse chemistry — Francona, Cherington and Valentine have all said that. And yes, more than four players certainly should have showed up for Johnny Pesky’s funeral. But is all the drama swirling about the team even remotely as important as the injuries and — beginning last September — the complete collapse of the starting pitching? (Insert obligatory reference to beer and chicken here.)

The craziness especially affected fans’ perception of Beckett. He seemed unwilling or unable to help himself in terms of public relations, and it strikes me as credible that his lack of physical conditioning is at least partly responsible for his miserable record this year.

But it wouldn’t surprise me if Beckett’s been concealing a significant injury — one the Dodgers presumably already knew about. Let’s not forget that another non-fan favorite, John Lackey, took the ball every fifth day last year despite having a torn ligament in his elbow. These guys want to compete. If it weren’t for Beckett, the Sox would never have won in 2007, and that should count for a lot.

The big loss was Gonzalez. Evidently the trade wouldn’t have happened without him. The fact that he was making way too much money and seemed a little soft when the game was on the line makes his departure more palatable. But the stories coming out about his supposed whining and lack of leadership should be taken for what they are until someone is willing to speak on the record.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

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  1. When I first heard about this deal, I wondered whether the Dodgers were insane to have taken on so many big contracts. You had to give up something real to get this deal done – and that something was Gonzalez.

    This deal undid one of the really bad decisions of last year – the Crawford signing for insane money. Now if they only could have moved Lackey as well. 😉

    So, the reset button has been pushed. I guess the plan is to build around Pedroia, Ellsbury, Buchholz and Lester. It will be a couple of years now before we will contend, so it doesn’t make sense to keep Papi around. I wonder what Charrington will do with the payroll?

    I also wonder how much of the pitching woes of the past season-plus is due to the loss of Varitek and his prodigious preparation, and whether Saltalamacchia is really up to the task of preparing and calling a game. That was one of the great intangibles ‘Tek brought that paid off even when his physical skills deteriorated.

  2. tobe berkovitz

    At this point, sad to say, but I’m more interested in the media coverage of the Red Sox than the baseball team itself. Your statement,”The role of the sports media in the Red Sox drama this year deserves deeper exploration. Thanks to the competition between sports-talk radio stations WEEI and WBZ-FM, the environment seems more toxic than it has in many years.” begins to highlight the massive influence of competition on the coverage of sports. Throw in Twitter, blogs and Facebook, and you have a delightfully toxic brew, as you so accurately point out. I commute from south of Boston and listen to The FAN on some of my ride. Tebow, Rex Ryan etc. Now THAT’S entertainment too.

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