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.

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.