Bizzaro Boston: Shaughnessy Is On Point

You know things are screwed up around here when Dan Shaughnessy is 100% right in a column.

Wind of change

Many of you will still refuse to read it, and I understand that view completely. But Shaughnessy is completely correct today in his assessment of the Red Sox, how far they’ve fallen and where they stand. The vitriol is warranted.

One thing he doesn’t touch is the issue of the character assassination on Terry Francona, a subject that still has many seething.

Has the Globe finished their victory lap over yesterday’s piece yet? It was a big nauseating seeing all the promotion they put into it, even arranging a special mid-day chat with Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan, who lauded the ethics and professionalism and reporting in the story. Apparently Bob Hohler was supposed to do the chat, but had a conflict, and Sullivan said he felt very comfortable speaking for Hohler. Why not just wait for when Hohler was available and have him do the chat?

The whole situation has caused media on media crime, a subject Ryan Hadfield is going to explore in a bit, with the likes of Michael Felger and Heidi Watney going head-to-head with Joe Haggerty jumping on the pile, Junior Seau-style.

Exit, Epstein - Peter Abraham looks at the departure of Theo Epstein, who has agreed to join the Cubs. Jackie MacMullan says that even though we saw it coming, this move is still stunning.

Owners under microscope more than ever -Sean McAdam says that it “would be nice to get some clarity rather than the strange silence — beyond the dastardly, off-the-record sliming of exiting employees, that is — that has existed of late.”

Sox ownership showing its true colors: yellow - Mike Fine says that ownership has hit a new low.

Forget the wrecking ball: Red Sox unlikely to blow up roster in light of revelations - Alex Speier says that huge roster changes this offseason are likely impossible.

Clean up starts with Josh Beckett - John Tomase says that Beckett is most likely the one to get dealt in the offseason.

Cherington would have work cut out - Nick Cafardo looks at what Epstein’s apparent successor would be looking it in his first year. Scott Lauber has more on Cherington.

Empty feeling inside Fenway - Jon Couture says that Sox fans would be smart to keep their credit cards in their wallet this winter.

Special teams leads to bigger things - Chris Forsberg looks at how special teams led to a starring role for BenJarvis Green-Ellis. Julian Benbow looks at others on the Patriots roster who got their first chance on special teams.

In blink of eye, Tom Brady calls it as he sees it - Ian Rapoport looks at what goes into calling and changing a play at the line of scrimmage.

Pats must ready for another Ryan - Tim Whelan Jr. has the Patriots prepping to face a defense led by one of only two coaches to beat them last year.

Dez Bryant-Devin McCourty a select matchup - Karen Guregian notes that the 2010 draftees will always be connected.

Tip of the hat to Cowboy - Monique Walker’s notebook has Bill Belichick saying that it is fair to compare DeMarcus Ware with Lawrence Taylor. The Enterprise notebook from Glen Farley has Albert Haynesworth feeling like he’s improving. The Herald notebook from Ian R. Rapoport has Tony Romo speaking about his clutch failures.

Bruins in need of a remedy - Stephen Harris has the Bruins dropping another one, this time 3-2 on the road to the Hurricanes. Fluto Shinzawa also reports.

  • APimpNamedDaveR

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I almost didn't read Shank, but I'm glad I did. He may be a jaded old curmudgeon these days, but his "I told you so" victory column is 100% earned — and accurate to a "T".

    I don't know a lot about how to run a baseball team — but I DO know an AWFUL lot about BS office politics, and how it can ruin the morale and effectiveness of a management structure. I don't really care about the September collapse. That was just a tornado of terrible coalescing all at once at exactly the wrong time. Sometimes poop happens. I don't really care about the toxic clubhouse, or beer & chicken during the game. ALL professional athletes are spoiled, self-absorbed a-holes. All of them. Some are definitely nicer and more charitable than others, but you simply do not go through life being profoundly better at things than your peers, and being profoundly rewarded for that from the time you're in your teens, without developing an enormous sense of entitlement. Whomever wins the WS this year, and every team that's won the WS in our lifetimes, is/was composed of a bunch of arrogant overpaid divas. That shouldn't be a factor at all in a team's success or failure, as it's a constant.

    What I DO care about — a lot — is the culture of the business that they are operating — from the owners down to the ticket takers and peanut vendors. Baseball is no different than public accounting or cellphone manufacturing or video game development: if you build the right corporate culture, you will consistently succeed. You will not always be victorious — nothing can guarantee that — but you will consistently be successful. And it's not that difficult. All you need to do is (a) attract the best and most appropriate people for the positions you need filled, (b) compensate them fairly and appropriately, and (c) make them want to stay within your organization. Great companies — Pixar is one that springs to mind — do this. They can pick and choose who works for them, because they're always the preferred employer.

    From the second this whole fiasco began to play out (i.e. when the first rumors of Francona's departure began), I knew that whatever positive culture this ownership group had fostered was about to disappear completely. Why? Because they were scapegoating a guy whom they had put in a management position, but whom they clearly had not supported wholly. Once you start undercutting authority within your management tree, your culture is DEAD. Gone. Once the top leadership makes it clear that you can, and will, be blamed for things that you are not given the power to control or correct, you lose any and all incentive to do anything beyond covering your own ass.

    And what do you get when you have an entire organization filled with people primarily concerned with covering their own ass? You get the US Congress — or you get the Yawkey-Sullivan era Red Sox.

    That's why Shank is dead on. He knows it, I know it, and all of you know it — this is the end of something good, and the beginning of something unpredictable and dangerous.

    • oldskool138

      Players are not overpaid. If they were overpaid, all professional teams would be running in the red and out of business. No, like everyone else, you are paid what you are worth to the company.

      Kind of gives you an idea of the money that these owners are raking in, huh?

    • bostonsportsmediafan

      I think the points above also go to not only being a fan but investing something more tangible: money. After hearing that "Liverpool GM wants to redo TV contracts" and now that Henry is pushing for a salary cap in the EPL, does anyone really think where priorites are? Liverpool fans are still thinking the same about the owner's interests being not in the best of their club; and, the same can be said about the fans here.

      When you go dump money on a Fenway Brick or Redsox Tissues, is this being used to fund some transfer fee for a new Liverpool player?

      • oldskool138

        No it isn't. Think of the Red Sox and Liverpool as two separate divisions of the same company. They're under one name but they are funded entirely separately (same thing with Roush Fenway despite the name).

        So, no the money from the bricks goes to the Sox and the Red Sox tissue money gets split 32 ways like all baseball merchandise.

      • Heidi Twatney

        Steinbrenner owned multiple franchises and it apparently never affected him. Jeff Loria owned Eagles and Marlins (when Marlins won WS). Mark Cuban owns the Mavs and has a stake in the UFL. Jerry Reinsdorf owns the White Sox and Bulls. Mike Illitch owns the Detroit Red Wings and the Tigers. The list goes on and own.

        All this proves is Boston sports media aren't as knowledgeable as they like to think they are.

    • latetodinner

      Dave…I would add one more point to your comments. Running a baseball team is different in one way than any other business…you have an unwritten social contract with the city and fans because even though they did not put up any money to purchase the asset they feel that their patronage gives them some sort of ownership stake. What troubles me about these owners, but most specifically about Larry Lucchino is that they do not understand that for their customer base the team represents something more than a consumable product. So when we learn that the owners are duplicitous or incompetent or both…we feel anger because contrary to all the marketing the team does to tell us they are "Boston's team", or that fans are part of "Red Sox Nation"…its quite clear that we have no recourse.

      Lastly, I don't agree with you that failures on the field happen in a vacuum. You have to prepare for them. You have to not be taking care of your body, you have to not be in the right mind set, you have to not prepare mentally and then you have to not perform as you have in the past. Management can affect a lot of these preparations. For that I think Theo and Francona had to go. Upper management being clueless…for that they need to go too.

      • APimpNamedDaveR

        I agree with you 100% on the first point.

        But on the second point — "someone has to go" is 100% wrong thinking. That is terrible, terrible management UNLESS you tie the flaws specifically to the person in question who "has to go". Any dismissal sends a message to everyone who does work for you now, and everyone who will work for you in the future. What message is being sent here? Absolutely not the right one.

        I'm sure you and I would both agree that a large part of the responsibility for holding players to the team's fitness/conditioning programs falls on the manager and the coaching staff. I think that's clearly part of the job description, and I bet you'd agree with that. So when the team is not conditioned properly, we need to look first to the management person whose responsibility it was to make sure that happened — in this case, the manager. Did he do his job successfully? No.

        So do you fire him for not doing his job? Absolutely — unless you didn't give him the ability to do his job. If I hire you to sweep the floor, then don't give you a broom, am I making a rational decision if I fire you when I come back and see the room unswept? Of course not. In that case, the problem was with ME — I expected something from you that I specifically prevented you from accomplishing. Or, to put it another way, I set you up to fail. Whether you want to call that "setting up to fail" or scapegoating or something else, it's fundamentally me transferring my failure onto you.

        Was Francona given the tools to do his job? NO. And it's been going on not since the August doubleheader, but for two years now. Remember when Ortiz had his tough April/May in 2010? Go back and look at the stories then. Francona wanted to bench him, because he wasn't performing. John Henry — making one of his rare public statements openly discussed how important it was to keep Ortiz in the lineup. If that isn't cutting the legs out from under your manager, I don't know what is. And that's the thing we know about. Now we're learning more about how detached and player-centric Henry et al. were. I'm sure there are other examples of things Terry wanted done that ownership put the kibosh on.

        Therefore, this is ultimately a managerial failure of ownership, not a failure on the part of Francona. Management did not support their manager. As soon as the employees see that, the manager ceases to have any effectiveness as a manager. That's true across all industries. It's actually impressive that Francona achieved as much as he did over the past couple of years given ownership's lack of focus and lack of support.

        "Someone has to go, and it's you" is the last refuge of the incompetent (to steal from Isaac Asimov). Organizationally, via these actions and the reprehensible public slandering they do on the way out, this ownership group has insured — insured — that the only people who play/work in management for the Red Sox in the foreseeable future will be people who are in it solely because they can get paid more here. Not because they love baseball or they love the Red Sox — but only because the Sox are able to pay sufficiently more than anyone else to get them to put up with BS like scapegoating and mudslinging.

        Welcome to the pre-1996 Steinbrenner New York Yankees. Enjoy the ride to irrelevance.

        Gaspar touches on some of this in his newest post. It's a good read.
        http://www.boston.com/sports/columnists/gasper/20

        • latetodinner

          In a normal business you are right…someone has to go is the last vestige of the incompetent but like I argued and you agreed a sports franchise is not a normal business. The public exposure, the guaranteed contracts, the business verse sports dynamic all cause a different decision making process among management as compared to a normal business.

          In my business, for example, were employees of mine involved in a complete catastrophe that did not actually cost us to lose money (the Sox sold out every game in 2011 and the TV ratings during the collapse were better than they have been in a while…it was train wreck tv).We would examine what the mistakes that were made and then try very hard to put new policies and procedures in place to make sure they were not repeated. But over hanging the whole situation would be the unspoken knowledge that at any time, on my whim people could be fired.

          With the Red Sox, or any MLB team that does not exist. Terry Francona, the manager, knew when he took the job as the janitor he did not have a broom. He took the job anyway because he was paid significantly more than a standard "janitor". He also had an ego that told him that even without the broom he could keep the room clean. For 6 years he was able to do it. Maybe it was the mix of players. Maybe it was the fact that he was able to concentrate. Maybe it was shear luck and the team won in spite of him. All we know is that over the last two years the team fell apart down the stretch. That tells me that the lessons learned last year were incorrectly applied this year. For that and that alone he needed to be replaced.

          At the same time we have Theo Epstein. He oversaw Francona. He supplied Francona with the players who eventually quit on the team. Theo DID NOT enable the behavior…that was all on John Henry. What Theo did do, and the reason why I think he needed to go even more than Francona was he saddled Francona with players who were for whatever reason not willing to or not able to execute when it came time to execute. In my business I could fire any employee for being inept…in the world of MLB baseball and guaranteed contracts you can't. Whether the owner enables or not you still have no hammer. So the change you HAVE to make is the GM because he put these personalities together. The downside is the next guy has to pick up the pieces. However expecting Theo and Terry to right to ship is both naive and stupid.

          Lastly, I wish we had an owner like Steinbrenner at any time. At least he cared about the team. He may have made some bad decisions but he OWNED those decisions. I would take that any day over going back to Lou Gorman and John Harrington or Tom Yawkey.

        • APimpNamedDaveR

          You can wish for a Steinbrenner all you want… but what I'll point out is that the seeds of the two Yankee runs of greatness were planted when George was NOT being "George" in the way you point out. Several key players of the 1976-81 team were either (a) there when he arrived or (b) acquired when George had been suspended by Bowie Kuhn (e.g. Catfish Hunter, Ed Figueroa, and Willie Randolph). And the 96-2001 "dynasty" was forged partially when he was banned by Fay Vincent for paying Spiro to "dig up the dirt" on Dave Winfield, and partially after he was reinstated and voluntarily left all the key personnel decisions up to Stick Michael.

          The management techniques you seem to favor destroyed that late '70s juggernaut, and kept the rich and powerful Yankees near or below .500 for most of the mid- to late-'80s and early '90s.

          I'm sure you don't look forward to seeing Red Sox juggernauts akin to the '87 Yanks, who somehow managed to finish 9 games behind the Tigers despite fielding such all-star talent as Dan Pasqua, Charlie Hudson, and Gary Ward….

        • latetodinner

          All I know Dave is in all the years I have been watching baseball I have never heard of a Yankee team, management and clubhouse in the type of disarray the current Sox find themselves. So yes I would prefer a meddling George, warts and all, to what we have now. He wanted to win. he might not have been smart enough to let the baseball people always do the job right…but he wanted to win. I do not believe the current ownership sees winning as the primary reason for owning the team.

        • APimpNamedDaveR

          I suggest you read "The Bronx Zoo" by Sparky Lyle and Peter Golenbock. The Yankee management/clubhouse in the late 70s indeed wasn't in the type of disarray the current Sox find themselves — they were FAR, FAR, FAR worse. Are there players getting into fistfights with the coaching staff, and with each other, in full view of the media? Did some players have a birthday party in the clubhouse for one of their teammates, only to have the "team leader" — who didn't like said teammate — drop trou and take a dump on the cake in the middle of the party????

          Dude, saying "I have never heard of a Yankee team in this type of disarray" is like saying "I have never heard of a Kardashian sister doing something slutty."

      • Heidi Twatney

        Give us a break. The Green Bay Packers are the only major US sports franchise that can lay claim to a "social contract."

        Like there's a social contract when the Expos leave for Washington, or the White Sox threaten to bolt for Florida, or the A's to San Jose, or teams hold up their host cities for huge sums of money for new stadiums and then charge exorbitant prices to the few slobs rich enough to pay.

        Face it: It's the owners' team, not yours. Stop pretending there is some silly psychic connection you have with a bunch of millionaires and billionaires.

  • latetodinner

    Bruce:

    I read Shaughnessey today only because you told me it wouldn't suck. That column is right in his wheelhouse. My guess is he likes Francona and Epstein personally and had no real problem slamming Larry Lucchino….errr…hmmm I mean the ownership group. My issue with him as it is with all of the Globe guys is where were they all year. I am thrilled they are able to pile on at the end of the year. Great. Maybe next year they can do their jobs and say something while the season is going on. Then I will be impressed.

    • oldskool138

      Why would a reporter write a story about video games, fried chicken and beer during games when the team is running over the entire league (like the Sox were during the middle of the season)? Do you think that the players would give that guy (or gal) the time of day after that, let alone a quote?

      It's pretty obvious why the story didn't come out until the day after the season was over.

      • latetodinner

        The answer is because they are reporters. Sometimes you have to take a difficult position to expose something that is wrong. The job of the 4th estate is not to maintain its "access", its job is to report the news. Sometimes sports fans lose sight of that the main purpose of the press is not to act as an unpaid PR firm for the teams and sports they cover. Instead their job is to report the good and the bad that is occurring with the teams.

        I will say it again. Anyone can write the after the fact story. The reporters knew there was malaise in that clubhouse as early as July…but they kept quiet…why…because the team was winning and they did not want to jeopardize access. That is an excuse not an explanation.

    • Heidi Twatney

      The CHB hates Epstein. Don't know why you would assume anything but.

  • APimpNamedDaveR

    Also filed under "Bizarro Boston" — Tomase is ALSO on point.

    IF the ownership legitimately thinks that the clubhouse culture is the problem, and that Francona's inability to change it was part of the problem, etc etc etc. — then Beckett HAS to go. Josh Beckett is a talented pitcher — and also a titanic (and now fat) dick. Always has been, always will. IF the clubhouse atmosphere is the biggest problem, he's the HVAC system. IF toxicity is the issue, he is the source of the poison. There's no question about that. Therefore, IF the ownership is serious about this — and not just scapegoating people who didn't kiss their asses enough for creating the wonder that is Carmine, or what have you — then he HAS TO GO. Pay 99% of his salary to move him to Kansas City; sell him to Japan; pay him 100% of his salary to sit at home — whatever the cost, he has to be excised.

    So let's see if they do that.

    I bet they don't. Because the clubhouse atmosphere is BS spin, not baseball analysis. It's the ownership covering their decisions with a veneer of "oh yeah, that should be done". But I'll say it again — the clubhouse atmosphere didn't set up Nolan Reimold for an outside fastball on a 1-2 count, then juice him a fat pitch down the middle of the plate.

    • oldskool138

      "sell him to Japan; pay him 100% of his salary to sit at home — whatever the cost, he has to be excised."

      Then who do you replace him with? CJ Wilson? :-P

      • APimpNamedDaveR

        "Who do you replace him with" wasn't a concern when Manny was the problem….
        "Who do you replace him with" wasn't a concern when Pedro was the problem….

        Maybe I should clarify: I'm not making an argument that Beckett should go. I'm making an argument that we need to call the current ownership on their BS, and note that if we are to believe what they're saying, it implies that the team must, without question, get rid of Beckett.

        Which they aren't going to do, because — my real point — the owners are full of crap.

    • latetodinner

      Dave…

      I will trust your interpretation of Tomase because I will not read him.

      • APimpNamedDaveR

        I know. Praising the Jets, reading Tomase…. Boy, you can tell how p.o.'d I am!

        • latetodinner

          I am just as angry. The more I read…the more taken for granted I feel. The players take the fans for granted because they don't care…their checks will still cash. The owners take the fans for granted…play Sweet Caroline, serve booze on the Monstah, illegally claim Landsdown street…the fans will come. Growing up my family had season tickets. I went to about 40 games a year. I used to love it. Not any more…I have been to 3 games since the strike. Now I am going to have a hard time even watching them on TV. This whole thing makes me sick.

  • ron

    It bothers me to hear the fuss of scheduling a double header due to the hurricane. I wonder how the people who lost homes or businesses feel about these spoiled 'professionals" bitching about their plight. Sad.

  • APimpNamedDaveR

    And finally, a standing ovation for Howard Bryant:
    http://espn.go.com/espn/commentary/story/_/page/b

    "What an embarrassing way for the most successful nine years the Red Sox have had in a century to end, with a successful, likable manager having his personal life exposed to the public; the front office appearing small and vindictive, using the old playbook of running people out of town in order to desperately get in the last word and win the public; the players failing to live up to the standards that made them idols and champions; and most of all, virtually none having the class to rise above the anger and pettiness and ego that so often destroy the best times.

    Now Terry Francona is gone, and apparently so is Theo Epstein, and so is the great monument known as the 2003-11 Boston Red Sox. It will not rest in peace, for it did not end gracefully with acknowledgment of the most special time in franchise history, or even a hint of respect for everything about the franchise that was transformed. Instead, a two-year disintegration revealed much about the people and personalities who played for and ran the Boston Red Sox, with members of the organization insinuating that the manager who brought two titles was perhaps addicted to painkillers and a team growing so fractured that only its immense talent temporarily kept it together."

    • Heidi Twatney

      Bryant's column was the worst excuse for a mail-it-in hatchet job I've ever seen. When was the last time he was in a baseball stadium anyway — 2003?

  • bostonsportsmediafan

    Mentioned this on the previous post, but did anyone catch D+C on WEEI this morning? It was an all out blast the messenger for the 30 minutes I had on. JD was torching callers who questioned their strategy of pointing out media who "demonized the media". It's a funny shift when you see that big fat NESN logo in the background.

    • etak

      Well, and plus, they were saying it wasn't ownership planting all the "Francona was on drugs" stuff, that it was in fact Varitek. (Or, at the least, another player.) Uh. What?

  • Lance_

    Funny but first thing this morning I saw CHB's column and read it, thinking it was going to be a Theo hatchet job. It's not and it is a good article. He may have filled his "good writing" quotient for the next 12 months.

    Henry has a lot of work to do and some hard decisions to make IF he doesn't want to become Yawkey 2.0 If he creates a new foundation designed to help him sleep better at night then we'll know it's happening.

    Today's Globe has photos of the players at the beginning of the season and last month. And while a bit low you can see Beckett and Lester certainly put on the lbs during the season. Someone yesterday mentioned Lester being the saddest player this year because of everything he went through and Tito's concern for him. It is sad and perhaps reveals more about Lester's character than we as fans would care to know. And seems Beckett has transformed himself from being a winner to a loser.

    You'd think that bringing in two WS would give most of management a free beer at any Boston bar but with a huge assist from the local media the locals are awakening their inner whine DNA that has been hibernating since 2007.

  • Whitey Bulger

    The only point The CHB has ever had is the one on his head.