So it's been a couple of days since the Red Sox season went down in flames, and I've watched to see the fall-out/rationalizing come to the forefront.
In interviews the other day, both GM Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona mentioned team chemistry problems and physical conditioning.
This is a major league ball club. How can they have conditioning problems in this day and age? It's not like 20 years ago, when teams were just starting to get away from the archaic notion that you couldn't work out and play baseball. When I played baseball in high school, my coach was one of the first people ever to initiate off-season weight training for players. Most folks thought he was nuts! The mindset was that weight training made you stiff and inflexible, notions that have thankfully been disproved over the years.
When injuries begin to multiply on a team, the fingers usually point to lack of training/conditioning. I find it hard to believe the Sox aren't up to speed in these areas, but who knows?
The team chemistry thing is weird. To be sure, when Francona came on board, the team had a cast of characters right out of a comic book -- Manny, Papi, Damon, Ortiz, Millar, Schilling, Nomar, Pedro, etc. They were a loosey-goosey jumble of talented ballplayers who Tito molded into World Series champions. And that isn't the team now, for sure.
There was an odd mention of something that happened at the beginning of September, before the swoon started. The Sox had just crushed the Blue Jays 14-0, and both Tito and Theo saw something that worried them. Worried them enough that both men called separate closed door meetings with the players to talk about it. Apparently those meetings didn't work because the wheels came off soon after. No one is saying what happened and I cannot remember for the life of me any "incident" from that game.
But with his agreement today to leave the team, Francona mentioned his inability to "reach" the players on "this" team. With a core group of home-grown players like Pedroia, Buchholz, Ellsbury, and Scutaro, combined with hold-overs like Ortiz and some new acquistions -- I don't know, this team is like any other. Players come and go and it is the manager's job to get them all on the same page.
I'm saddened by Tito's departure, but it shows his class and understanding of the game, that he realizes he cannot get this particular team to perform at the level they should be performing at. This is, after all, two consecutive seasons without reaching the post season, and with the money spent, that is unacceptable.
Who can they bring in to replace him? The only name that I've got at the moment is Bobby Valentine, who inexplicably is still out of baseball. One of the most brilliant managers in the sport's history, he's been sitting on the outside looking in since he left the Mets. I cannot imagine legendary Yankee Lou Pinella with the Sox, and other than those two, who's out there that can handle the pressure of baseball in Boston?
I don't know if it would be a good thing, but I'd like to know about that early September incident and I'm hoping some more info on who they thought was "out of condition" comes out. One thing about the internet -- I'm sure it will.
Until then, like all Sox fans, I'll suffer the interminable taunts and relentless jeers that are coming from the haters, especially local Rays fans. The guys will be back. Hopefully next year.