CHICAGO - Pass the sour grapes. Serve the Haterade in paper cups. Bring out Rod “He Hate Me’’ Smart for the ceremonial first pitch.
The Red Sox played the Cubs at Wrigley Field Saturday night, and the hours before the game featured enough snubs and awkward moments to fill a full season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.’’
It was the anti-Woodstock, played in Hate-Ashbury, a hardball festival of hate and fury.
Truly. We had Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino, Terry Francona, John Henry, Tom Werner, Bobby Valentine, Jed Hoyer, Brian O’Halloran, Dale Sveum, Starlin Castro, Kevin Youkilis, and Josh Beckett all working at the same site. We hadn’t seen this many folks who hate one another gathered at the same venue since the last time we watched a joint session of Congress.
It was Positively 4th Street. It was a Bill Belichick-Eric Mangini postgame handshake. It was Poison Ivy in a ballpark badly in need of Janet Marie Smith (who should be full of hate but has only peace and love in her heart). What a Field Day for the Hate.
“There certainly are a lot of connections here,’’ said O’Halloran, the Red Sox assistant general manager.
O’Halloran gets along with everybody. He was able to visit with Francona. He attended Epstein’s “Hot Stove, Cool Music’’ fund-raiser in Chicago Thursday night. He chatted with Lucchino. And with Valentine.
O’Halloran is Switzerland. Same goes for Hoyer, who was able to chat with Lucchino while the Sox took batting practice.
Francona is not neutral. He is still angry about the way he was treated after the end of last season. He has never gotten satisfaction from the Red Sox owners, the ones he said did not back him.
Francona returned to Fenway Park for the 100th anniversary celebration, but beat Carl Yastrzemski out of the parking lot after the ceremony, which is no small achievement.
A rainout kept Francona away from Fenway for ESPN’s scheduled Sunday broadcast April 22, which no doubt saved Sox owners the embarrassment of fans chanting, “We Want Tito,’’ while the local nine struggled against the Yankees.
Standing 20 feet in front of the first base dugout Saturday, Francona visited with several of his former players and Sox workers. Looking tanned and rested, he chatted with (among many others) Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Darnell McDonald, traveling secretary Jack McCormick, director of media relations Pam Ganley, and clubhouse czar Tommy McLaughlin.
“I had a nice visit with him,’’ said McDonald.
Francona was gone by 4:30 p.m. Asked in a text message if he encountered Epstein or any of the Sox ownership trio, the ex-manager responded (via text), “no intersection.’’
He’ll be back tonight for the ESPN telecast. We are not expecting any Francona-Henry man-hugs.
Ditto for Sveum. The Cubs manager can’t be a big fan of Henry, Lucchino, and Werner, who apparently dismissed him as a managerial candidate because he burped at lunch in Milwaukee.
If you’re wondering why we included Castro, the Cubs shortstop, in the hate brigade, it’s because Castro was ripped by Valentine when Bobby V worked in the ESPN booth last year.
Maybe Castro can visit with Messrs. Crawford and Beckett, who were also ripped by TV Bobby V last year.
Speaking of Beckett, he continues his campaign to displace John Lackey as the most hated Red Sox player. The tall Texan simply loves playing the bad guy.
He has pitched pretty well this season, but he keeps saying and doing things to alienate the fans. He didn’t speak after his last two outings, in which he pitched well with little run support.
On Friday, he was scratched from Sunday night’s game and Saturday he was placed on the disabled list. On Friday, he promised to talk Saturday. Beckett did not talk before last night’s game. He just looked mad. Like almost everybody else at Wrigley.
The most strained relationship is the Biblical Lucchino-Epstein dynamic. It sets the tone for this entire weekend.
The Sox CEO thinks Epstein spent all the Sox’ money, skated out of town with his reputation intact, and is now making excuses about pressure to please the Sox ownership group.
Epstein says he wishes he went with a home-grown lineup and that it might have been “better than what we ended up with.’’
This cannot be fun reading for Henry, who ponied up $142 million and $82 million, respectively, for Carl Crawford and Lackey. Henry probably doesn’t like his former GM telling us that the Sox would have been better off going with Josh Reddick and Felix Doubront at the big league minimum.
The Red Sox and Cubs are on national television again Sunday night. Both teams are in last place. Everybody hates everybody.
Let’s play two.