Every day when the Red Sox come into the clubhouse, they greet each other as if they haven’t seen one another for a month.
They hug, and tell each other how great it is to see the other person. They’ve done this since last season and it’s continued throughout this miserable season.
The one thing you can say about this team is there hasn’t been finger-pointing. The pitchers know the offense stinks. Clay Buchholz saying he didn’t want to talk about the offense after he lost to the White Sox, 4-0, Monday night was probably the best comment he could have made after the offense had two hits.
Those of us who have covered baseball for a long time understand that losing seasons bring on frustration and negative comments, etc. It happened in 2012 after the Sox’ 2011 September collapse.
As ugly as 2012 was, it was really a continuation of September 2011, except the manager, Bobby Valentine, hired to be the disciplinarian Terry Francona wasn’t, was never backed.
The players turned on him, and it got ugly. Then came the big deal to get rid of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett and the cleansing that occurred as a result.
Then came the magical 2013 season.
And then everyone must have gotten stupid this season, from manager John Farrell to general manager Ben Cherington to hitting coaches Greg Colbrunn and Victor Rodriguez to the players.
The fact that the situation has been held together for this long is surprising.
There are cracks now for other reasons.
David Ortiz is hot about comments made by MLB Network panelist Joe Magrane that Ortiz got a “free pass” in the steroid controversy. That phrase stuck in Ortiz’s craw even on Tuesday when he refused interviews.
Ortiz believes it’s unfair that every time there’s talk about steroids it comes back to him. He has said he’s been tested eight times this year, including a blood test in Seattle last week. He said he’s been tested more than 60 times since 2004 and believes he’s probably been tested more than any player in baseball during that time.
It has never been made clear what Ortiz tested positive for in the 2003 non-binding test. Ortiz has never revealed it, claiming he was never told. It’s interesting that of all the positive tests that have been made public, the substance Ortiz supposedly tested positive for was never revealed.
Ortiz has been frustrated for a while, now. He’s lashed out on many fronts, starting with his contract situation in the offseason, and in spring training before it was resolved.
He was vocal about the official scoring decision that went against him that ultimately was reversed. He’s been frustrated with his own play, and the constant shifting that seemingly has gotten into his head.
Farrell came to his defense, citing the multitude of passed drug tests Ortiz has had.
Yet the topic lingers, gnaws at Ortiz. He doesn’t know how to shed it. He doesn’t understand why when John Lackey is speaking about Nelson Cruz, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter comes to his player’s defense by saying that Lackey should make sure things are OK in his own backyard, that it refers to Ortiz.
It’s come to the point at which Ortiz said, “I’m not getting in front of a microphone.”
And then there’s the Jon Lester situation.
With the Red Sox and Cardinals engaging in talks about Jake Peavy, it seems the team could see some depth leave the pitching staff.
Lester has been all over the map on whether he wants talks to resume or to be put on hold until the end of the season, citing distractions. But what distractions? It’s like if you were told that you were going to win the lottery and that you’ll be paid somewhere between $100 million-$200 million if you just wait a few months . . . you’d be happy, wouldn’t you?
The issue is simple — do the Red Sox want to break from their philosophy of not issuing long-term deals to players 30 or over? They didn’t make an exception for Jacoby Ellsbury, who took a seven-year, $155 million deal from the Yankees after the Red Sox had discussed something along the lines of four years at about $80 million-$90 million. It was never remotely close to what Ellsbury could have gotten.
Lester said he would take somewhat of a hometown discount to stay in Boston. But he doesn’t have to. He’ll be one of the top three most-sought-after pitchers in free agency. The baseline seems to be the Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels deals of six years, $144 million.
Could the Red Sox go five years at a little higher than the average annual value of those contracts and get it done? Would they even consider five years?
If the Sox have a plan, it behooves them to stick to it. They won a World Series that way, but the philosophy cost them the trigger of their offense in Ellsbury. To keep this model sustainable, the farm system has to produce big-time major league prospects.
If trades bring subtractions from the clubhouse, that creates a helpless feeling among the players. The players here always wanted to be here. Lester wants to be here. None of them ever expected these results.
The players haven’t turned on the manager. The manager hasn’t turned on the players. The GM and the manager and the baseball operations staff and the coaching staff seem together.
The players have no one to blame but themselves, just as the players in September of 2011 did. Those guys wanted to stay together for a long time, too. Eventually a few were shipped away and free agents were brought in at the start of 2013.
Wonder if we’re about to see the same thing again.
Camaraderie is really a big part of this team.
But it’s possible that the next time we witness a hug, a pat on the back, and words of encouragement, it might be that someone is saying goodbye.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.