We probably should have known something was wrong when the Red Sox starting rotation nominated the Popeyes fried chicken delivery kid as the team’s Most Valuable Player. Or maybe it was when the team clubhouse got its own Anheuser-Busch rep - who immediately won the salesman of the year award.
It’s inexcusable what’s happened to that collection of bloated boors on Yawkey Way, not so much the epic collapse as the profound lack of respect that the team showed to the city that coddles them. Not to put too fine a point on it, but your Boston Red Sox basically flipped you off this year.
Think about this. Every day, every night, every game, there are thousands of mothers and fathers who are spending more money than they can comfortably afford to take their children to our treasured park. They are dropping $60, $80, $100 or more a ticket, $40 to park, and another painful number on food and souvenirs. For a whole lot of people, that’s more than a week’s pay after taxes. But when you live in New England, it’s what you do.
While their starry-eyed children are sitting in the stands wearing Lester or Beckett shirts, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and John Lackey (Do they even make Lackey shirts?) are swilling beer, gnawing on drumsticks, and giggling over video games on their big flat-panel TV in the clubhouse. Beckett and Lackey make about $100,000 a game whether they pitch or not, yet they can’t be bothered watching it from beginning to end.
Of course, there’s Adrian Gonzalez and his whining about the schedule, Jason Varitek snarling at the Globe’s Bob Hohler, who had the audacity to expect the captain to speak for his team, and now David Ortiz saying he wants out of the drama and that New York is looking pretty good.
My bet, my fear, is that the same suddenly silent owners who brought us this unmitigated mess are glibly thinking it’s nothing that a winning season won’t correct. They could not be more wrong. The damage done by this particular team is greater than the sum of its defeats.
What ownership needs to understand is that long before 2004, long before we had one World Series championship, never mind two, the Red Sox were beloved by the community, even in defeat. With notable exceptions, the team’s struggles were our struggles, a ball club and its region always striving for something more.
But in victory, they became fat and, amazingly, unhappy, constantly carping on their way to the nurse’s office every time they got a paper cut or caught a common cold. This September’s collapse at Fenway had the odd feeling of the fall of the Roman Empire.
I would modestly offer a few proposals for this ownership group. First, don’t you dare raise ticket prices. There’s virtually no one within 100 miles of Kenmore Square who think these prima donnas are worth what you’re paying them - and what you’re charging us.
Require every returning member of the Red Sox, every top prospect, to perform 40 hours of community service in Boston between now and the first day of spring training, with no alert to NESN, no photo-ops holding young cancer patients. It’ll give the pampered princes fresh perspective on their city and new appreciation for their lot in life.
Clean house. Please. Lackey? Gone. Beckett? Gone. Gonzalez? Maybe it’s God’s plan he plays somewhere else. Build an entire team around Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Marco Scutaro. Don’t overspend, ever, on anyone from the outside. Your fans would rather lose 50 percent of the games with a scrappy, charismatic team than win 60 percent of the time with the flavorless jerks you seem to favor.
And when you get all this sorted out, have a free fried chicken night at Fenway next year. It would be a wry way to apologize to the fans for what you wrought.
Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.