Red Sox need to back up their talk
Fenway Park was the place to be Monday afternoon. The moribund Red Sox held yet another team meeting (what’s next? exorcism? human sacrifice?), Dustin Pedroia came out with tiny elbows flying, and manager John Farrell faced a firing squad that was downright Pitinoesque.
After staggering through one of the worst weekends in the long history of the franchise — getting swept by the Blue Jays in spectacular fashion and stretching their losing streak to six games — the last-place Sox arrived at the ballpark in mid-afternoon and immediately held the latest in a string of team meetings. These guys have more meetings than the UN Security Council.
The carnivorous Boston media surrounded Pedroia’s locker when he emerged from the meeting just after 4 p.m., and the de facto captain of the SS John Henry indicated that the fellows had identified their problem and agreed on a solution to make things better.
“It’s going to start today,’’ said Pedroia, addressing 20 or more reporters. “We’re not going to listen to you guys’ [expletive]. We’re just going to play baseball. That’s it. We’re going to try to be positive and we’re going to play winning baseball. We’re not going to care what anybody else says. We’re going to care about our 25 guys and play together and that’s about it.’’
Alas. The Sox lost again, dropping a listless, 4-2 decision to the mediocre Atlanta Braves. So now it is seven in a row and the Sox are nine games out of first place and the manager and general manager seem to have infinite security, like when Papa Doc Duvalier made himself “president for life” of Haiti back in 1964.
Pedroia tried to lead his team, but it didn’t work. It reminded me of the late, great Earl Weaver, who hated team meetings and regularly said, “What happens if I have a meeting and we lose? What do I do then?’’
This is the plight of the Red Sox. They had another meeting. Then they played more lethargic baseball. What do they do now?
“Just show up every day and try to do the job the best you can,’’ said Pedroia, who had two hits and reached base three times Monday.
Pedroia has seen fire and he’s seen rain. Along with David Ortiz, the second baseman has been through it all in Boston. He’s won championships and finished in last place. He’s ridden on the Duck Boats and seen managers and pitching coaches fired.
“I’ve been around here long enough to know that when it’s going good, everyone loves you,’’ said Pedroia. “When it’s going bad, everyone hates you.’’
Pretty true. The great Leigh Montville said it to me in 1982, and I’ve been saying it ever since: When good things happen, we write good things. When bad things happen, we write bad things.
Pedroia announced that he and his teammates are done listening to the noise.
“Starting today, we’re going to worry about this, playing today’s game,” he said. “That’s it.
“We’re all in it together. I don’t buy into that it’s one person’s fault. We’re all in this together . . . It’s not the manager. It’s not the GM. It’s not me. It’s not David. It’s everybody together who’s going to do that. Were going to do it together. We’re the only ones who think we can.’’
Ten minutes after Pedroia’s feisty speech, Farrell took questions at his daily press conference. These things are typically snore-fests as the guarded Farrell plays the ultimate company man and moves his lips without really talking. Monday’s session was somewhat different in its tone and honesty.
Farrell no doubt noted that his good pal Bud Black was fired by the San Diego Padres (32-33) earlier in the day. The beleaguered Sox manager sounded as though he’s almost ready to start calling guys out (attention, Hanley Ramirez, this means you). Almost. But not quite yet.
It was the largest gathering of reporters Farrell faced since the home opener. WBZ’s intrepid Jonny Miller routinely asks the first question each day, and Miller politely kicked off the festivities by asking Farrell about the status of Mookie Betts. Farrell reported that the rookie center fielder (he crashed into the center-field wall Friday night) was back in the lineup. With this pleasantry out of the way, Miller went for the jugular and asked the question that was on everyone’s mind.
“How do you feel about the last few days, TV anchors and fans calling for your head? Does that bother you?’’
“I don’t know that I pay much attention to what’s written or talked about,’’ answered the manager. “I know it’s all part of every major sports city. I also recognize this is a bottom-sum game.
“No one likes where we are. That comes with the territory.’’
He wasn’t done hearing hard questions. Picking up on Pedroia’s theme, Farrell talked about “outside distractions” and “learning to deflect negativity.’’ He referenced the difficulty new players might have with “all that is Boston.’’
He was reminded that most of the Sox veterans bailed on their postgame media obligations after Sunday’s disaster (down, 10-0, before losing, 13-5).
“That’s been addressed,’’ said Farrell. “They need to be available postgame. That is put forth to them. Whether that’s being interpreted as lack of accountability, I wouldn’t say that. When a player is there to answer questions after a good night, they need to equally be there for questioning after a bad night.’’
Getting back to the theme of accountability, the manager said, “What has been brought forth to our team has not centered around media. We have opponents and sometimes that opponent is ourselves.’’
Is it hard for him to believe that his team is playing this badly?
“Yes,’’ said the manager. “In a word, yes.’’
“No one’s given up here,’’ he added. “No one’s given up on the season inside our clubhouse.’’
Swell. But six hours later, with the game on the line, the best the Red Sox could do — the $200 million Red Sox — was send Alejandro De Aza to the plate. De Aza grounded out feebly to end the game.
Another loss in the books. And all the words seemed hollow.