By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
From the start of the season, it was clear to see that the 2017 Boston Red Sox had no identity. The hole left in the Sox line up with the retirement of David Ortiz, was only matched by the lack of leadership in the locker room.
The first sign that the club had problems in that area showed itself quickly. The way the team – and especially, it’s supposed captain by default, Dustin Pedroia – handled the Manny Machado incident in Baltimore – and subsequently at Fenway Park a week later – in early April, told you everything you needed to know about the leadership left in the wake of Ortiz’s departure.
There wasn’t any.
Pedroia threw his manager and teammates under the bus with the “it’s not me; that’s them” comment to Machado, after Matt Barnes threw behind Machado’s head in retaliation for spiking Pedroia on a slide at second earlier in the series, which is something no leader would do.
However, as the season goes on, it is looking more and more that it is precisely what this Red Sox team is programmed to do – blame others.
The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy’s piece on Sunday night, relit the fire that was David Price flipping out on NESN’s Dennis Eckersley on a team charter a couple of weeks ago. Up until Shaughnessy’s revelations in the account of what transpired between the two, people were left to simply speculate on what actually happened.
Of course, this latest Price incident came just weeks after he accosted CSNNE’s Evan Drellich for something he posted on Twitter, in the hall way to the visitors locker room at Yankees Stadium, within earshot of anyone who was still in the vicinity.
After both incidents, Price and his manager – manager John to him, manager John Farrell to every else – refused to apologize for his outbursts to either of the offended parties. In fact, when asked about it by the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton, Price said, “I’m standing up for my teammates, whatever crap I catch for that, I’m fine with it.”
And these are not the only occasions that have shown how devoid of any type of guiding force – both in uniform and management – there is within this rapidly becoming hard to like ball club.
Entering spring training, the Red Sox party line was that newcomer Mitch Moreland would play first base against righties, while Hanley Ramirez would man the bag against lefties. That was until Ramirez went into his “Hanley don’t play this” mode before the season even started; and essentially told him manager to go pound sand, he just wanted to hit.
Hanley claimed his shoulder still hurt from his collision with the left field wall in foul play from his horrific time in left in 2015 – although he made it through an entire season at the position last year without a problem – the only trouble is, he hurt his left shoulder in the collision.
Shortly after realizing his error; Hanley the Hound changed his story to say both shoulders were hurting him, and returned to his role of the petulant child who demands that he gets his own way. Meanwhile, his manager continued to make excuses for his mangy mutt.
Then there was the flare-up in the dugout in Oakland, when Drew Pomeranz – who, at the time, was looking like a complete bust in Boston – challenged Farrell after he was told he would not be going back in the game for the bottom of the 5th inning. Pomeranz had once again found a way to throw 90-plus pitches over four frames for seemingly the umpteenth start in a row, yet he had so little respect for his manager, that he got into his face for all the television cameras to see.
The lack of respect is not just limited to this Red Sox team, either. In ’15, the immortal Wade Miley went off on his skipper after giving up five runs over four innings, yet he still felt justified to rip Farrell a new one in a heated exchange. Additionally, in his last year in Toronto in ’12 with the Blue Jays; his shortstop at the time shortstop Yunel Escobar, was fined for writing a homophobic slur in eye black, and veteran Omar Visquel accused Farrell and his staff for not holding players accountable.
The bottom line is manager is paid to manage, and based upon the number of dumpster fires that have taken place around his team just this season; I’m not sure manager John has been doing his job to the standards he should be.
The way he explains away the issues surrounding his team – often in a language only he understands – is almost always conciliatory towards his players, and yet; they seemingly still hold him in low regard.
In a piece he wrote in late May for FoxSports.com – you know, when they actually let him write – MLB insider Ken Rosenthal speculated that the then struggling Red Sox, might make a change with the manager.
Regarding the respect level given to Farrell by his players, Rosenthal wrote this: “Farrell, even when he won the 2013 World Series in his first year with the Sox, was not popular in all corners of the clubhouse. Some players, but not all, believe that he does not stand up for them strongly enough to the media when the team is struggling, sources say. Some also question Farrell’s game management, talk that exists in virtually every clubhouse, some more than others.”
Price bullied Eck. Knew Eck was on team plane. Could have been done in private. Classless, petty act .
— Jim Palmer (@Jim22Palmer) July 24, 2017
Whether or not that is the reason he has seemingly ramped up his public defense of indefensible acts like Price has committed this season, only he knows that for sure. Nevertheless, what is plain for all to see, based on the anarchy that looks like is taking place in his clubhouse, he has lost control – if he ever had any – of his players.
As team president Dave Dombrowski once famously told the media a couple of years ago when speaking about Farrell’s future with the club, in game managing isn’t everything. At the same time, he said how a bench boss handles the locker room is perhaps the most important thing for the job.
The Red Sox lacked an identity entering the season, and for that, Dombrowski should shoulder the load for the roster he built. That being said, the personality that they have developed – one that has players applauding a Hall of Famer getting lit up by an under-performing pitcher, while the manager does nothing – is on Farrell, and Farrell only.
Players pop off, because they are allowed to pop off. The hatred players have for the media, go back to the first game that was ever covered – in any sport – by the press. Ted Williams famously dubbed the ink-stained wretches that followed the Sox in his day, the Knights of the Keyboard.
What Farrell has allowed Price to get away with, probably has something to do with the disdain he has for anyone with a microphone or keyboard in Boston. That doesn’t make it right.
What should scare Sox management – and especially team owner John Henry – is that he has a stable of young, up-and-coming stars on this team, that is being shown that being a bombastic bully, is the way to make it to the top in major league baseball.
The Red Sox are developing an identity alright, and it is starting to look real ugly.
Follow on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.