Most every team in baseball has a player or two that no one (including the club's hometown fans) likes for a myriad of reasons. The likability of a player usually comes down to compensation, mixed in with production and sprinkled with a little bit of personality.
Perhaps the most extreme of this circumstance would be Alex Rodriguez. Deep down in their heart of hearts, Yankee fans despise A-Rod, for two reasons: he's not the player Derek Jeter is nor the grunt Paul O'Neal was, yet manages to be compensated like he's both. A-Rod might be one of the greatest players ever to lace up a pair of spikes, but still no one likes him.
The Red Sox, led by their pampering group of owners, spent money to maintain a brand rather than building a respectable baseball team.
The Boston Red Sox used to have players everyone else hated but that Red Sox Nation loved: Manny, Pedro, Trot Nixon, Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar (to a point) and Curt Schilling. Yet after their infamous 2011 September implosion the Red Sox became public enemy number one, not to everyone around the country, but in Beantown. It's not like the Sox were ever void of high priced talent that failed to live up to the mountainous expectations1 (they most certainly did), but it's the first time in recent memory that Boston’s high priced talent played and acted like first-rate nitwits.
Unfortunately, the Beer and Fried Chicken Brigade was merely the tipping point. The Red Sox, led by their pampering group of owners, spent money to maintain a brand rather than building a respectable baseball team. John Henry and crew were out-bluffed by the Yankees on the Carl Crawford contract, settled for meager compensation when Theo wanted out, and buried a knife so far in the back of Terry Francona it would have taken Mark Greene, House, and the doctors from OCP a month to dig it out.
The Red Sox ownership turned mini-Steinbrenner overnight, and when a team with a payroll $160m plus doesn't make the postseason for any reason other than the injury bug, they quickly become very unlikable.
Baseball fans in 2012 are different than baseball fans in 1932. Everyone still has infatuation with the little guy, and right now the Red Sox's current roster is slowly turning back into the little guy.
An outfield consisting of Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava, Cody Ross, and (when he comes back) Ryan Sweeney, combined with a third baseman who's still on his rookie contract hitting .318 with an OPS of .923 and plays like his hair is on fire, are very likable. And frankly, perhaps that's it. Will Middlebrooks is so endearing because he's young , rough around the edges, and hungry — and that's what we want. Not a guy making $15m who bitches about what kind of Skittles are waiting for him in his room on away games.
So here's the point — don't stop, Ben Cherington. Keep shaving payroll in place for hungry younger players who don't need to be pampered. I was one of the harshest critics of Bobby Valentine's arrival as a manager, not because I thought the game had passed him by, but because he was the ownership’s choice. However, this is the type of team he was meant to manage — younger players whose egos won't let them get into a pissing contest about who’s right.
As July dawns the Sox sit 6.5 games behind the division leading Yankees. So let’s blow it up! Josh Beckett? I'm sure he'd love Atlanta or Arlington this time of year. Golf courses and barbecue pits are plentiful in the South, and both the Rangers and Braves need a front line pitcher. Besides, instead of letting the boy genius (Theo Epstein) walk without taking John Lackey's miserable contract with him, these are the moves that should have gone down last winter — a Russian scorched earth mentality. Everyone making over $5m not named Ortiz, Lester, Pedroia or Gonzalez goes. Finally, can't we plant evidence that Lucchino was behind the Rajon Rondo trade rumors last winter and make his ownership rights null-and-void?
No matter what numbers Bill James' spread sheet spits out, the postseason isn't in the cards. Keep ridding the roster of inflated contracts and malcontents. Don't even think about playing dosey-do with Scott Boras this summer when it comes to Jacoby Ellsbury… it's ok.
The pink hats and bandwagoners are on their way out. Take “Sweet Caroline” off the PA system (or at least when they're losing). Missing the playoffs with a team that has been decimated by injuries — yet still has promise — isn't the same as missing the playoffs with $146m payroll and being humiliated for a second straight year.
Real Red Sox Sox fans understand that this purge is a necessary part of righting the ship. But don't worry, John Henry. Once the young scrappy guys turn mainstream heroes, the pink hat legion will certainly return to line your pockets.
1 J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo and Jose Offerman
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Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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