Red Sox Spiral Downward
I don’t know whether Manny Ramirez is really feeling pain in his knee or is simply throwing a hissy fit over something that no one else seems to be aware of; but Manny’s complaints are symptomatic of a series of problems in Boston that are more than a series of injuries.
A team with a veteran core like that of the Red Sox can spiral downward very quickly and it has more to do with the mood in the clubhouse than it does diminishing skills. It must have become tiresome for players like David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Tim Wakefield, Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek to hear the front office go on and on ad nauseam about how this was supposed to be a "transition" year for the team and imply that they weren’t expected to win. For players who have grown accustomed to not only making the playoffs, but for the front office to be aggressive in dealing with other teams to fill obvious holes, it must have been tantamount to a slap in the face to see Theo Epstein sit by quietly as the Yankees wheeled and dealed at the trading deadline while the Red Sox did nothing.
To diminish a team, that as recently as July, was being called the best team in baseball; that gave the best team in the National League, the Mets, a brutal beating in a three game sweep; and was rolling along in first place; to one in "transition", must have sent reverberations through the Red Sox clubhouse that signified to the veterans how cold hearted and statistically grounded their front office truly was.
It is the manager’s job to eliminate complacency and abandonment of team goals. If someone with a strong hand were in the manager’s office in Boston, he may have been able to pilot the team out of the downward spiral in which it is now engaged. A strong handed manager would find out if Manny were injured or simply throwing a tantrum. Terry Francona is not that man. The players see which way the wind is blowing in Boston and it is an ill-wind. With a few days before the last day to acquire players in time to be eligible for the post-season, we’ll know whether Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino have any faith in this current group of players. If they again sit on their hands, then it could become so hideous in Boston that the team ends up with only 84 or 85 wins.
If that happens, I would expect Terry Francona to take the fall. It could be seen as unfair, but I really don’t give Francona much credit for the wins in Boston, so logically he shouldn’t be given the blame for the losses; but it’s easy to fire a manager who doesn’t appear to do much of anything and doesn’t appear to be very well respected in the clubhouse. Sure he’s liked; but that isn’t the same as being respected. Epstein will hire another "yes" man to sit in the manager’s dugout; who’ll be happy to have the job and go along for the ride as Epstein continues running the team as he wishes. And as this type of atmosphere continues to fester, the Red Sox had better be prepared to overpay for the free agents that they want to sign, because it costs extra for a player to willingly come to an increasingly poisonous atmosphere. And that is exactly what the same clubhouse that won America’s hearts with their group of "idiots" is becoming, thanks to the hubris of the Red Sox front office.