When September started back in, well, September, the Boston Red Sox were all but certain to be headed to the post-season thanks to such a comfortable lead in Major League Baseball’s wild card race. Then, the proverbial wheels fell off.
The once-comfortable Red Sox suddenly began to slide at, unfortunately, the same time the Tampa Bay Rays began to surge. As the days went on, the Sox were holding onto their lead but baely. People in Beantown were starting to panic while those in the Tampa area, not to mention those in New York City (home of the Sox-loathing Yankees) were extremely hopeful, assuming they weren’t flat-out rejoicing.
While Boston was cast with the role of Dr. Jekyll in September at 7-20, Tampa Bay took on the role on Mr. Hyde going 17-10 that month, including a five-game winning streak to close out the regular season. The stage was set for a tiebreaker which the Rays won, capping off a dramatic comeback to send themselves to the post-season and, in the process, sending the Red Sox home with the thought of what went wrong.
The day after they were officially eliminated, the Red Sox parted ways with their manager of eight seasons, Terry Francona, who decided to resign. It wasn’t long afterwards that the rumblings began to surface about what was going on in the Red Sox clubhouse during their monumental collapse. Stories surfaced that many players were drinking beer and eating fried chicken during games. While some vehemently denied any such rumours, others weren’t as reluctant to hold back. Regardless of how accurate the story was, Boston’s new manager Bobby Valentine has now imposed an alcohol ban in the clubhouse. So, what’s the feeling on that?
The aforementioned Francona was on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike” yesterday morning and said that the decision to ban alcohol was simply ‘a PR move.’ Regardless of how anyone else feels, I believe Francona hit the nail right on the head. How could this be anything but a PR move? First of all, no one needs to know what goes in the Red Sox clubhouse (or the clubhouses of the other 29 teams, for that matter). Second, was it really the beer that did the Sox in or did they just happen to run into a Tampa Bay team that got hot at just the right time?
As great as the Rays were down the stretch, it is safe to credit the Red Sox, much to their dismay, with blowing a few games during that last month. Nevertheless, the Rays took over, the Red Sox faltered and ever since, Fenway Park has been depicted as Animal House. Who exactly would portray Bluto remains to be seen, but I digress.
Here’s what I don’t understand: Why is Bobby Valentine imposing an alcohol ban? As great a premise as this sounds for a wacky college-life sitcom, it’s an issue (if you want to even call it that) that’s been in baseball for generations. Francona himself said yesterday that with the two World Series titles his team won, he had the utmost trust in his players. If his players wanted a beer, as far as he was concerned, they were free to have one.
Was this a PR move? Of course it was. Why does anyone need to know this? I appreciate Bobby Valentine trying to right the ship with his new club but he’s not the chief rival of Nucky Thompson, this is not Atlantic City and this, sure as anything, is not 1923. As far as the latter goes, the Red Sox and their fans ought to be thankful it’s not 1923. Otherwise, they’ll have to watch Babe Ruth, the one they traded away, begin the foundation of the empire that is the New York Yankees, not to mention wait 81 years for another championship.
Will this newly-enforced alcohol ban make a difference? Will the players backlash? At this point, I wonder what type of disciplinary action will be given to players for breaking the rules. I can’t even see this ban lasting until the All-Star break in July.
Come on, Bobby V, why are you doing this? Alcohol in the clubhouse as the reason for your new team’s demise in 2011 is nothing more than a weak scapegoat. Closer Jonathan Papelbon was not himself, neither were pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey. Actually, disregard the latter because if Lackey wasn’t himself, the good people of Boston would be paying homage to their starter with a mammoth statue of him right on Yawkey Way. That or he’d just win a few games down the stretch.
I’m afraid this decision will cause somewhat of a backlash. Then again, I’ve been wrong before. Trust me — if you predicted The Facts of Life would be an overnight fad, you’d been paying for it for years, as well.
Overall, though, I’m interested in seeing how the 2012 Boston Red Sox pan out. Of course, what we see in April won’t necessarily be what we see in July or August but it’s a start.
I’ll give Bobby Valentine the benefit of the doubt for making the effort but as of right now, my grade for the new Sox skipper is a D-. As far as I’m concerned, Bobby V has nowhere to go but up.
Ryan Cowley is a writer at Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter @makeway4kings.