The Boston Red Sox have a rabid fan base, a historic stadium, classic uniforms, and an excellent track record for success over recent seasons.
Much of the success can be attributed to owners who spend money, invest in the farm system, and for having players that play with pride.
After going 7-20 in September, and losing on the final day of the season to miss out on the playoffs, the Red Sox will see major changes in 2012, which include a new manager, general manager, and some major personnel changes.
In light of recent reports, and the titanic failure of their last month of the season, the Red Sox need a total makeover, and it appears they're going to get it. This is a club that spent years dealing with the erratic behavior of Manny Ramirez, but the 2011 squad might have been the biggest headache in recent memory.
First, there is John Lackey. A free-agent signing in December 2009, who has been a complete bust on and off the field, Lackey has basically robbed the franchised with his five-year, $82.5 million contract.
In 2010, Lackey had a rather weak season with his 4.40 earned-run average in 215 innings. Those numbers were certainly subpar based on his statistics with the Los Angeles Angels, but were fantastic compared to what he put up in 2011. The 32-year-old right hander had a 6.41 ERA in 160 innings last season, and it often seemed that he was pitching batting practice to the opposing team.
Off the field, Lackey was embroiled in a personal issue with his wife that became public, and he didn't do himself or anyone any favors by helping to make it more public.
Tabloid Web site TMZ.com reported that Lackey filed for divorce from his wife after only three years, and while she was battling breast cancer. Lackey lashed out at the press corps when he received a text message about the divorce just 30 minutes before a September start. Though many would find it understandable for Lackey to be upset about a private matter going public, he exacerbated the story with his blowup and what it pertained to.
Earlier this week, the Boston Globe reported that Lackey, along with starters Josh Beckett and John Lester, were drinking beer and playing video games in the clubhouse during games, while their teammates struggled.
Those three starters combined for a 2-7 record and a 6.45 ERA in 15 starts. For a club that is well-known for being under pressure to win, one would assume that the starting pitchers would try to be as focused as possible.
Where was the manager to straighten things out? Well, it turns out that Terry Francona was involved in a troubled marriage and on pain medication, which some believe affected his ability to manage.
Whether Francona's medication contributed to the collapse or not, it's an embarrassing story for a respected man who played a key role in two World Series championships. Red Sox management appeared to have encouraged him to leave, and when he did, didn't seem to let him leave gracefully.
Francona has been an excellent manager for the Red Sox, and it may be difficult to pin the blame on him for Boston's turmoil, while it also seems like he has been made the scapegoat. Sources within the organization appeared to have leaked the story about his personal issues, which seems completely unfair to a man who probably was the reason the Red Sox were as successful as they were in 2011, as opposed to not even competing for a playoff spot as they certainly could have been.
I would argue that with another manager in this position right now, you'd have some in-fighting, big-time in-fighting going on given what they're going through, said former starting pitcher Curt Schilling.
Where the Red Sox certainly could have used some help was on their roster. Boston had numerous players with high-priced salaries who didn't live up to it. Along with Lackey, the Red Sox had Carl Crawford, J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, and Daisuke Matsuzaka all earning over $10 million in 2011, and none of them came close to performing to their salary, though Matsuzaka might earn a pass for being injured.
The man behind those deals is young Theo Epstein. The famed general manager is on his way out of Boston, and headed to the Chicago Cubs, another team that has historically been considered hard luck and has had its share of high-priced and under-achieving players. Though Epstein has made his share of mistakes, he was considered an important and stable cog in the organization.
The problems has caused slugger David Ortiz to look elsewhere after a productive season.
There's too much drama (in Boston). I have been thinking about a lot of things, Ortiz stated, recently. I don't know if I want to be part of this drama for next year.
Though some people want to believe that the Red Sox lost because of the multiple distractions, it's probably not the case. Boston's failure to make the playoffs probably had little to do with many of things that were happening behind the scenes, and more to do with players simply not performing when it mattered by not getting important pitching performances and key hits, and star second baseman Dustin Pedroia had no problem letting everyone know that.
We're all baseball players, Pedroia recently told WEEI. I showed up to work every day ready to beat the other team. So did everyone else. We're a family. We had the best record in baseball up until September whatever, and then we ran out of gas. That doesn't have anything to do with [Francona] or [Epstein] or any players or what went on in the clubhouse. The leadership was there. We had guys that cared. We didn't play well in the end. That's it.
Though Pedroia is right, the Red Sox collapse would probably be far more forgivable if their fall from the standings wasn't accompanied by a fall from grace.