"It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters." -Epictetus.
The Boston Red Sox aren't reacting very well to the worst collapse in baseball history, are they? Instead of taking the high road, they are cruising down the road to ruin. Since the season ended, there has been finger-pointing, smear campaigns, and enough drama to make the Red Sox the REAL Housewives of all reality shows, except this one is deliciously unscripted and involves genuine talent.
The owners, who invested $161 million in a team that had the best record in the baseball in early September and feel that making it to the World Series has become an annual rite, needed a scapegoat for the collapse. Seeing the Tampa Bay Rays make the playoffs with a payroll that's $120 million dollars less than yours, is a tough pill to swallow. And in Boston, there always has to be a scapegoat. The fans there are still blaming Bill Buckner for everything from the weather to the bad economy.
Terry Francona was the obvious choice to be the fall guy. The Red Sox hadn't won a World Series in the 86 years prior to his arrival, but in Francona's seven years managing New England's team, they had won two championships. That should be enough to achieve legendary status, but in Boston, it's what have you done for me now. When it came time to pick up Francona's option, ownership wavered just enough to for the Red Sox skipper to question his desire to stay employed there.
When all parties met a few days after the season, there was a mutual agreement that Francona and the Red Sox would amicably part ways. However, in his departing press conference, Francona said he didn't feel his had the full support of ownership, which raised a lot of eyebrows on Yawkey Way. Ownership felt that Francona had betrayed them, but instead of letting it go, they would make sure he'd pay dearly for that comment.
Days later, Francona paid in full. An article outlining the demise of the Red Sox in the Boston Globe, suggested that Francona's ability to manage was dramatically affected by a crumbling marriage and an addiction to pain-killers. The information was disseminated by "team sources" and the accusations against Francona were nothing more than a smear campaign and payback for Francona's statement that he didn't have full support of ownership. What was the message here? Don't get mad, get even. If you have to damage a person's reputation and ability to gain employment elsehwere, so be it. That's real class.
The fans and media in Boston saw right through ownerships agenda and unleashed their venom in columns and talk radio. Principal owner John Henry was driving around town listening to the hysteria and hacking of the Red Sox brain trust and went straight to the station to demand equal time. Can you imagine George Steinbrenner doing this? In his prime, the late owner of the Yankees would've gone to the station and waited in the parking lot to fight the talk show jocks who were criticizing him and his team.
During his period of "equal time" and childish attempt to get the final word, Henry addressed the Red Sox failures and also washed his hands of the Carl Crawford free-agent signing. Crawford was a colossal failure in his first year with the Red Sox, fresh off inking a contract worth $142 million dollars. Henry, even though he signs the checks, said he was against the team signing Crawford and discouraged GM Theo Epstein from doing so. That's great. Pass the buck and rinse your hands of something that's not popular with the masses. How do you think Crawford is going to feel the next time he comes across Henry in spring training. How would any of us feel if the owner of our company didn't want anything to do with you?
Oh, but wait, there's more. Jon Lester, one of the pitchers outed in the article by the Boston Globe for drinking beer, eating chicken, and playing video games in the clubhouse while the rest of the team was battling to save its season, came clean and admitted he did actually drink beer, but they were "ninth-inning rally" beers, as if that makes it all right. But in coming clean, Lester also dirtied up Francona. Keep in mind, that when Lester was battling cancer years ago, it was Francona who took him under his wing and shielded him from any personal intrusions by the media.
Forget loyalty and sticking up for a guy who stuck up for you. Lester told the media that Francona lost control and the respect of the clubhouse and that "maybe it was time for a change." Lester's message: When the media attacks you, attack someone else to divert their attention. Don't blame me, blame him.
This is shameless. The entire Boston Red Sox saga is shameless. Instead of finding solutions to the problems, they toss gasoline on the fire. Rather than keeping private things private, they go public. Instead of respecting a manager who helped them win two World Series titles, the Red Sox tear him down by assassinating his character. Forget about supporting a player who had a tough year, the owner washes his hands of him. And Epstein is no better. When the going got tough, he jumped to the Chicago Cubs.
Perhaps the behavior of the Red Sox is just a microcosm of what our society has become. Nobody held themselves accountable in Boston, but everybody sure seemed to pass the buck and blame others, didn't they? Loyalty? That's a joke with the Red Sox and many companies in our world today. They want you to invest all your time and energy in making a great product, and even if you do a great job and win two championships like Francona, they end up treating you as if you're one the one lucky to work there. Francona had Lester's back for years, then when push came to shove, he stabbed Francona in it.
Nobody looks good in Boston. The finger-pointing, mudslinging, backstabbing, and pettiness is a disgrace. They don't know it, but the Red Sox are authoring the manual of, "How not to act when adversity strikes." It should be a must read for all of us.