The Boston Red Sox have a chance this offseason to do something few thought was possible just a few years ago: to replace the New York Yankees as the most disliked franchise in baseball. The Evil Empire may have been replaced by Fine Whine.
David Ortiz has even announced he’s ready to defect to the Dark Side and is ready to be fitted for his pin-striped stormtrooper suit, telling ESPN there is “too much drama” in Boston. That’s right, there’s too much drama in Boston, so much that New York looks like a placid little backwater by comparison.
Human sacrifice, dogs living with cats . . . mass hysteria!
This all started when the Red Sox blew a nine-game lead in the wild-card race to miss the playoffs on the final night of the regular season. It was understandably gut-wrenching for Red Sox Nation, which reacted by calmly grabbing the lanterns and pitchforks and calling for the firing of GM Theo Epstein.
Instead, Manager Terry Francona was quickly dumped but resurfaced to help with Fox’s coverage of the ALCS. Epstein, the one-time boy genius of Boston, wasn’t fired but is headed to the Chicago Cubs.
And that was just the beginning. Then came accusations that Francona was addicted to pain-killers and having marital issues, which may have affected his job performance. There are accusations that Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester enjoyed beer, chicken and video games in the clubhouse a little too often — during games.
The latter, if true, is on Francona, whose job it is to put a stop to it. Jack McKeon said he once had to chase Beckett out of the Marlins’ clubhouse with a bat during a game — and wouldn’t you pay money to see that? McKeon would have been in his early-70s at the time — and my money’s on him, especially if Beckett was all chickened up.
Listen, the Red Sox aren’t the first team to implode after something very bad happens. But once upon a time, it was easy for even the casual fan to root for Boston. The Sox hadn’t won a World Series since 1918, yet generations of New Englanders ignored the Curse of the Bambino and stood by their lovable losers.
Then came 2004, and 2007. The Curse was lifted, and all of New England wept and gave thanks, as did fans who might not particularly like the Yankees and were happy to see them get an occasional sharp stick in the eye.
But that also meant the Sox weren’t losers anymore, and suddenly Red Sox Nation swelled. You saw it in the offices and on the streets and in ballparks across America: red hats with the tags hanging off the back, and underneath, swaggering, bragging fans who couldn’t distinguish Vermont from New Hampshire on a map if you offered them season tickets. Suddenly, they weren’t so lovable, either.
Then came this season, and the collapse. If everyone in the organization hadn’t spent the aftermath renting buses to run over each other, it might have blown over. But when you have a legion of fans that stretches across a nation — including many who aren’t used to losing, because they just hopped the bandwagon a few short years ago — the blowback is going to be tremendous.
Look, 21 other teams didn’t make the playoffs, so 21 other fan bases were denied something they wanted. But the others accepted their fate without all the drama and outrage. The name-calling and finger-pointing and back-biting will make the job of whoever replaces Epstein and Francona that much harder. And the sense of entitlement makes Red Sox Nation no different than that other bunch they profess to hate so much.