It's often been said that while victory has a thousand fathers, defeat is an orphan.
Not in Boston. Not this fall.
The Boston Globe, paced by Bob Hohler, has published an account of the Red Sox' shocking defeat, and this one's got a thousand fathers.
In the order of identification:
- starting pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield; especially Beckett and Lester and Lackey, who spent their off-nights drinking beer in the clubhouse rather than cheering on their teammates, and also were (allegedly) out of shape in September;
- manager Terry Francona, who might have been distracted from his duties by a whole host of issues, including (suggested) drug abuse (painkillers), marital problems, and worries about his son, serving a combat tour in the Marines;
- Jason Varitek, who served as captain of the Red Sox in name only;
- David Ortiz, who committed two highly public acts of selfishness down the stretch;
- Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury, neither of whom did anything positive off the field;
- Adrian Gonzalez, whose brilliant play wasn't accompanied by any sort of leadership;
- Theo Epstein, who didn't shore up the bullpen last winter (or this summer) and spent an immense amount of money on Carl Crawford, who killed the Red Sox from pillar to post; and
- ownership, which might well be distracted from the Red Sox by its various other ventures, including stock-car racing, soccer, and whatever the hell else is the flavor of the month (I put that last part in, because I think they should have stuck to baseball).
Quite a list, eh? Only thing missing is the Assistant to the Traveling Secretary, who must have screwed up something this season, right?
Now, there is a question worth asking before we trod farther along this well-worn path ... If the Boston Red Sox had won just two more games in six months -- say, if they'd gone 21-17 in one-run games rather than 19-19 -- would anyone have bothered to compile this long list?
Probably not, even though the franchise's fundamental performance would have been exactly the same.
By which I don't mean to suggest that the exercise is pointless, or invalid. The Red Sox should have been better, and they should not have blown a gargantuan lead in September.
Did Terry Francona's reliance on painkillers materially affect his team's performance? I doubt it. Is it even fair to ask the question? I don't know. But if Francona wasn't at his absolute best this season, couldn't that have made a one- or two-game difference?
The same goes for all the rest of it. There's no one deficiency -- well, except for signing Carl Crawford -- that can be blamed for the Red Sox' third-place finish. But they finished one game out of the playoffs. Doesn't it seem likely that some combination of all those prospective fathers was enough to sire a couple of extra losses?
They could have won. They lost. So it's both fair and unsurprising that reasonably intelligent people from the outside are trying to figure out why they lost. They're the Red Sox, and many thousands of people care deeply about them. You don't just slough off something like what happened last month.
And oh, look! Another reason for Theo Epstein to find a really cool condo on the North Side of Chicago. If you were him, would you want to stick around for a winter's worth of soul searching?