We know a lot of things today in the 21st century. Starbucks sells coffee, expensively. NBC isn't great at broadcasting the Olympics. Juwan Howard is an NBA champion. And, of course, your Boston Red Sox aren't a very good baseball team right now.
Quite the turnaround, huh? Remember when they were winning those World Series titles? It has been less than ten years since the first one and five years since the second. We were on top of the world. The new Yankees, people called them.
Not quite the case anymore. The Sox don't even belong in the same conversation.
Now, baseball in Boston is a joke. The on-field product is bad, at best, for a team with such a lofty payroll. The attitudes are sickening. Bobby Valentine is a puppet on string. The owners care more about their soccer team across the pond than they do their baseball team. Simply put, it's a mess.
I'm well aware that the Red Sox are still technically in the mix for a playoff spot, by virtue of that additional wild card spot (thanks for that, Bud Selig) -- at 54-55, they're 4.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers and ... wait for it ... Oakland Athletics -- but seriously, do you expect them to catch up? It's one thing to suggest that when you're beating the likes of the Yankees in a three-game series, but not when you just lost two of three to the Twins, who are 47-61 (only 11 games out in the wild card, though!).
Barring a reverse September 2011 run, the Sox are out of the running. It's pretty obvious.
Knowing that, we have a few options. We could sweep the Sox under the rug for the winter a few months early and focus on the Patriots, Bruins or Celtics (local college football anyone?), or we can set our sights on the future and try to figure out how to treat the disease known as Sox-itis (noun. Definition: failing miserably at baseball).
Some of the work will have to be done by the baseball executives on Yawkey Way, but believe it or not, there are things that you and I can do to force the Sox into making changes. Here's what I've got.
1. First And Foremost, Stop Supporting This Team (That Means You!)
Many of you have already taken this course, and for that, I applaud you. Some people might call you fair weather fans, but I wouldn't. Being a fair weather fan implies that you support the team only in the good times, but nowhere does it say you have to support a team that's making very poor personnel decisions and is employing a bunch of millionaire crybabies.
For those of you that haven't taken this rout... what on earth are you waiting for?
Just so we're clear, bringing your family to Fenway Park to spend money on overpriced tickets and approximately $1,000 hotdogs and singing "Sweet Caroline" isn't helping anything. It appears that all the current ownership group cares about now is how much money they're making, and they're still bringing in a good chunk of change. Now, if you stop the money flow -- that means don't buy tickets (or don't even use the ones you have), don't buy that Red Sox shirt or hat, and don't even bother watching them on TV -- they'll have no choice but to change.
Of course, I can't tell you what to do. You can do whatever you want. But if you continue to support this team and give them your money, don't complain about the on-field product. You've lost that right.
2. Change The Culture (No More Content, Lazy Superstars)
Content and lazy superstars got the Red Sox into this mess in the first place. Do you really think they're going to get them out, too? Another obvious solution that eludes the Sox brass. Josh Beckett? See you later. David Ortiz? Thanks for everything, but don't let the door hit you on the way out. John Lacket? I'll pay your bus fare out of town (I wouldn't even put you on a coach flight). The bad attitudes have to go. Pronto.
What made the Red Sox team in 2004 so great? They were hungry. Sure, they had stars, ones who were headcases (see Ramirez, Manny), but they hadn't won anything yet. There was a competitive drive in them to end an 86 year curse, and that carried them all the way to the finish line. The current cast of Red Sox? Well, what do they have to prove? Most have won rings already. Josh Beckett and David Ortiz have two, Lackey has one. Why should they put in extra effort to try and salvage the season or this team's reputation? They're made their money and won their titles. It's time to move on, save for the true team players like Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Jon Lester.
3. If You Don't Fire Bobby Valentine, Let Him Be Bobby Valentine
Firing Bobby Valentine seems like the easy answer. I liked the hiring at first, but I've watched him stumble through this season and make questionable coaching decisions and say stupid things. I think it's pretty clear that this experiment just isn't working out, and I wouldn't lose any sleep if Bobby V. were to be Vince McMahon'd (could we have Vince fire him in front of a full house at Fenway, too?).
If for some reason Ben Cherington, er... I mean, Larry Lucchino... wants to keep him around, then for the love of all that is good, let him be the manager that we all thought he was going to be. Valentine was supposed to be this no-nonsense, tough manager who wouldn't tolerate any garbage from his roster. Instead, he's gone soft. Maybe some of that is just his age and experience. Still, you can't help but think that he's merely a puppet for upper management. Just let Bobby V. be Bobby V., even if it's only for the final stages of the season. Really, what do you have to lose?
Those are some basic suggestions, ones that should have been clear at the beginning of the season, that will help return this team to what it was earlier this decade. The status quo just isn't working, and we need a real overhaul in the offseason. Until they do, this team isn't worth your time.