BIG SOX TO FILL: What the Red Sox Need After a Season to Forget

Mark Addesa
Spare Change News

The 2011 Boston Red Sox were supposed to be the greatest Red Sox team ever put onto a baseball diamond.

But the season was a complete failure, starting the season with seven losses and ending it by losing a nine-game lead in wild card race to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The headlines from the off-season signings created a buzz around Boston. Sox fans thought they had already won their third World Series in seven years, as did the players. Adrian Gonzalez was going to be the MVP, and Carl Crawford was going to hit 20 plus homeruns and steal 30 plus bases; at least, that was what everyone expected. We expected to win over 100 games, to break records—and we had the team to do it.

So why did the Red Sox collapse? Was there too much hype for the players to handle?

The last two times the Red Sox were World Series champions, they were dedicated and committed to winning ball games. Our big three “aces” were definitely dedicated; dedicated to drinking beer, eating fast food, and playing video games in the clubhouse while their team was trying to salvage the season.

Who is to blame here? Do we blame Josh Beckett, who was the leader of the pitching staff, or do we blame management? A leader should not be in the clubhouse while their team is playing, let alone drinking beer.

John Lackey had a terrible season. He must be traded in exchange for someone with heart and no excuse for not pitching well—even a high school player. Lackey claimed he could not focus during games because of his marital problems. He was spotted at bars in Faneuil Hall during the season. I guess his idea of improving his pitching was drinking with college students. While he could possibly be a good pitcher, sometimes I wonder if his heart for the game is as big as his thirst.

The season was destined for greatness, but took a fateful turn. Now the question is who must leave and who must stay.

For the team to get back to World Series form, it needs to literally and figuratively trim the fat, get in better shape, and stay healthy. Crawford had a bad year but we cannot just get rid of him. First because his contract is for seven years, but as Sox fans, we also must remember that we wanted to get rid of Jacoby Ellsbury after the 2010 season. He turned around to give us a 32 homerun season.

The Red Sox should not make too many transactions in the off-season. The exceptions are Lackey, J.D. Drew, and possibly Josh Reddick in exchange for a good, hitting outfielder.

The players who stay must work hard and have a desire to get back to being the best team in the American League. Management should have clear-cut rules for players to abide by, including no drinking in the clubhouse and no behavior that is destructive to practice and games. Fines should be handed out if these are violated. This will make players work hard and focus on baseball.

Red Sox Nation needs a leader. Most of the players are capable of being leaders on the field, but we need a more versatile leader, on and off the field. Red Sox Nation would say captain Jason Varitek is the leader, which is questionable considering he allowed the starting pitching staff to drink in the clubhouse. Ellsbury could be a leader but when things were not going his way last year, he was not around to support his teammates for most of the season. Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez have talent and can do many things but leading is definitely not one of them. They play for themselves and do not have the energy or personality that will inspire others. Dustin Pedroia is the only option. Standing at 5’7’’ he plays as if he is 6’7’’ and plays every game hard. Even when he was hurt last season he was on the bench cheering his teammates on. We need a leader that will take control of this team and guide us to the playoffs.

With Theo Epstein leaving Boston for the Chicago Cubs, and with the departure of Terry Francona, management has major shoes to fill. We need a general manager who will fit Red Sox’ needs and has high expectations for the team. The Red Sox need to make changes and fill voids to become a playoff team. This will be an interesting off-season.

MARK ADDESA writes for Spare Change News.

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