During the entire baseball season it has been clear that something is wrong in Red Sox Nation. The question is, "What?" When the season started, the necessary talent was either in place or had been paid for. The team was ready to move beyond beer and fried chicken.
The new skipper, Bobby Valentine, was on board and fans believed that the stars were aligned for a run at the playoffs and possibly the World Series. (Disclaimer. I am a Red Sox fan but I am not a knee-jerk loyalist. If they stink I get mad and if they do stupid things I call them out. If need be, I will give up on them before the season ends, as I have done this year.)
The season started with a lot of injuries to key players. That is always a risk in a sport where every player is wound so tight and repeats motions that would put even the most conditioned at risk. A professional sports team has to accept injury and be prepared for a certain degree of loss. But too many key players were missing for too long and the season got off to a bad start.
The Sox struggled to move above the .500 mark and they stayed in cellar territory the entire season. It became clear a few weeks ago that their hopes for even a wild card shot were gone and the best thing that could happen was for the season to end as soon as possible and for the owners and management to clean house.
Management publicly claimed their support for manager Valentine, but there were rumblings of discontent
As the season slipped away, the silence from the clubhouse was deafening. Boston fans are no fools and they knew something was not right in the bowels of Fenway. They began to take out their frustration on key players who were doing a lousy job.
Pitcher Josh Becket began to hear a chorus of boos whenever he left a game. The media and the fans started weighing in on whether or not they should get rid of Valentine. The only, somewhat major, move happened recently when the Sox canned their pitching coach. A little bit way too late.
Then the big news that a blockbuster trade was in the works. The teaser below the headline In last Saturday’s Boston Globe said it all: "By unloading approximately $270 million of their mistakes, the Sox are hoping to start again with a blank slate."
So a few big stars including Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto have gone to the Dodgers in exchange for a lot of money and a few players. These guys are responsible for more than $270 million in salaries over a few year period and they are a big part of the reason why Boston tickets prices are among the highest in baseball.
The headline in a piece by sports writer Dan Shaughnessy, also in Saturday’s Globe: "Blockbuster Red Sox trade would Signify the end of an era," puts things in perspective and Shaughnessy points out that this trade would be the biggest since the Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees.
The big question still remains. What happened? Surely it was a combination of bad luck and a host of other things. At the root of it all is something I think could be called the spoiled rich athlete syndrome.
Baseball, and most professional sports, have come to be dominated by talented people who command obscene salaries. Think back to the 1940s and 50s when players had to supplement their incomes with winter work at the local grocery store just to get by. We’ve come a long way, but I think we have gone too far.
Millions of people love the sport of baseball because of nature of the game. They have tried to overlook all of the modern day distractions, but that is getting harder to do.
I believe that what happened this season with the Red Sox is a canary in the coal mine moment for professional sports. The longer that owners pander to the cult of personality and the longer they continue to pay these guys enough money to run a small country, the more the sport of baseball will lose.
Fans can demand change by not showing up for games. Social media gives them a chance to let all of the owners and players know exactly what they think. Money is ruining baseball but the fans have new-found tools at their disposal to do something about it.
We must not sit idly by while a few spoiled rich guys ruin a beautiful game. The time for the revolution has come.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and executive director of Vermont Citizens Campaign for Health. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.