Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Monster is Hungry

The main axiom we learned about the Red Sox front office deploying after the 2011 debacle is how they can no longer "Feed the Monster".  After the long term contracts given to John Lackey, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford (along with shorter, less costly contract extensions given to Beckett, Lester and Buchholz), the team hadn't been to the playoffs since 2009.  So, the new wisdom dictates that long term contracts don't produce the desired results; and henceforth, free agents will not be signed to long term deals.  No more feeding the "monster" -- that is, us, the fan base, looking for reasons to be excited by this team.

But the monster is hungry.  And if the morsels that fall off John Henry's plate don't fill our tummies, we will seek sustenance elsewhere.

As ardent fans, I know we're stuck in a Red Sox bubble wherein we microfocus our attention on the team.  But outside of our bubble, there's an almost palpable lack of enthusiasm  for the Red Sox.  Attendance is down, and the Sox are averaging 34,530 fans per game.  That's good for tenth in total draw in MLB, and a cool 3,000 fans down per game from last year's average.  And the 2012 team sucked.   It may be hard for us to imagine, but fact is many Boston sports fans aren't showing a lot of interest in this year's team.

The interest levels certainly aren't at the levels where they were in 2011, when Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford received mega-deals.  After the 2007 World Series victory, the 2008 team was one game away from going to another World Series; and the 2009 team made it to the playoffs.  Interest waned in 2010 as Sox suffered from an insufferable amount of injuries, and the front office fed the monster to renew fan interest in 2011.

After the collapse, the experiment to win over fans with Bobby Valentine failed (and "failed" is putting it lightly). The sell out streak was obviously a joke, with the front office giving tickets away for free just to claim that games were "sold out".  I went to a couple September 2012 games, and Fenway was half empty.  Nobody cared.

Perhaps Boston sports fans are still feeling a hangover from the 2011 collapse and 2012 debacle, but when reviewing the reasons for lack of fan interest in a Red Sox team that has been in first place for the majority of the season, historians (those self-important sports historian types; you know, assholes like myself) may include the teams moves in the 2012 offseason.

Think about it for a second.  After absconding large contracts, what did the Red Sox do?  Besides signing another member of the Drew family (who started the season on the disabled list), a back of the rotation starter, and a Flyin' Hawaiian, the biggest move of the offseason was acquiring Mike Napoli.  This was supposed to be Ben Cherington's proletariat coup after jettisoning Adrian Gonzalez -- Ben nabbed a first baseman who could rake for a quarter of the cost of that God-loving primadonna whose power disappeared when he arrived at Fenway.

But the contract negotiations dragged on.  And on.  And on...  A couple months passed before Napoli's deal was finally reduced to a minuscule one year, $5 million with incentives because of a degenerative hip condition.  Texas must have known about this condition -- after all, they didn't even give Napoli a qualifying offer that would have placed the team in line to receive a draft pick from the Red Sox when they signed Napoli.  Texas just wanted to get rid of this supposed power threat; a situation that I found very odd.

Or very telling.  How has Ben's coup performed this season?  Well, strikeout.  Strikeout.  More strikeouts.  Men on base?  Strikeout.  Ortiz leading the league in intentional walks?  Shocker, and strikeout.  Another whiff.  More strikeouts.  And on, and on, and on... How do you think this looks to other Boston sports fans?  It's a fucking embarrassment.

But, since the Red Sox didn't want to sign free agents who would cost them draft picks, it's what we're stuck with.  This strategy of not giving up draft picks, and shying away from long term deals, backfired when the Sox didn't pursue Anibal Sanchez.  Instead, Dempster was signed -- another coup, the front office assured us -- and Dempster has sucked.  So the Red Sox just traded one of their top prospects to acquire Jake Peavy.  Not giving up draft picks can be considered wise, but when weighed against trading a top prospect to get another back of the rotation starter since the other lackluster starter acquired during the offseason can't get the job done, the plan falls apart.

And Boston sports fans have noticed this.  Those little monsters are hungry, and they're about to jump on the Patriots bandwagon.  Cherington, et al., only have themselves to blame for the lack of interest in the Red Sox right now.

Perhaps it's time to adopt some new organizational axioms.

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