The Boston Red Sox went through a number of controversies last season, but team chairman Tom Werner thinks team is enormously likable. Spoiler alert: He’s wrong.
The Boston Red Sox grabbed quite a few headlines last year; many of them for the wrong reasons. Sure, the team had success and played at a high level on the field. Yet, off it, the Red Sox lead all of Major League Baseball in drama — a category no team wants to find itself in.
Despite many fans’ disapproval of the team’s lack of leadership and growing drama, the Red Sox won the American League East for the second consecutive year last season — the first time in team history.
However, much like checking the box score doesn’t tell the whole story of a game; success doesn’t tell the whole story of a season.
Boston has become a championship city the past decade, earning praise from the media. However, if a player doesn’t have the guts to stand up to the media when things go poorly, he or she is going to be criticized — or worse, become unlikable. If you’re a listener of Boston’s radio show “Felger and Mazz,” you’ll hear large amounts of fans seething about their distaste for the current Red Sox team, on almost any given afternoon.
But Red Sox management doesn’t see it that way, according to Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato.
"“First of all, I think we were enormously likable,” Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said in defense of the team last weekend. “Our attendance is strong.”The Red Sox sold 2,917,678 tickets in 2017, down 1.3 percent from 2016 and their third-lowest total since 2006. Their attendance ranked ninth in Major League Baseball despite having a stadium with a capacity smaller than most."
Ninth in baseball is unacceptable for a city with enormously passionate fans who suffered many years of heartbreak prior to their three championships scattered throughout the 2000s, and they never failed to show up to a ballgame.
The Red Sox once had 820 consecutive sellouts that ended in 2013. The sellout streak began May 15, 2003, when the Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 12-3 as Pedro Martinez pitched six scoreless innings before 32,485 fans, according to USA Today.
For a team with rich history of annual stadium sell outs, the stats reported by Mastrodonato suggests the Red Sox can’t even sell out consecutive weeks now. If such a star-studded roster earns ninth in MLB attendance, surely Red Sox management should be concerned.
However, Werner sees the matter as an “empirical thing.”
"That tickets were available for home playoff games at Fenway Park just hours before the first pitch last October wasn’t an encouraging sign, but Werner was optimistic.“I guess it’s an empirical thing,” Werner said. “I feel anecdotally that there are a lot of fun, exciting, accessible players. Obviously, we miss having David Ortiz in the lineup. But I think Mookie Betts is one of the great players in baseball. I think we have a good team and most importantly is a competitive, winning team.”Ratings for the game broadcasts on the team-owned network NESN were down 15 percent from the year before, quite the contrast from the New York Yankees, who saw ratings jump 56 percent during an unexpected playoff season, according to Forbes."
Baffling. Werner is optimistic and thinks the team is “enormously likable.” Additionally, he thinks David Ortiz’s retirement is the reason for possible decreased attendance and viewership. Clearly, Werner isn’t familiar with how Boston sports operate.
The Red Sox have had numerous legends to take the field. Did attendance and viewership decrease when Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez or Nomar Garciaparra parted ways with the Red Sox? What about fan favorites Johnny Damon, Trot Nixon, Jason Varitek or Tim Wakefield? Or how about when the 2007 and 2013 championship teams slowly lost players who fans adored? Did fans ever fail to show up following roster changes?
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No. Never. In fact, the New England Patriots — a team who annually cuts, trades and loses fan favorites — are laughing at this excuse.
Yes, David Ortiz is an iconic name for Boston, but a historic franchise with numerous legendary players should always march on. Even though Ortiz will always be loved by this city, he is a spoke on the wheel in the larger business vision.
Losing an icon hurts, but it should never be the reason a franchise loses fans. If it’s a strongly enough managed organization, the star players on the current roster should continue to set record-breaking attendance and viewership numbers.
Werner was right about one thing: There certainly is no David Ortiz on this squad. Without getting into the lack of leadership — a topic that’s been discussed many times — there certainly is a likability issue. There are players on the roster fans like: Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel and a few others.
But there are far more players that fans are on the brink of dislike — if not already there. There are mixed feelings from fans toward players all over the roster, from Hanley Ramirez to even once beloved Dustin Pedroia.
Forget about the excuses for pitchers who don’t perform well and describing their outings with “Good stuff.”
Forget about the cheating scandal with the Apple Watches, only to blame it on unknown staff personnel.
Forget about cursing out Hall of Famers/color commentators.
Yes, the team has issues. But some of these issues are fixable, especially the admiration toward players. It’s the way half the roster conducts itself is why there is no likability.
Stand up to the media and act like role models. Engage the media with honest answers, and hell, even tell a joke if you can. If a player has a bad outing, they should just own up to it and admit they’re trying to improve and fix the problem.
When Manny Ramirez struck out four times in a game, did fans turn on him? What about when Curt Schilling got shelled a few times? Or when Pedro Martinez called the rival Yankees “His daddy”?
The fan base will never evaporate, but it’s clear they’re aggravated and exasperated over some of the Red Sox players who have been deemed unlikable.
Here’s a list of players who can increase their likability:
Own up to underperformance and injury. If you showed leadership on the field and addressed the media in a professional matter, people wouldn’t dislike you so much.
You see how Chris Sale addressed the media in the playoffs after describing his disappointment in letting the team down? Not an ounce of entitlement in his responses to any media questions. Even when Sale does get shelled, he still wants the ball in his hand. He takes the field with an assassin mentality and passion for the game.
There’s still time for Price to right the ship; just look at John Lackey‘s short full-circle career with the Red Sox.
Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.
It’s hard to dislike Bogaerts or Bradley as they rarely say anything unfavorable. In fact, they rarely say much at all. Yes, both struggled in down years with injuries last season, but it’s the lack of fire or passion on the field that causes fans to question the manhood of the team.
Just about every fan knows Bradley needs to decrease strikeouts and increase offensive consistency. Some fans may say Bradley is a mute, while others will say he’s just less talkative or emotional on the field.
But Bradley doesn’t have to be overly talkative to be a leader. Bradley has been on the Red Sox for longer than 3/4 of the players on the roster. You don’t have to be vocal to be a leader, lead by example like Nixon did.
Nixon wasn’t known for rallying the troops by giving speeches; he’d be the first out of the dugout looking to knock someone’s head off if one of his teammates were threatened.
Bradley doesn’t have to look for fights or even be a leader, but he can let his actions on the field speak for themselves to earn the acceptance of the fans.
Speaking of actions on the field, Bogaerts needs to stop hanging his head after every strikeout, nor let the sky fall when times get tough. Like Bradley, Bogaerts seems to be disinterested in adding personality in his responses to the media.
Again, fine. If you show passion and confidence on the field, fans will respect you more. Play with some fire.
Speaking of fire, look no further than the player who shows the most fire on the team, Dustin Pedroia. While Pedroia certainly leads by example with his aggressive play and passion for the game, he lost some respect from fans this past season.
If one of your teammates throws at an opposing player to defend your honor: stick by your teammate. Stand up for your ball club. If a brawl transpires, so be it.
But shouting to an opposing team’s bench that it was your team’s fault and not yours, is nothing but cowardice treason. Again, many fans lost respect for Pedroia after that incident, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he lost some of the clubhouse, too.
What’s rich is Pedroia’s claim that he’s the leader of the team and the media can answer to him if they have any leadership concerns. This was in response to the Dennis Eckersley and Price drama that took place.
Yeah, some leader Pedroia is — the same one who throws his team under the bus months prior.
Just produce consistently. Stop taking plays off occasionally and then earning a “Hustling Hanley” nickname — the effort should be there in the first place. If Hanley Ramirez wants to act facetious like Manny Ramirez, he has to produce like him. Even Manny’s theatrics didn’t age well when he wasn’t producing or lacked interest.
If Hanley wants to act like the goofball leader of the clubhouse 182 games of the year, that’s fine. But your bat better back it up: “Hustling Hanley” needs to start producing like “Miami Hanley.”
Hanley Ramirez isn’t the only one who needs to start producing like his old self, the entire Red Sox team does too. There is way too much talent on this roster to not have an exceptional season — even if the roster remains a power bat away. Just about everyone on the roster — with the exception of rookies or second year players — had a down year offensively.
The Red Sox need a complete effort from everyone to contend with the Astros and Yankees. Boston needs the Dustin Pedroia of old. The Tampa Bay David Price. The Miami Hanley. The Betts and JBJ from two seasons ago.
The 2018 team can win, dance, repeat to show their swagger as much as they want. But they must elevate their play to back it up.
They’ll never be adored like “The Idiots” who “Cowboy up” or #GetBeard for the playoffs — and that’s OK.
Just be likable.