Is Boston media right about Red Sox players whining too much?

For a number of reasons, it’s been a very bad season for the Boston Red Sox.

The issues include but are not limited to risky roster construction, questionable trades, an overwhelming amount of injuries, looming contract negotiations, and underperforming players.

Such a wide range of problems makes it difficult to accurately apportion blame. There’s certainly more than enough of it to go around, but who’s deserving, and of how much?

Watching unhappily, fans and media members would love to pinpoint one person to blame, like the biblical scapegoat, an innocent creature who would be released into the wilderness, carrying all the sins of the people, leaving them blameless and unblemished. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. It’s a team sport, it’s everyone’s fault.

For much of the season, Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has sat in the hot seat, often looking like a scapegoat in the making, as many Sox GMs have been before. After all, roster construction is the root from which most problems stem. But, on Friday, the front office made the decision to give Plawecki’s roster spot to promising pitching prospect Franklin German, and the ensuing drama put other members of the organization under the microscope.

German is the latest in a string of late-season big-league debuts that are viewed as auditions for next year’s team, which makes sense, as 2022 is already long over for the Sox. But several players publicly lamented the decision, as it happened late at night and only weeks before the popular catcher was set to reach free agency.

The backlash from Plawecki’s teammates wasn’t quiet. Nathan Eovaldi and Rich Hill made long, public statements, with not-so-subtle digs at Bloom. Their public airing of dirty laundry received its own backlash, from media members who feel that players have not held themselves publicly accountable for the part they’ve played in this failure of a season.

Boston media members claim Red Sox players haven’t held themselves accountable for 2022 failures

John Tomase describes the clubhouse attitude as an “undercurrent of victimization and grievance,” which seems somewhat apt, but unfair. He claims many of Bloom’s roster moves were signs of faith in his team, and only when the team “didn’t reward that token of faith,” did Bloom have no choice but to pivot to next year. The signing of Jeurys Familia is among many moves that were more foolhardy than faithful.

Tomase also notes the “veteran-laden roster,” but singles out injured players, Kiké Hernández and Rafael Devers. He wonders where all of the “experienced, winning players” were when the Sox collapsed in July, and the answer is, about a dozen were on the Injured List. And the Sox threw away two of their most ‘experienced winners,’ Christian Vázquez and Jackie Bradley Jr., in the first week of August.

Chris Cotillo has been fairer, saying that the timing of Plawecki’s unceremonious dismissal does nothing to improve an already unhappy clubhouse. But Tomase says Sox players “need to take a nice long look in the mirror and stop acting like the roster must be constructed with their comfort foremost in mind,” and that they “just need to man up and admit that management doesn’t owe them anything, because they did not honor their half of the bargain.”

He’s half right.

As with any employment contract, there is an agreed-upon exchange of goods and services. The Sox pay players to win games, and victories have been few and far between this year. Players must own their share of the failure.

But baseball isn’t like Michael Jordan leading the Tune Squad to victory over the MonStars; this is a team sport and as such, “management” does owe them something. The players’ “half of the bargain” is predicated on the expectation that the team is building a contending roster. If that’s not the case, a baseball player under individual contract working in a group setting can only do so much. Xander Bogaerts played through pain for over a month, and still has more doubles than last year, the second-highest on-base percentage of his 10-year career, and is chasing the batting title, not to mention playing some of his best defense ever. Should he have offered to pitch, too? Rafael Devers could’ve hit 50 home runs this season, and it still wouldn’t make a real dent in the fact that Bloom didn’t give this team a real bullpen.

Recently, Bloom and team president Sam Kennedy voiced their frustrations and disappointment with how this season turned out. Manager Alex Cora gets to publicly criticize the team every time they lose, which is often. Why shouldn’t players be allowed to speak their minds?

In situations such as these, there is no pleasing the Boston media. If players are unhappy but not publicly self-flagellating, they must not feel responsible. If they act like nothing’s wrong, they get put in the stocks and pillory for callous insensitivity towards the situation.

There’s really no winning of any kind in Boston this year.