Red Sox are resurrecting “Fellowship of the Miserable”
Red Sox’s failure this season has negativity resurfacing in Boston
What is The Fellowship of the Miserable?
It’s a term coined by former Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino after a grueling loss, used to describe the propensity of Boston sports fans to vent their frustration through talk shows, blogs, social media, and a media notorious for having a sharp axe.
"“These sports talk shows are fueled by the fellowship of the miserable.”– Rick Pitino"
In terms of the Boston Red Sox, it is a virulent strain that resurfaces when the team is blundering along with poor management decisions, players whose performance and dedication are suspect, and what hardens it is when the Yankees beat the snot out of the American League East.
The only cure is a World Series title.
As a Sox fan growing up during the 86-year drought, I was subjected to the Fellowship in my formative years. Crusty veteran fans would recount a history of failure, and I would soon suffer a resurrection of those failures. Bucky Dent, Mookie Wilson, and collapse when the brass ring appears so close. That evaporated in 2004, but is it back? Are we ancient fans trapped in cognitive dissonance?
"“This town is full of negativity, and it sucks.”– Rick Pitino"
To paraphrase Pitino: David Ortiz, Pedro Martínez, and Curt Schilling are not walking through that door. Neither is Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers could exit next.
The Sox were a greedy and successful lot for the first two decades of the 20th century, winning five championships between the first-ever World Series in 1903 and 1918. Then, the exodus of talent to New York was capped by the departure of Babe Ruth, ushering in decades in the doldrums. History seems to be repeating itself; after a successful run of two decades this century the Sox are in last place once again. Winning in 1918 and 2018 is just too symbolic for Boston believers who lived through some or all of the drought. Is it the Curse of Betts this time around?
This season, the Red Sox finished last in the American League East. Coming off the heels of a 2021 season in which the team came two games from the World Series is disappointing, but last place is not unique; they have five cellar finishes this century.
How do you reverse a negative trend?
Is Chaim Bloom a failure, a success, or something in the middle? The court of public opinion is deadlocked, but the current state of the Red Sox fortunes has undoubtedly chipped away at the goodwill Bloom incurred last season. The responsibility of management is to make decisions that improve short- and long-term objectives. Bloom and ownership’s failure to construct a solid roster made attempting to make the playoffs a Sisyphean task, and the team died on the metaphorical vine.
The long-range implications will further be defined with the outcome of Devers and Bogaerts. They are the potential foundation for the future, and management’s handling of each will give insight regarding fiscal direction.
The farm system is the key to this new fiscal Slim Fast approach to doing business. The Red Sox’ record of producing quality position players is commendable, but where they struggle in-house is the most important category of all – pitching. Too often, the Sox have had to pay a considerable cost in prospects and/or money to acquire pitching. The risk factor is on display with David Price and Chris Sale. Both contracts are low-hanging fruit for the Fellowship.
The farm system is supposed to churn out replacements, cut contractual expenditures, and provide trade chips, and I don’t see it. Maybe some of the notables in the lower depths of the system may provide the needed sustenance in a few years, but history has shown otherwise, especially in pitching that most dire of need. Farm system success and sustainability is Bloom’s wheelhouse – at least, that was the excuse ownership gave when they brought him in to replace Dave Dombrowski.
Spending money is a possible remedy, and but for Boston in the post-Curse era, a playoff appearance does not suffice; it’s championship or bust. The payroll is about to shrink like a character in one of Rick Moranis’ iconic films, and the expectations are that management will use that financial flexibility to reinvest. If they don’t, the howls will flood social media, and an ever-voracious press will join the chorus, proving Pitino’s comments somewhat prophetic.
Tossing money at a problem has long been the domain of governments and, in the realm of sports, quite common among those so blessed with a cash stream. Boston has spent wisely or foolishly depending on the performance results of the team or the player. Is there an equilibrium?
Unfortunately, risk versus reward is always present. The latest big contract delivered to Trevor Story has tilted in the wrong direction, but that should not be the impetus for management to cacoon themselves from free-agent adventurism. This is the Red Sox and not the Royals.
Disappointment is the generator for a new recruitment drive to the Fellowship. In today’s world, and it applies to sports, it becomes instant gratification. The span of just one season is equivalent to a life sentence of listening to Yankee fans drone on about 27 titles.
The fellowship recruitment drive will start to gather steam, and this season will have a new generation of members popping up like weeds in a garden. The only cure is the previously mentioned WS, or at least giving a modicum of hope that the franchise will not repeat an infamous drought history.