We often talk about process versus result when discussing baseball. A bad process will often get dissected and criticized even if the end result turns out positive. Misuse your bullpen for an entire season and it might not burn you until the playoffs. Does that mean we do not report the poor process because it led to a 95 win team? Of course not.
In the case of the Red Sox a bad process may have been their undoing, but it took the result for everyone to examine it. Unlike player transactions or managerial move, the art of conditioning and clubhouse chemistry is often not on display for everyone to see. If a player is eating chicken and drinking beer during games, we don’t know about it unless it becomes public. Just because it became public after the September collapse should not take away the fact that there is a contingency of the 2011 Red Sox roster that clearly did not have their jobs as the primary focus when coming to the ballpark. A large majority arrogantly also believed they were infallible and couldn’t be beat.
When the Red Sox were comfortably leading the AL East in late August none of the beer drinking, eating, or divisions in the clubhouse were an issue. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a problem. If you continued to come to work every day prepared to do your part on a project, but a quarter of your team is not pulling their weight, how would you feel? Would you work less or be less productive? Perhaps not, but after a while when everyone needed to come together to finish the job it might be difficult since a faction of your group really wasn’t participating at a high level. To me, the Red Sox were like a team project that was broken from the start, but it didn’t show until the final edition was due. Very rarely does talent alone get the job done, especially in the game of baseball. Its the preparation and work before the game that often is what leads to success.
Perhaps the real indictment during this process is the media. Why didn’t they talk more about the issues with the team? They did start the season 2-10. Writers get to know a great deal about the players they cover for 162 games. Issues inevitably come up and it’s their job to at least investigate it. Even if a team is 40 games over .500 their lack of attention to detail, conditioning, and laissez-faire attitude by the manager should be a story. Even if its “look at how they are succeeding in spite of themselves” headline. You mean to tell me there weren’t whispers of issues they could investigate earlier in the year? I find that hard to believe. Not in the modern 24/7 media news cycle. Not in the very provincial sports town of Boston.
The Red Sox were flawed from the beginning. The media decided to report on their issues after the fact. That is a failure on their part. They made it worse by trying to make it an expose and smearing a good fan in Terry Francona.
All along the Boston media figured the result is what only mattered, when it’s the process they should have been studying.