B.S. Report: Olney, Simmons talk Sox

October, 11, 2011
Grantland.com's Bill Simmons had ESPN MLB Insider Buster Olney on his B.S. Report Podcast on Tuesday, and part of their discussion centered on what went wrong with the Red Sox, the dilemma Theo Epstein faces and whether the situation in Boston is fixable.

(The podcast is embedded at right. The 10-minute Red Sox discussion comes from the 8-minute mark to the 18-minute mark.)

They touched on the following Red Sox topics:

Character issues in the clubhouse

Olney: “I thought that their personality would be a huge strength ... and it couldn’t have gone more in the opposite direction. I’ve heard a bunch of off-the-record stories I can’t say on the air. But the more you hear it, it feels like it’s the last days of Rome. They’re that bad.

“Part of the adjustment they’re going to have to make is to improve the personality and find the guys that can lead that team. ... Where was the guy to go (into the clubhouse) and say, 'Hey, knock it off'? … As it turned out, they really didn’t have that great leader.”

Simmons: “(David) Ortiz was the biggest disappointment in that respect. He almost seemed like this Irish Catholic mother from the '50s who had this dysfunctional family and was just kind of resigned to it every night.”

Have the Red Sox lost focus?

Olney said it seemed like the priorities of the Red Sox have shifted in recent years and cited an excerpt from a recent column:

As the Red Sox move forward with their self-assessment, in the wake of the worst September collapse in baseball history, the ownership of the team probably needs to take a good hard look in the mirror, too.

It's become apparent that the connection between the owners and some of the folks who work for them has become brittle -- recent events are evidence of that -- and there is a perception in many corners of Fenway Park that the priorities of the club's owners have changed.

In the beginning, some members of the organization have said, ownership was devoted to winning; everything was about winning. Now winning is perceived to be one of ownership's priorities. Whether that's true or not, only Henry and Werner truly know, but the fact that people under them have doubts about their motives is not a good thing; rather, it's the type of thing that can slowly rot a franchise, like mold collecting in the basement.

Simmons: “It’s hard to believe that Theo could have come from this place of ‘We’re going to make smart moves, we’re going to look for value guys, we’re not going to sign free agents over the age of 29’, things like that, and then you see some of the stuff that happened [signing big-ticket free-agents that haven’t worked out], I doubt that Theo has betrayed what he’s about to the extent it seems he has.

“Which makes me wonder, does he go to the Cubs? It feels like this could happen.”

Is Theo’s future in Boston or Chicago?

Olney: “As Theo gets closer to whatever decision he’s going to make, he’s going to have that Billy Beane moment, that Billy Beane had before he (decided whether to make) the move to Boston (in 2003). He had the offer in hand. He got to look to see where the grass was greener. ...

“If you take over the Cubs, you’re talking about years of rebuilding. And a different situation with people you don’t know, out of your hometown. … the fact that, as one GM said to me over the weekend, he’s gotten this far says that if they make him the right offer financially, this GM said he has no doubt Theo is going to go.”

Here’s the excerpt Olney was referencing:

A rival executive on Theo Epstein's situation: "If he met with the Cubs, what it means is that if he gets the offer he wants, he's gone [to Chicago]. If he stays in Boston, it's because he didn't get what he was looking for."

Simmons: “The last three years the Red Sox basically turned into the Steinbrenner Yankees. They tried to solve all their problems with trading away prospects and spending a ton of money. Now that it hasn’t worked, they’re in a real pickle here.

“(Daniel) Bard was so bad down the stretch, I don’t know how they don’t bring back (Jonathan) Papelbon. And then Ortiz was the most reliable bat they had down the stretch, other than Marco Scutaro, so I don’t know how you don’t bring back Ortiz either. Now you’re tied into more long-term deals.

"If I was Theo I’d flee. I think he took this whole thing as far as it could go. He could still blame the owners for some of what happened."



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