I still believe if there had been another five games in the 2017 season, the Yankees would have flown by the Boston Red Sox, a team that never gelled as a unit last season. Now, two key members of the Red Sox acknowledge the affliction in the clubhouse, but neither is prepared to fix the problem. I know someone who can renovate the situation – yesterday.
Yankees fans will recall with glee an incident which occurred on the Red Sox plane last July when David Price took a swipe at Hall of Fame member and current Red Sox Broadcaster, Dennis Eckersley. Price’s words and body language were confirmed by seventeen witnesses, and it didn’t take long for the Boston press, and in particular, the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, to take a step back wondering if there was fire beneath the smoke, and a more widespread problem existed in the Sox clubhouse.
Yesterday, Boston Herald writer, Jason Mastrodonato, caught up with two key members of the Red Sox at their camp in Ft. Myers, putting the same question to both players. Did the Red Sox have a dysfunctional clubhouse in 2017, and is it something that been put behind them?
We’ll get to their responses which are somewhat telling in a minute. But first, here’s an indisputable fact. The teams that make it to the promised land in major league baseball are the ones with a cohesive unit, which doesn’t have to exist with hugs and kisses all around each day and every day.
But at the same time, there should be at least a subtle, yet very real understanding that, Ronald Torreyes , for instance, is just as crucial to the success of the team as Aaron Judge. The Yankees had that “feeling” last season, and I put the word parenthesis because it’s something you can’t touch or (actually) feel. It’s there, or it’s not, and it can’t be manufactured.
“We all move on” is fine and dandy. But here’s the question I have, and from my Yankees perspective, I hope they never figure it out – but is either Betts or Bogaerts ready and willing to step into the role that will negate the issues they address with wishful thinking they are solved for 2018? And where is the oft-injured meteorite in the infield, Dustin Pedroia, in the mix?
I live in the spirited competition between the Yankees and Red Sox. As such, I want to see the Sox at full strength both on and off the field and in a position to supercharge the contest for a Division title, which is likely to be fought for until the waning days of September.
But if the Red Sox team is going to show up, with or without J.D. Martinez, there needs to be someone who is ready and able to set the tone in the clubhouse which, seemingly was lacking last year and threatening to spill over to this season.
And so, at risk of heresy to my Yankees brethren, here’s a way for the Sox to put themselves on an even keel with the Yankees, at least regarding the intangibles necessary to win a Championship this season.
Hire Big Papi! Make him a coach, a front office executive, or a batboy – it doesn’t matter. Just bring David Ortiz into a position where he has access to the clubhouse. For any number of reasons, the Yankees never really felt the loss of Derek Jeter after he retired in 2014. Sad to say for some fans, it’s likely many of the Yankees Baby Bombers put Jeter in the same territory as Mickey Mantle, like “Oh yeah, I heard about him” and moved on.
However, the Red Sox have not been able to overcome the presence of Ortiz, both on and off the field. On the field only means the addition of a player(s) who can provide the production of Ortiz. That the Red Sox have been unable even to do that is telling, but the salient point is they haven’t replaced the presence of “Big Papi” as the go-to guy and his larger than life presence in the clubhouse, and it’s hurting the team.
Back to the Yankees now and how they had two ready replacements for Jeter in the clubhouse in CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner. Both stepped up, especially last season and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. It should be no mystery the Yankees did not trade Gardner, despite the overloaded outfield situation, or Sabathia, whose ability to reproduce the fantastic season he had last year is hopeful but still questionable. Ergo, the Yankees search for another starter, even while Sabathia occupies a spot on the roster will never negate the value of the veteran to the team. Sabathia is here to stay for all of 2018 for reasons that have nothing to do with his performance on the mound, which in any event, is likely to be stellar.
It’s known the Sox need more power in their lineup as a prerequisite to doing any real damage in the American League East. And David Price needs to make it through a full season without injury, and so on. But if they can’t formulate a team having a leader or two in the clubhouse who can provide some interference between players and the manager, their season will once again be doomed, despite being a pretty good team on paper.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are poised to emerge from Spring Training supercharged and ready to go. Rookie manager, Aaron Boone, can sleep comfortably knowing he will not need to micro-manage the team and leadership are working full-force only a few feet from his office, allowing him to concentrate on his other responsibilities.
Will rookie Red Sox manager, Alex Cora, be able to do the same? Not likely given the current composition of the team. And if that can’t be corrected, the season is likely over for the Red Sox even before it begins.