Sox owners make surprise visit, blame media

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Sox owners make surprise visit, blame media

BALTIMORE Just so theres no misunderstanding that it was a super-secret squirrel organizational assessment meeting to discuss anybodys job security, the Red Sox ownership group was very public in their surprise appearance at Camden Yards on Thursday night.

This was no cloak-and-dagger meeting that all participants needed to swear a Secret Skull Society oath not to discuss afterward. Because its the snitches, the leaks, the whistle blowers and the menacing media that are to blame for everything that ails the pitiful Red Stockings.

Larry Lucchino stood near the visiting dugout steps at Camden Yards and held court with reporters for 10 minutes in a State of the Soggy Sox Address. The Sox CEO managed to both spring up some eternal hope for his flailing, nowhere ballclub while also chastising the jaded, cynical media for being too mean to his players as they embarrass themselves nightly with conduct unbecoming a ballplayer.

The cynical and jaded media do not necessarily capture the voice of the fan base, said Lucchino in a thought that could be described as both admirably earnest and thoroughly out-of-touch.

While the Red Sox ownership group would much rather take people on a chaperoned stroll around Fenway to gaze at the historical plaques and offer up Fenway bricks at a reduced price, they also now hope that the local media will take a baseball laughingstock out for Little League sundaes after the games.

Tom Werner, John Henry and Lucchino are looking for the good job, good effort treatment from the Boston media and Sox beat reporters as they sink lower into the abyss.

Thats simply not how it works when things are working correctly in the checks and balances system.

At least not from anybody thats actually watching the wretched, uninspired games.

Apparently holding the second-highest payroll in Major League Baseball and sitting 13 12 games back in the AL East is something worthy of praise or admiration. Things would be much better after a few puff pieces about how great a player is to hang out with, or because he always picks up the tab.

Because thats the point of sports, right?

The kid gloves treatment from those around the Sox has been as big a factor in their slow decline from a World Series contender as age, injuries, complacency, arrogance or anything else surrounding this Band of Blowhards.

Bobby Valentine passed off a notion in an interview with WEEI this week that the tough media scrutiny in Boston could dissuade some attractive free agents from coming to play with the Red Sox in the future. It certainly didnt hinder big-time free agents such as Manny Ramirez, Carl Crawford and J.D. Drew from signing with the Sox over the years, and the Sox will always have the money to make up for it.

Lucchino also disputed that notion while testifying to the media.

"I don't think that's a long-term danger," said Lucchino. "I do think there's probably a little bit of a reservation on the part of some players perhaps with respect to the grueling media coverage. You've just got to make sure you pick the right people and personalities to come here to be able to withstand that."

"Every franchise, every brand goes through rough times. No one is immune to the hills and valleys. We've had a long run of success. We've created very high expectations for the franchise. Sometimes those high expectations are not met, and the result is a reduction, a hit to the brand and to the team and to the fan base. If it's broke, we'll fix it."

The bigger danger to the Sox is exactly what Lucchino referenced in the last two sentences. As the dysfunction and ugly flaws of the Boston baseball organization ones that were so well hidden and extinguished by Theo Epstein and Terry Francona in the golden years of World Series titles come floating to the surface one day at a time, players are going to pass on the Sox.

Why choose an employer that seems to really need to get its house in order, and has become a punchline around the baseball world?

Thats not jaded or cynical. Thats just reality.

What isnt reality, you might ask? That would be realistically thinking that this bunch of unlovable misfits has even a punchers chance at the Wild Card spot or the playoffs. But Lucchino was doing his best Lloyd Christmas impersonation from Dumb and Dumber on the Camden Yards field prior to the game Thursday.

He was sayin theres a chance for his Olde Towne Team.

"There are still 44 games left, so technically we are still alive," said Lucchino. "I said to someone recently that you can go to St. Louis and Tampa to get a sense of what can happen after this point of the season. I know it's a bit of a long shot, but it's still interesting baseball."

Perhaps the Sox ownership group should worry less about what theyre saying in St. Louis and Tampa, and worry much more about what theyre saying in Boston. Its something along the lines of were paying some of the highest prices in Major League Baseball, and not getting their moneys worth.

The Sox fan base wants sweeping change at all levels of the organization, they want the chicken and beer crew gone for once and for all this winter and they want a baseball team that they can root for once again like they did in 2004 and 2007.

Because this current group of Sox is largely detestable with a few exceptions and worsening by the day.

The voice of the fan base is furious, and theyre using language thats far too colorful for any member of the jaded, cynical media to get away with these days.

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
    
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
     
Now, he can finally move forward.
     
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
     
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
     
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
     
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
     
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”