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.