There may be no more fickle a fan base than that of the Boston Red Sox.
Following a run of six playoff appearances in seven seasons from 2003 to 2009, Boston has fallen on difficult times the past few campaigns, highlighted by an historic 7-20 September collapse in 2011 and a bitterly disappointing 69-93 finish last year. The team’s 2012 record, and accompanying last -place finish in the AL East, was the franchise’s worst performance since 1965.
The ownership group of John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner has been portrayed (most recently in former manager Terry Francona’s new book) as more concerned with marketing and moneymaking than winning. In other words, it’s image over substance.
But many of the same people who were touting the Red Sox as the “greatest team ever” after acquiring free agent Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez before the 2011 season are now accusing ownership of pandering to the almighty dollar and not doing all it takes to win.
The argument that Crawford was paid too much is a legitimate one, but who could have foreseen his struggles on the field and injury problems?
Gonzalez got off to a torrid start in 2011 before falling off after the all-star break. Overall, he put up good numbers in his short stay with the Red Sox, including hitting .300 with 15 homers and 86 RBI last year before the monumental trade that sent he and Crawford, along with Josh Beckett and Nick Punto, to the Los Angeles Dodgers in late August.
With no major star acquisition over the off-season and a slew of modest signings and personnel moves, the Red Sox are a big-time question mark in 2013, and a lot will have to fall into place for them to contend for the postseason. But seeing how the surprising Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles made things work under similar circumstances last summer, and with a second wild-card spot now for the taking, anything is possible.
In fairness, ownership’s track record of two World Series titles, four ALCS appearances and seven 90-plus win seasons since ’03 gives it a solid platform to stand on. This is the first season in quite a while where there are low expectations in Boston, and perhaps that’s just what the franchise needs to get back on track.