Wednesday, June 20, 2012

THE RED SOX AND THEIR "TOXIC" MIX


Buster Olney doesn't cover the Red Sox beat and I'm sure he's only been around the team
a handful of times while pontificating on ESPN. But earlier this week, he lobbed a dirty
bomb at Boston's beloved team by saying the clubhouse was "toxic." I don't really think this
took anybody in New England by surprise, after all, they've heard their teams in the 1970's
referred to as "25 guys, 25 cabs" for the outright and obvious dislike the players had for each
other.

It is rather comical how the descriptions of bad clubhouses have evolved over the years.
They've gone from "dysfunctional" to "cancerous" to now, "toxic". It seems like it's become
a buzzword for the Facebook generation. Olney's acquisition of the information used to
throw the "toxic" line on the Red Sox came via the gossip chain, much like the way many of
us received it in our high school cafeteria's growing up. We heard it from somebody, who 
heard  it from somebody else, and all of a sudden it grows wildly out of control, you know,
like the whole Richard Gere-Gerbil thing.




I'm sure Olney heard the "toxic" thing from a colleague who thinks he has finger on the
pulse of the Red Sox. The players hate Bobby Valentine, Bobby V hates most of the players,
and so on and so on and so on. It gets blown wildly out of proportion and it feeds the media
monster in Boston for a few days. And so what? Why do people think the players have to
play patty-cake every day and bring each other Latte's from Starbucks? The players spend
more time with each other than they do with their families over the course of seven months.
Playing in Boston, under that intense microscope, and hanging out in a clubhouse that makes
you claustrophobic is not that easy.

Olney and other baseball "experts" talk about the Boston clubhouse like it's the first one that's
ever been less than perfect, but the fact of the matter is, none of them ever are. It's just like
other work environments. There are people who can't stand each other, backstabbers who
destroy chemistry with dangerous gossip, and friction that is palpable. The New York Yankees
of 1977 did not get along and most of them hated Reggie Jackson. He signed as a free-agent
and promptly stated that he was the "straw that stirred the drink" and that teammate and captain
Thurman Munson "stirred it bad."



Things got so bad that Jackson and manager Billy Martin nearly got into a fight after 
Martin pulled Jackson from the outfield during the middle of a game for not hustling. That clubhouse was "toxic" but the Yankees went on to win the World Series.

Incidentally, Jackson was part of the Oakland A's dynasty that won three consecutive World
Series titles in the early 1970's. Those teams hated each other. There were arguments,
skirmishes, and fights. But so what? They put all that aside once the game started and
dominated the game like few teams have over the last 40 years. 




Nobody gets along with everybody and there are teammates who just can't stand each 
other. Shaq and Kobe weren't Facebook friends when they played with the Lakers, but they 
put all the pettiness aside to win a pair of NBA titles together.

The "toxic" tag on the Red Sox is just another thing they've had to deal with in what has
already been a trying season. But if that "toxic" environment doesn't kill them, it just might
make them stronger and strong enough to make a run at the post-season.

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