"I wish we had $90 million under the salary cap. I wish we could buy the world. We can’t. The only thing we can do is work hard, and all the negativity that’s in this town sucks. I’ve been around when Jim Rice was booed. I’ve been around when [Carl] Yastrzemski was booed. And it stinks. It makes the greatest town, greatest city in the world, lousy. The only thing that will turn this around is being upbeat and positive like we are in that locker room. … And if you think I’m going to succumb to negativity, you’re wrong." -- Rick Pitino, March 1, 2000
Was Rick Pitino right all those years ago?
Does all the negativity in Boston suck?
Or more to the point this week, does any town in America suck the life out of its coaches and players when things go wrong more than Boston?
We were all reminded how nasty this town can get when things go wrong. The sharks were circling in the waters around Fenway in September. Then the Red Sox finished their collapse on Sept. 28. The blood was in the water, and the sharks went into a feeding frenzy.
Two weeks later, the manager is gone, the general manager seems destined for the “Friendly Confines” of Wrigley (hilarious) and The Boston Globe ran a sourced story detailing the frailties of Terry Francona that could be categorized as nothing short of character assassination.
Before Adam Vinatieri booted the ball through the uprights against the Rams and before Tom Brady became a global icon who happened to play football for the Patriots, before the “greatest comeback in the history of sports” and before the Red Sox snapped an 86-year world championship drought, before the Celtics gave us Ubuntu and a 17th banner in 2008, and before the Bruins avenged every bad loss and demon they ever had in the postseason and won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years, there was that most-famous sports rant, arguably the best ever by a sitting Boston professional sports coach.
All of which got me reminiscing driving home from Foxboro on Wednesday night.
After the Celtics were beaten by the Raptors on that March night on a buzzer-beater by Vince Carter, Pitino's frustration reached critical mass as he addressed the press. Referring to the expectations of Celtics fans and media, Pitino challenged each of them to let go of the past and focus on the future. That sounds like a great idea, but that’s not what we do in Boston. We’re an impatient lot.
I was in that media room that night. I remember watching with stunned amazement as veins were popping in his forehead. I remember looking at my colleagues and thinking this guy isn’t long for Boston.
It’s not that he wasn’t a good basketball coach. He just didn’t have the savvy media skills to handle the pressure when the crap hits the fan (and the fans).
You ever look at a person who is completely out of his/her element and just want to speak up and beg them to stop before they hit a brick wall going 100 mph, and then at the last moment stop because you’re curious as to how many pieces it will break into? That’s the feeling I had that night.
It’s the feeling I’ve had watching the Red Sox the last six weeks.
TIGER HAS A POINT ABOUT CELTICS
Speaking of the Celtics, as our Ben Rohrbach pointed out, unabashed Lakers fan Tiger Woods pointed out the age of the Celtics and how it might help them in lockout-shortened season. Ben wrote:
Asked about the league’s lockout during a media session prior to the Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Woods couldn’t help but take a jab at the Celtics.
“Yeah, of course I’m bummed. I think anybody who is an NBA fan is certainly bummed,” Woods said. “I know that probably one person who is happy is probably Doc Rivers. I mean, with the age of his team, it’s nice for them to only play half a season. It’s true. It’s a fact, come on.
“But as far as us out West, I’m looking forward to the Lakers getting back there and we’ll see what they do. The problem is you can’t talk to anybody. You can’t see who is potentially on the block of being traded, what kind of deals can we do? Nothing can be happening.
“So, as a fan, it’s disconcerting because I’m excited about what we could add to the team, but it’s also I understand this is a business, and everyone in this business wants to make money. I know the owners were losing a bunch of money, and some of the markets were feeling the effects. They can’t draw certain players, so they’re just trying to make it fair for everybody so everybody can win.”
Ben suggested that Tiger stick to his Lakers team that is actually older than the Celtics and that the C’s were miserable last year on the back-end of back-to-backs and that would only be worse this year.
Sorry, Ben, but is Tiger really that off base on this one?
Whether or not he’s getting his “condition” treated, he makes a very valid point about the Celtics. It’s a point that everyone and their brother made about the Celtics last spring, WELL BEFORE there was a lockout.
And as to Ben’s point about the back-to-backs in a crammed schedule, it’s very likely Kevin Garnett would be rested in a great number of them. With Ray Allen, he’s always in shape. And for Paul Pierce, the back-to-backs would only help him get in game shape.
The Celtics won’t be looking for home-court advantage. Just seeding. So, give Tiger a break. I’m sure he’s just flat worn out anyway.
Just hope we have an NBA season to debate in five months. I’m not optimistic, but I’ve been in Boston too long, right?
Time to go to twitter for some feedback courtesy some of the best followers a reporter could ever have.
This from @MyPintOfView: @trags How about you suggest that Kraft buy the Sox? #leadershipchange
Well, I think Robert Kraft has done well to turn the laughingstock Patriots of the 1990s into one of the model franchises not just in the NFL but in all of sports. Then he created Patriot Place. Together, that’s roughly $800 million of investment.
The John Henry group has already been severely criticized for overextending itself to NASCAR via Roush Racing and international soccer with the Liverpool Reds.
Don’t think for a moment the Kraft family hasn’t paid attention to that and taken note. So, for that reason alone, I think the Patriots will stick with a $1.5 billion NFL brand and be happy with it.
From @beaconhillwine: @Trags the behavior from the #redsox was/is incredibly disappointing dontcha think?
@beaconhillwine was responding to the above point about the negativity in Boston in light of the departure of Terry Francona and Bob Hohler’s report in The Boston Globe on Wednesday. There will be those who maintain that the type of information that was leaked about Francona’s marriage and management concern for his pain medication could have ONLY come from upper management itself.
True, those around the clubhouse could have access to certain behaviors from Francona, but that’s not the way Hohler wrote it. He said that “sources” indicated that management had concern about the manager's use of pain meds.
Without Hohler spilling the beans on his sources -- which he’ll never do -- or members of upper management coming out and admitting they were indeed the ones to be concerned, we’ll never know.
JULIEN HAS RIGHT IDEA
In case you haven’t noticed, the Bruins haven’t exactly sped out of the gates as defending Stanley Cup champs.
They lost their opener to the Flyers, 2-1. They bounced back with a 4-1 win over the Lightning but dropped a listless 1-0 game to the Avalanche during a Columbus Day snoozefest.
Afterward, Claude Julien ripped his team for not being focused and playing with “too much comfort.”
Thank goodness for Julien ripping his team for feeling too comfortable or we in Boston might have lost the concept of management actually expecting players to do what is expected on multimillion dollar salaries.
So, the Red Sox needed 40 pages to tell them whether or not they should spend $142 million on a free agent who may or may not work out in Boston.
Are you kidding me?
If you need 40 pages to evaluate whether or not a player is an exceptional talent, projected to excel in a major market like Boston, then you shouldn’t be in the baseball business.
This is what scouts and field personnel are for. Naturally, you want to speak to others in the organization and do due diligence, like speaking to the Rays. But 40 pages?!
To quote a certain wide receiver who is ready to break out any moment now in Foxboro: Child please!
And this is why Moneyball and statistical projections are to baseball what Ponzi schemes are to Wall Street.
You certainly can make your money up front, but you better get out before you lose your shirt.
This is what John Henry should know better than anyone else.
He listened to what people wanted to sell him on and didn’t look into the baseball side closely enough.
The laundry list of evidence in this matter is overwhelming. Not just Carl Crawford, but John Lackey, J.D. Drew, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Julio Lugo, etc.
With free agents, Henry has invested at the wrong time of their careers. You have to judge the baseball market ahead of the curve, like the savvy GMs did in the 1990s, led by John Hart, who inked Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga and Albert Belle.
No doubt, Ben Cherington will have John Henry’s ear in this regard.
Good luck to Cherington, assuming Theo doesn’t come back -- if the Red Sox' deal with the Cubs doesn't fall apart.
It won’t. Right?