Here’s some free advice for Larry Lucchino. Hold a press conference and begin it with the following words:
“We’re sorry and embarrassed for the way our organization has behaved.”
Lucchino is Red Sox team president and CEO. He’s also the most vocal spokesman in the organization.
Don’t show up in Baltimore with owner John Henry and blame the media for a situation that management created by not fixing last winter. Don’t do interviews on WEEI and tell listeners that you got a hug from a fan at owners meetings in Denver.
Don’t hold round-table meetings anymore and then be surprised that the details of those meetings actually leak out, some accurate, some inaccurate.
I understand the frustration of reports that are factually inaccurate. You are well within your rights to correct such inaccuracies. But you know full well that it’s hard to control the actions of others. All you can do is control the flow chart of communication in the organization.
Right now, the players in that clubhouse feel there is no firewall protecting their conversations.
It leads to players like the jettisoned Kelly Shoppach telling those within earshot in Cincinnati on Thursday, “Half of my [Red Sox] teammates came over and said I wish I was coming with you [to the Mets].” That was the quote from Reds broadcaster George Grande Thursday night, relating a conversation from the Mets clubhouse.
It leads to unnamed sources telling national reporters about text messages regarding Bobby Valentine leaving Jon Lester in too long.
Speaking of firewall, here’s another analogy that comes to mind.
The Red Sox from 2002 through last August were like a brand new Mac with a beautiful 25-inch monitor.
But when the computer needs to be ripped apart and fixed and you don’t have the $2,000 lying around to buy a new one, you have to trace all the cords behind the computer. If the lines behind the computer are neat and organized, it’s simple. But if they’re tangled, it’s a mess to take apart.
Right now, it’s apparent the lines behind “Carmine” are badly, badly crossed. There’s too much talk and not enough action. I don’t blame players for getting tired of answering the same questions over and over. There’s too much “he said, they said.”
Despite your claim on Thursday, the fans are outraged. They can’t believe your organization is handling things this way. They do not believe in any aspect of this organization -- at all.
In 20 years of covering Boston sports, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve never seen a team so despised by so many of its own fans. So many fans this year are cheering for the team to lose so it forces ownership to make changes -- changes that should be fairly obvious.
So, Mike, if you know so much, what would you do?
Simple, take one look 25 miles south and apply that model to your franchise. Years ago, when the Red Sox were more about winning than selling bricks and ratings on NESN, Theo Epstein acknowledged that he modeled his operation after what Bill Belichick and the Patriots have in place in Foxboro.
We have been reminded this week of the stark differences between the Red Sox and the Patriots.
Lucchino, Henry and Tom Werner must take a hard look at two things -- the way players, coaches and executives communicate in the organization and the way the business and baseball operations mesh.
The Patriots have complete command of their communication structure.
The Red Sox are in complete public relations meltdown.
I asked Belichick this week of the significance of communication between safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory.
What he gave me was this:
“I think you have to work with a lot more than just one other player,” he began. “We have a rotation in there at that position but the safeties, as an example, there is communication between the safeties that’s important but there’s also very important communication between the safety and the corner on his side and the safety and the linebackers, whether it’s the outside linebacker or the inside linebacker depending on the formation. Safeties can look at each other and confirm, ‘OK, this is what we’re in.’ But I’d say the harder part of it is then communicating to their respective side of the ball, ‘OK, this is what we’re in,’ and then ‘OK, what do you we have to do?’ And what you’re doing over there could be independent of what they’re doing over here.
“I think honestly that’s the harder part of the communication and it’s always harder on defense to communicate at different levels -- so, for the safeties to communicate with the linebackers, for the linebackers to communicate with the defensive line. A lot of times it’s easy to look over there and just make a signal or say a word to a guy that you’re in a meeting with or that you’re working with all the time. It’s something else when you have to get a call to a defensive lineman who is in a three-point stance who might not be listening to really anything, he’s trying to get off on the ball, or a corner who is again standing out there, like he can’t look inside and, ‘What do you want to talk about?’ He’s out there focused on his receiver, that kind of thing. The communication at different levels, that’s probably the most challenging part defensively. Not that there’s not communication between linemen, linebackers and DBs, but I think it’s even harder when you go … and then when you start getting into nickel and dime defenses and things like that, then the player who was a safety now is a linebacker and a guy who was a linebacker maybe now is a defensive end or is part of the rush and situations like that.
“That just comes from experience of knowing not whether the player is in the game or not, but what position he’s playing. That’s something that not everybody is familiar with -- not every defensive player knows exactly in this situation this guy is playing Sam, and in this situation this guy is playing Mike, and in this situation this guy is playing safety or whatever it happens to be. That part of it, the communication is a little challenging, too.”
That’s nine references to communication in a two-minute answer. What does that tell you? Bill Belichick understands the significance of proper communication. He prioritizes communication every day.
He preaches this from the first day a player joins the organization.
Another thing Belichick expects is for players to respect the coaching staff. There is, after all, a hierarchy of management.
There appears to be none with the Red Sox right now.
On Thursday, Belichick -- in front of fans, coaches and the media -- had seen enough. Julian Edelman and Niko Koutouvides got into a scrap. He kicked both players off the field, yelling at them all the while. Message delivered. Belichick is in complete control, and everyone -- from Brady on down -- knows it.
The idea of a round table was a noble one when all cylinders were firing. But my favorite quote from this week from Belichick was this response about judging Logan Mankins' physical progress:
“My information comes from the medical department and what they say about a player’s physical condition, then that’s what I do. I call the plays and they let the team run them. They don’t get involved in that, either,” Belichick said.
“Really, it’s a simple relationship. They do their job; they’re not coaches. I’m not a doctor; I don’t try to be a doctor and they don’t try to be coaches. It works a lot better that way.”
In other words, Robert Kraft and son Jonathan are masters in the business of sports and entertainment in Foxboro.
Bill Belichick is the sole decision-maker on the football side. Of course he has advisers he trusts like Nick Caserio and Floyd Reese and his college and pro scouts. But in the end, all critical football decisions are his.
Don’t take my word for it, Larry. Take it from a coach and an organization completely in charge of its organization and its players.
Plenty of ammo from frustrated Red Sox fans in the Trags Bag.
@BenRodriguez413 #BobbyV isn't the problem, the players are. They got [Tito] bounced. Now they have the balls to cry about it. #inmatesrunningasylum
@jbigda they tanked w/Tito, they stink with Valentine. Perhaps the manager isn't the problem. The players are taking Zero responsibility
@CMFoster23 I'm shocked [Bobby Valentine] hasn't [quit] already, and good luck finding a replacement, who would want the job after this?
@BTUMassHoops Can we get Iglesias up ASAP. While they're at it, let's play Kalish in RF and see what we have.
@docvarmint Fixing this mess starts with ownership taking responsibility for creating it. That is what I want to hear. If ownership wants the heart of the nation back they need to fall on a sword. The same one they plunged in Tito's back.
@Nephi125 At this point it seems like [Ben] Cherington was hired as a face people could complain at if things went bad. Owners make all the calls.