That’s the one underlying message that’s become crystal clear in an otherwise head-spinning offseason filled with drama for the Red Sox.
This offseason has been like the Friday the 13th movie series. Each new accusation or comment regarding what went on in the Red Sox clubhouse this past season is horrifying, but after about 700 of them, it’s becoming more of a nuisance than anything.
A guy had a beer. A guy didn’t have a beer. A guy had a beer in the clubhouse. No, wait, it was in the dugout, too. No, actually it wasn’t in the dugout. It was just in the clubhouse.
It’s been a complete onslaught of he says, she says accusations, none of which we’ll likely ever be able to validate either way. So why bother trying?
What’s amazing about all of the beer-drinking, chicken-eating, video-game playing allegations, though, is that had the team lived up to its gaudy expectations, such clubhouse happenings would not only be tossed aside, but they would likely be celebrated.
We have 2004 to turn to as proof.
This year’s team was much different than the self-proclaimed idiots of 2004. There’s no doubt about that. But watching how appalled everyone who follows the Red Sox is at the idea of someone having a beer in the clubhouse goes to show that a double standard exists in Boston.
If you win, it doesn’t matter what you do along the way. But if you lose, there has to be something or someone to blame outside of the most obvious flaw — lack of on-field execution.
When Kevin Millar proclaimed that the Red Sox did shots of Jack Daniel’s in the clubhouse prior to Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS in New York and then prior to every game of the World Series, it not only wasn’t scrutinized. It was viewed favorably. We were intrigued by the idea of a group of blue-collar guys having a pregame shot, then taking the field. It went against conventional wisdom, and it created a sense of personality.
This offseason, when news broke of alcohol potentially being in the Red Sox clubhouse, you would have thought we were back in the days of prohibition by the overall response. Obviously, it’s much different this season, seeing as how some of the players have admitted to acting irresponsibly and the nature of any such drinking is different than that of what went on in 2004.
But would we truly care what went on if the Red Sox had gone on to achieve World Series glory?
My instincts tell me no. Instead, we’d be sitting here discussing how great it is and how proud we are to have a rag-tag bunch who just shows up and plays while having a few brews along the way. Men’s men, we’d say.
Take this passage from Mike Vaccaro‘s 2005 book, Emperors and Idiots: The Hundred Year Rivalry Between the Yankees and Red Sox, From the Very Beginning to the End of the Curse, for example. It describes the scene after the Red Sox eliminated the Angels to advance to the 2004 ALCS.
“It’s a frat house,” Johnny Damon said, laughing, shaking his head, sipping from a green bottle of champagne. “We have no rules. We’re playing cards. We’re playing our Playstations. We don’t stretch. We show up two or three minutes before the game on the field and play.”
Sounds awesome, right? Well, insert those comments into a 2011 conversation, and you’d be looking at a tirade about how dysfunctional the Red Sox clubhouse is. And the sole reason is because this year’s team didn’t win squat. Had they achieved postseason success, though, we’d be sitting here with the A.J. Pierzynski mindset that they were simply throwing back a few “rally beers.”
Obviously, there were some issues with this year’s Red Sox team, which is why it ultimately met its demise. But do I think a couple of clubhouse beers are to blame for an entire collapse? No.
Sure, the whole beer-drinking fiasco, no matter what version you believe, could be the part of some bigger issue regarding leadership and such. But the emphasis that we’ve placed on some players throwing back a couple of adult sodas is crazy, especially given our perspective on clubhouse drinking seven short years ago.
Again, it’s obvious the culture of the current Red Sox is much different than the culture of the 2004 bunch. But the drama that’s ensued since the late-season collapse was finalized on the last night of the regular season just shows that it’s all about winning in Boston.
Win, and you’re in. Lose, and things that once seemed minor and unique are suddenly to blame for everything.