Boston’s three elite starters went soft, their pitching as anemic as their work ethic. The indifference of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey in a time of crisis can be seen in what team sources say became their habit of drinking beer, eating fast-food fried chicken, and playing video games in the clubhouse during games while their teammates tried to salvage a once-promising season.
By numerous accounts, manager Terry Francona lost his ability to prevent some of the lax behavior that characterized the collapse. Team sources said Francona, who has acknowledged losing influence with some former team leaders, appeared distracted during the season by issues related to his troubled marriage and to his health.
Francona spent the season living in a hotel after he moved out of the Brookline home he shared with Jacque, his wife of nearly 30 years. But he adamantly denied his marital problems affected his job performance.
“It makes me angry that people say these things because I’ve busted my [butt] to be the best manager I can be,’’ Francona said. “I wasn’t terribly successful this year, but I worked harder and spent more time at the ballpark this year than I ever did.’’
Team sources also expressed concern that Francona’s performance may have been affected by his use of pain medication, which he also vehemently denied.
The gift of leadership also eluded Adrian Gonzalez. On the field, Gonzalez’s overall production was superb, but he provided none of the energy or passion off the field that the Sox sorely needed. His most unfortunate act in September was grousing about the Sox schedule, which required the team to play five getaway games on Sunday nights.
“We play too many night games on getaway days and get into places at 4 in the morning,’’ Gonzalez complained. “This has been my toughest season physically because of that.’’
Blaming five stressful nights over a six-month season for a tough year smacked of the self-interest that is uncommon among leaders of championship-caliber teams.
How much of it is post-mortem reconstruction -- revisionist history retrofitted to conveniently explain what could have just been an unfortunately timed stretch of bad baseball? Hard to say. But we have to say we love these types of stories that take you inside and at least try to explain the roots of all that went wrong.