Red Sox must grow up to vanquish ghosts from last season's collapse

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

If there's been a more fragile gaggle of young men than the Boston Red Sox, I'll presume it managed to overcome such temperamental wispiness after snack time and a nap.

The franchise of "Cowboy up" has, over 10 months, developed a need for something fresh, something it could hang that dusty and audacious hat on.

"Grow up" works.

Because, you know, all this belly-aching about what the boss says or what the media reports or how the other team behaves, this carping from a clubhouse leader about "fun" that sounds a lot more like carping about "funds," this used to be beneath the Red Sox. Hell, it's beneath a bunch of milky-mustached brats riding a bus to the zoo.

You'd think the season, the whole stinkin' organization, had been wired for demolition, and that Bobby V or the blessed Youk or some Joe wearing a press pass was itching to push the plunger, the way everyone's been acting.

But, no. 

Seventy games into 2012, the Red Sox are 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. They've won seven times in nine games. Granted, five of the seven wins have come against the Miami Marlins, whose players just had a sit-down with their owner, who suggested they summon their inner child. He probably didn't reference the Red Sox, but could have. The other two wins came against the Chicago Cubs, the worst team in the game. And on Friday, against the Atlanta Braves, they were three-hit over 7 2/3 innings by Jair Jurrjens, who began the night with a 9.37 ERA.

The Red Sox aren't great. They're not who they were last summer. Folks in Boston already know this. I could tell by the pitchforks. Let's just say the Red Sox have left themselves a lot of opportunity for growth. They have plenty of potential on the disabled list, and most of those prognoses on the hopeful side.

One day reasonably soon, Carl Crawford will play, and I'm assuming that will be a good thing. So will Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett and Andrew Bailey. I see the frosty mug half-full.

[Related: Boston gets shut down by Jair Jurrjens in loss to Atlanta]

Yes, those with a feel for what's going on in the home clubhouse at Fenway Park do not portray a particularly chummy place. These 10 months later, distrust lives where camaraderie once did. Too much gossip has escaped the what-you-see-here-what-you-hear-here-stays-here sanctuary, starting with the beer-and-chicken saga, greasing the Terry Francona and Theo Epstein departures, and bringing the regime of Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine.

It's not necessarily the new people in charge that foster the resentment; it's what they represent, which is the failure and humiliation of September. It's not even so much the stories of clubhouse toxicity, bothersome to address as they might be for the people in the clubhouse. That's the bell that can't be un-rung. With 90-some games to play, it buries Valentine and the supposed clubhouse leaders. It buries young Cherington. And it buries ownership, which, technically, you know, is in charge of all this.

Finally, it whispers to the people of Boston their Red Sox are fixated on petty feuds and simmering cliques, and not baseball, which may or may not be true, but certainly is no way to present oneself to one's public.

This can be mended, but not by unreasonable outbursts by anyone, and certainly not by David Ortiz, who has been around long enough to know he just carried the story another week or so. It doesn't even matter that he might have been speaking from the heart and probably had a point.

Here's mine: Threatening to leave this "[stuff]-hole" does nothing to advance what is left of the season, and there's plenty left in it. It does nothing to rally a clubhouse that clearly needs some love, and that needs to close ranks against the peripheral forces of ink-stained evil and anonymous sources. If one of the great Red Sox players ever has been broken, then what chance does Will Middlebrooks have? What's Daniel Nava to think? What's to come of July and August and September, when the Red Sox will field a better team and bury not themselves, but perhaps the ghosts of last September?

[Related: Will Middlebrooks is worth picking up for your fantasy team]

"I don't know, man, I'm just tired of dealing with the drama here," Ortiz told reporters in Boston. "This is baseball, man. It seems like everything that goes on around here is like one of those Congress decisions that will affect the whole nation. It's not like that, man. This is baseball. We're supposed to have fun, to have our performance out there at the highest level. Every day is something new, some drama, some more [stuff]. I'm tired of that, man. I'm here to play baseball, man."

None of this is Ortiz's fault, of course. The man shows up, wades through the stuff, and hits. Occasionally he gets cranky. Mostly, he is the big, hearty voice of reason.

From here on, for all of them, the season will be as much about composure as it is the pitching staff, or Adrian Gonzalez's OPS, or Daniel Bard's role.

I mean, that'll all help. But the Red Sox are better than this. In all ways.

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