Seth Mnookin wrote a phenomenal book a couple years ago about the post-2004 championship Red Sox titled “Feeding The Monster.” The premise of the book was that the huge expectations of fans and press (and the demands for win NOW–at all costs) had to be managed, while not taking your eyes off the actions needed to ensure the long-term viability of the franchise. Sometimes the interests of NOW! and long-term are not in synch–and the anger and vitriol boil over.
Last year, the Boston press tried to stir up trouble by insinuating that young center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was faking it on his rehab from a rib injury. They also tried to stir up intra-club discord by misquoting other players to make it look like his teammates were questioning his cojones for doing his rehab work at a facility in Arizona–rather than follow the club around and get his rehab in where he could. The worst was Globe columnist Tony Massarotti who wrote a column whose title says it all: Central Issue Concerns His Desire To Play.”
Forward to this year: Ellsbury is ripping it up–stealing bases, playing great D and hitting a ton. He was named an All-Star and is certainly one of the main reasons that Boston is in first place in their division. Do you think that the Boston asshat commentariat would at least admit their error (or heaven forbid) actually apologize for questioning one of the Sox best players? No! Massarotti for one takes credit for Ellsbury’s breakout performance!
What a dick! The baseball world doesn’t revolve around you and your word processor Mr. Massarotti. But a lot of fans are refusing to take the bait this time. Most of the comments under Massarotti’s column take him to task. The best response is from the great Sox blog The Joy Of Sox:
Last May, Tony Massarotti wrote his infamous column questioning Jacoby Ellsbury’s desire to play baseball with five broken ribs. Massarotti claimed that Ellsbury — or “DLsbury” — had “required a great deal of, well, maintenance” in the minor leagues and was known to miss “small chunks of time with various assorted ailments”. The “soft” meme was picked up by other media and fans, and it dogged Ellsbury all season. Myriad morons demanded to know why Ellsbury refused to hurry back to the Red Sox. Yet, he did come back too soon — twice! — and suffered further injury because of it. (Dustin Pedroia did the same thing later in the season.) The evolution of this shit storm was both fascinating and infuriating. And it showed quite clearly why some athletes — no matter how good the money or chances at a championship might be — would never want to play (or stay) in Boston. We can only hope Jacoby Ellsbury is not one of those athletes.