It’s 2011 all over again, only the Red Sox’s Stupid Clubhouse Tricks consist of Instagram "likes," not fried chicken and beer. Tap, tap, tap. Drip, drip, drip. The only proper solution for the Sox is to re-enact the Great Cleanse of ’12, and fumigate the clubhouse again.
Hanley Ramirez, gone. Pablo Sandoval, gone. Anybody else who is spooked by Boston, wave your cellphones in the air and act like you just don’t care; general manager Ben Cherington can find a taker for you, too.
Oh, it won’t be easy. The Dodgers, after previously serving as a Red Sox dumping ground, won’t again play along, especially if Hanley is the principal dumpee. The Giants being the Giants, they might actually welcome back Panda, even though — ahem — he found their early contract offers disrespectful and said last spring that the only people he would miss are manager Bruce Bochy and right fielder Hunter Pence.
That was many pounds ago for Sandoval, in the estimation of some scouts, but who’s counting? We always hear how smart the Red Sox are. We always hear about how great their prospects are. We know how rich they are. It’s time for Cherington to get busy and untangle the mess he created, especially since owner John Henry has all but anointed him GM for life.
Yes, the Sandoval controversy is silly, an only-in-the-21st-century kerfuffle initiated by a Red Sox blogger who noticed his "likes" and tweeted, "Instagram creeping finally pays off." Yes, other players surely use their cellphones during their games in violation of MLB rules, just as other players surely eat and drink in the clubhouses — though hopefully dabbling in kale salad and fresh juice rather than fried chicken and beer.
No matter. Sandoval, who admitted to his misdeed, apologized for it and accepted his benching Thursday night, should have known better. He’s playing in Boston, not some remote outpost in the Frontier League. No, he can’t go to the bathroom, profess his admiration for a woman on Instagram and expect it to go unnoticed.
Speaking of which, the object of "KFP48’s" affections should be getting her own reality show any minute — maybe that would improve NESN’s ratings.
Ah, but back to baseball; they still do play baseball in this age of computer hacking and Instagram liking, don’t they?
You bet, even though the Red Sox thus far are a $184 million flop. Yes, they could still rally from their nine-game deficit in the AL East, if — fingernails to the chalkboard! — the players "perform to their track records." But really, that isn’t even the point anymore.
Boston, in the words of one rival executive, "tore apart its DNA." As any sabermetrician can attest, character types such as Jonny Gomes and David Ross can take you only so far. The same, however, can be said of talented players who lack character, and in some ways, the Sox went from one extreme to the other.
So, what’s the answer? Management held former manager Terry Francona responsible for the team’s meltdown in September 2011, so it’s not unreasonable to think that manager John Farrell soon could be in trouble, if he isn’t already. The Red Sox manufacture scapegoats like Vermont manufactures maple syrup. Somewhere, Bobby Valentine is laughing.
The manager, though, isn’t the problem — or, at least, not the main problem. No, the main problem is that Sandoval and especially Ramirez look like poor fits in Boston. The secondary problem is that the rotation is last in the American League in ERA, and the bullpen isn’t much better.
The pitching will be an easier fix. The Sox can trade for Cole Hamels whenever they’re ready, sign a free-agent starter this winter and open 2016 with a rotation of say, Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Rick Porcello, with Wade Miley in reserve.
Purging Sandoval and Ramirez would be a greater challenge; Sandoval, perhaps, can be salvaged, but Ramirez in left field was never a good idea, and good luck to the Sox trying to persuade David Ortiz to retire and open up the DH spot at the end of the season.
Still, Cherington is cash-rich and prospect-rich; he can include money, include prospects, anything to make Ramirez and Sandoval acceptable to prospective suitors. Every move Cherington makes should point toward Opening Day 2016, unless his team snaps out of it and somehow turns this thing around quickly.
The Sox’s future is far from bleak, not with a group of young position players that includes Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart; Rusney Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Brock Holt. But even before Panda hopped on Instagram, another Great Cleanse was necessary.
Everyone in favor of another Red Sox do-over, tap "Like."