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Condition of Red Sox called into question

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  September 17, 2011 11:03 PM

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That's what ESPN's Buster Olney put on Twitter earlier this evening. It's a pretty damning statement given that Buster is well-connected within the game and not the kind of reporter who throws things out there for the sake of a headline.

It's hard to disagree with that perception. The Red Sox seem to have suffered an inordinate amount of injuries over the last two years and many of them could perhaps be traced to poor conditioning. The Sox also have a number of prominent players — David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis — who are excellent baseball players but don't look like decathletes. All three of those guys were All-Stars this year and two of them will receive MVP votes

Dave Page is the strength and conditioning coach and has been for six seasons. He was there in 2007 when the Sox seemed in perfectly fine condition to lift a big trophy. Page won the Nolan Ryan Award that season as the best strength and conditioning coach in the game.

Professional athletes aren't horses or dogs who can be worked into shape whether they like it or not, they're grown men who decide what they will do and how far they'll take it. Page can't lift the weights or do the sprints for them. Strength coaches are there to make sure players work out properly, they're not there to roll them out of bed.

I can tell you this from being around the team: There are certain guys who bust their asses every day and there are certain guys who don't. It's like that on every team. Jonathan Papelbon looks like a linebacker this year and Alfredo Aceves has probably dropped 35 pounds since he played for the Yankees. Carl Crawford works out like a fiend. Jacoby Ellsbury is ripped, too.

But the Sox also have an old team and old players tend to be slow and less athletic. Throw in of-injured players like J.D. Drew, Erik Bedard and Jed Lowrie and the perception can spread pretty quickly that the Sox are in bad shape.

If the Red Sox were 12-4 this month instead of 4-12, this would never come up. But losing raises questions and everything is fair game.

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