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Shots in the dark

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  September 4, 2012 09:13 AM

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"The gang that couldn't shoot straight."

That's how Red Sox czar Larry Lucchino "sardonically" refers to how critics have lambasted himself, John Henry, and Tom Werner in recent years, while spraining his wrist patting himself on the back in Gordon Edes' weekend account of how the epic dump of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers went down. It's a good read, especially if you enjoy infuriation.

Then again, perhaps said "critics" have indeed gone too far. After all, the Sox have only lost seven in a row, are a historically-bad 62-74, employ a lame-duck manager who seems to be doing everything in his power to be fired, only to be treated to flapjacks with Mr. Henry, will miss the playoffs for the third straight season, despite the highest ticket prices in Major League Baseball, and lie to their all-too-knowing public about a sellout streak that matters to nobody but the increasingly-chaotic front office. Need we go on? 

Please. These three are anything but straight-shooters.

Just when you wanted to have some semblance of hope that the Red Sox might be headed in the right direction, their egomaniacal CEO steps in with the boisterous duplicity that defines why Red Sox fans have come to loathe the man. Red Sox owners were able to dump a quarter-billion in salary. Good for them.

Until the wreckage clears from the sinkhole they have created, nobody associated with the Red Sox  - from Henry down to Chris Carpenter - should be thumping his or her chest with any semblance of pride. "The gang that couldn't shoot straight" is still responsible for this hurricane of abomination, no matter how much they decide to throw Theo Epstein under the bus to their buddies at Forbes, or wherever else.

If the owners want to take credit for a trade of this magnitude, and whittle Cherington's presence in it down to a minor presence in the process, how exactly is it again that Epstein was solely responsible for the rest of the contemptible deals over the years?

"We're talking about a quarter billion dollars here," Lucchino told Edes in breaking down last month's trade. "It would be front-office malpractice not to engage ownership and baseball operations and finance departments in a deal of this magnitude. Baseball operations played a key role in decision-making, but John and Tom did as well."

Crawford's contract was $142 million. John Lackey's is $82.5 million. Red Sox owners continue to insist on making you believe those were Epstein's deals. Wouldn't that be "front-office malpractice" then too, Larry?

So, which charade is it? Apparently, this was ownership's deal to make, Cherington having little involvement other than alerting Larry, Tom, and John about the waiver status. Josh Reddick for Andrew Bailey? Eh, that doesn't look so good, so that's Ben's. It's the same ridiculous spin we've grown accustomed to over the years - 10 years, and two World Series titles as Henry will remind you in his next insulting email. Get used to it, Liverpool.

It's been one year now since the Red Sox have fallen off the map in the standings, but this disarray as it pertains to the franchise as a whole was building far before. Epstein's initial departure was the second clue that something might be amiss in terms of how the team is run. Lucchino's presence a decade ago should have been the first.

After all, "Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox," as Henry will tell you, his initial step back from taking any sort of responsibility, lacking in such that he feels the need to go on a "fact-finding" mission in Seattle. If he had any grip on this franchise, and its plummeting perception in New England, such shows of Clouseau would be rendered unnecessary.

According to Lucchino last month, that reviled image of the franchise was simply one drummed up by the frothing, local media, and had little to do with a fan base he must consider blind. I can't remember this much angst among fans in my lifetime. Maybe that has something to do with bottoming out after being at the top, but in the past, there was always a hope. It's not that Red Sox fans have lost faith in the product, but they are increasingly losing it in how it is run, and especially in the people in charge.

Just keep patting yourselves on the back though. Hopefully one day you can say, "I told you so." But now? This is hardly the time to start crowing.  This is your mess, and sprucing up one area of the pit doesn't equate to deserving of pride. 

See no. Speak no. Hear no. Your 2012 Red Sox motto. 

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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