September 8, 2012 Leave a comment
A major image crisis has emerged for the Boston Red Sox over the last 12 months. Pretty much everyone from John Henry down to the clubhouse guys, with the exception of a few players, now seem to have a negative reputation in Boston. The fans of Red Sox Nation are quickly becoming disenchanted. They desperately need to do something to repair their image and it may take more than just becoming a winning team again.
The people at Showtime developed a winning concept a few years ago when they created “The Franchise”, a show that piggy-backed off of HBO’s “Hard Knocks”, but instead of following an NFL team through just training camp it follows an MLB team throughout the entire season. It is a great concept and it makes for really good TV. Their problem is that in the first two seasons they followed two teams, the San Fransisco Giants and the Miami Marlins, that were out of the playoff hunt by the all-star break. The most exciting thing about following these two teams in the last two months of the season was the trade deadline. Now granted the Red Sox were pretty much out of the playoff race by the break as well but I’m guessing they could have kept us entertained quite a bit after the All-Star break.
If it seems like a risky proposition to put these Red Sox players behind a camera in the clubhouse and beyond it’s because it is. God forbid things get even worse next year it will be embarrassing for the Red Sox but, hey, at least it will make for some compelling TV. But it’s easy to see that the potential reward far outweighs the risk. The Red Sox need an image clean-up and while there is a lot of work to do behind the scenes between now and opening day there may not be a better way to introduce the new Red Sox to Red Sox Nation than by putting them on “The Franchise”. What better way to introduce a new manager to the Red Sox faithful, particularly if he is a young less well-known up-and-comer? What better way for the fan base to feel more comfortable about it’s own players by actually seeing who they are off the field? Too many times do you hear a fan or a media-type talk about a player like they know them personally. None of us truly know any of these guys personally but at least if we got a peak of how they carried themselves behind the scenes then we might feel more comfortable about making a judgment on them.
Many new players have not been fully embraced by Red Sox Nation in past years, particularly ones with larger contracts. I can’t help but think that maybe Red Sox Nation would have embraced Adrian Gonzalez a bit more if they knew a little more about him. There will be a new generation of Red Sox players coming up next sure. Guys like Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Lavarnway and Felix Doubront will all have prominent roles with the team. The Sox will have to go out and bring in some role players to fill in their roster as they retool it. They’ll also have to bring in veteran pitching. And of course there is the manager. The question of Bobby Valentine’s impending exit from Boston is becoming more of a “when” rather than an “if” which means that the Red Sox will likely have their 3rd different manager in 3 years. Every time that these Red Sox owners have made a managerial change they have gone for the polar opposite of the guy they are replacing. Look for a young less-known up-and-comer to replace Valentine. It could be a tough place to break in for a guy like that in a market where a winner is expected year in and year out. Getting to know the guy behind the scenes might make Red Sox Nation more comfortable with him early on.
If you watched this season of “The Franchise” you know a lot about rookie closer Steve Cishek, an unknown when the season began. You might have a better view of highly-paid superstar Jose Reyes after watching the show and seeing him lead the Marlins with his jovial, laid back attitude. You would have gotten to know role players like Justin Ruggiano and Greg Dobbs. And of course you would have laughed at Ozzie being Ozzie. At this point, with the exception of a few guys, I feel like I know the Marlins players more than I know the Red Sox guys from watching this season of The Franchise.
As I said before it’s a risky proposition for the Red Sox organization. As a Red Sox fan it seems like a win/win. If they are good and you love the team you will likely love them even more by going behind the scenes and watching how they turn the franchise around. The love affair between the Red Sox and their fans that has been fractured over the past few seasons could be re-ignited. On the flip side if the Red Sox have another disaster behind the scenes like they have had during the past two seasons then at least we will can still be entertained by the club. For Showtime it’s a no-brainer. Getting the Red Sox or the Yankees on “The Franchise” would be akin to obtaining the holy grail for Showtime. The Yankees have no reason to do it but the Sox have plenty. So why not?