Two different ideas are floating about with regard to what the proper course of action should be for the Boston Red Sox. On one side you have the Blow The Roster Sky High people. These people favor getting rid of everyone and anyone who wore a Red Sox uniform in 2011. Trade 'em, dump 'em, build a giant slingshot and shoot 'em at passing planes. Doesn't matter the cost. Whatever, just get 'em the heck out.
To the other side, we have a less vocal group, one which feels the team had a terrible, awful, no good very bad month in September, but as they say, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. It's good they say that too, because I'm pretty sure throwing out bathwater is illegal. Probably babies too. The Red Sox, so goes the argument, are a talented (as seen in the first four months of the season) and trading/cutting/catapulting players about willy-nilly will have a negative impact on the team's win potential in 2012 regardless of how it alters clubhouse chemistry.
So we have the Stay The Course (STC) crowd and the Blow 'em The Hell Up (B'eTHU) crowd. But why? We need to go deeper than that.
The Blow 'em The Hell Up crowd is, I think, reacting strongly to the reports of dissension in the clubhouse. They feel September represents some sort of moral failure on the part of the Red Sox players, one wherein the team showed its true colors. There is no moving forward once the team has reached this nadir of failure. You have to make changes.
The other side thinks September's collapse was attributable, not to moral failure, but to a combination of factors. Injuries, which can be broken down in some portion to bad luck, bad conditioning, bad preparation and a naughty naughty medical staff, played a role. So did straight up lousy luck. Then there are the clubhouse issues which represent an unfortunate but hardly fatal issue.
The difference between the two sides seems to come down to Bob Hohler's article in the Globe last week. We'll call it the Fried Chicken Theory. The Fried Chicken Theory places the blame for the team's collapse in September on the clubhouse culture. The transgressions of those responsible were so egregious that the culture can not be remedied without their removal. That last sentence wasn't included in the article -- it wasn't about how to fix the Red Sox, after all -- but it was implied and thus is part of The Fried Chicken Theory.
You can debate both sides of that argument and not be proven wrong. But the extent that the Fried Chicken Theory impacted the clubhouse culture is really less important than how any change in clubhouse culture created by the Fried Chicken Theory impacted the winning of baseball games. This gets to the heart of a long running argument: how important is clubhouse chemistry?
Frankly it's an impossible question to answer. In a sport as individual as baseball, one where teamwork is talked about, but one where, for the most part, players play isolated roles during the game, the relationship between clubhouse culture and winning games is uncertain. But, dear readers, ask yourself this: how can a player like Jon Lester, one who was a clubhouse leader last year (and the year before) become a clubhouse cancer in a single season, while Jacoby Ellsbury went from a lazy, self interested [add your insult here] last year to a hard working good guy this season? If yesterday's team hero is tomorrow's malcontent, isn't it impossible to predict who really needs to go?
Even if the clubhouse culture was the dagger in the heart to the 2011 Red Sox, that is no guarantee it will be anything but a feather to the foot of the 2012 Red Sox. Those clamoring for changes need to realize the 2011 team is no more. It's already succumbed to the biggest change it will endure: ceasing to exist. The off season changes have already begun and, whether we like it or not, more are certainly on the way. But, and the whole point of all of this, it is imperative that those changes be made with an eye towards the talent on the roster. The Red Sox must not succumb to Fried Chicken Theory justice and jettison talented players for pennies on the dollar in order to strive towards building the entirely nebulous more perfect clubhouse. If they do they'll likely find themselves out of the playoffs again next year.