You know what? If I’m really honest, I love this time of year, and it might not be for the reasons you’re thinking. Of course, the competitions heat up, the suspense builds. That’s great. And of course, it’s easy to love if your team is really in the hunt. (We’re told we are, but are we?)
But I’m talking about something else, almost a guilty sort of pleasure. Because this is when the cracks start to show, when the pressure leads to meltdowns, when players, coaches – and fans, even – have just had enough.
A little trip down memory lane (and this is the tip of the iceberg; there are a million):
- Tim Anderson vs. Jose Ramirez and Ramirez’s subsequent complaints about Anderson’s aggressive defense
- Tantrums leading to self-inflicted injuries (who are we kidding – those can happen anytime)
- In recent years, there have been two trips to rehab for alcohol abuse, which may have shed some light on past behaviors. I don’t want to make light of this, and I don’t enjoy learning about the depth of the pain and struggle that leads anyone to this point. I’m actively hoping for nothing but the best for these players on their sober journeys. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that we see this tipping point toward of the end of a season.
- Chicken and beer, and its sideshows, every one of them reflecting terribly on the Red Sox
- Tony LaRussa’s headline-making season culminating in a health scare and an immediate retirement
- Firings, including our own Dave Dombrowski
Right now, on our own team, we’ve got Alex Verdugo’s drama. He got benched, and not for the first time this season. He made Alex Cora MAD. It turns out he’s been a problem for a while behind the scenes, and sometimes on the field too (see: lack of hustle). Now that I really think about it, he also complains a lot, usually about other players (see: Alek Manoah, Julio Rodríguez). He might’ve been (should’ve been?) on the trading block. He’s been called a clubhouse headache, which is really the kiss of death.
I misjudged this one. I felt like Verdugo had come to spring training with something to prove and that a new mindset was behind his very good first half. I’ve heard him called a fan favorite; and I will say that he threw a ball to my girlfriend’s kid last season in Seattle – that was really nice.
But we’re nearing the end of the season now. Everything is up for grabs. What’s next for Alex? And what other sideshows will emerge from the rest of the MLB season? I have a feeling that things are just beginning to get interesting.