“Don’t let us win tonight” the famous line spoken by Kevin Millar before game 4 as the Red Sox found themselves down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series to the Yankees back in 2004. Millar took on a leadership role saying “Give me that wire, let’s talk about what needs to happen. We got a game to win tonight.” Along with Millar, many other Red Sox players were outspoken about coming back in the historic series. “You either ride or you either die” comment by David Ortiz as well as “If they're watching in Japan we’ll shock them too” by Millar. These along with others, headlined the ESPN 30 for 30 4 Days in October that Red Sox fans will remember forever. The key of that famous comeback was the leadership roles players took upon themselves in the clubhouse. Something the 2017 Red Sox team lacked tremendously.
Starting pitching was another huge factor in the 04’ Red Sox comeback. “We got Schilling tomorrow, Pedro in game 6, and in game 7 anything can happen.” Another quote from Millar, right after he warned the Yankees to put them away in game 4. Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez weren't just good pitchers. They were great pitchers, who completely controlled the mound. Despite his struggles with the Yankees, Pedro went on to pitch a great game 5, and kept the Sox in the game. Despite having ankle surgery hours before game 6, Curt Schilling went on to pitch 7 dominant innings, only allowing 1 run. These are signs of true leaders.
On the 2017 roster, the two guys expected to resemble the 04’ tandem was David Price and Chris Sale. Sale, the game one starter, seemed to show very little emotion except frustration as the Astros hit everything thrown there way. He did take full blame for his bad performance, but it’s tough to take control of a clubhouse when you have an outing like Sale did. David Price on the other hand pitched well. Despite his dominant game 3 performance which seemed to give Boston life, he was more concerned about showing up the post-game media as he has tried to do throughout the season. There was no motivational talk in his post-game conference. Only a plethora of “I’s” and ignorant answers.
Jason Varitek was the longest tenured Red Sox player, and team captain. Although not very outspoken, Varitek stood up for his teammates when necessary, and also came up with clutch hits in the post-season. In his most famous moment in the 2004 season, Varitek shoved his glove in rival Alex Rodriguez’ face, shouting “we don’t drill .260 hitters”. This was in reference to A-Rod claiming he was thrown at, despite his low average at the time. This was an iconic moment that would go down in Red Sox history.
It seemed at the start of this year, Dustin Pedroia would be that guy. In his tenth year in Boston, he was kown as a true “dirt dog” throughout his career. He had the chance to prove his leadership early in the season in a series against Baltimore. Some may say he “struck out”. After a questionable Manny Machado slide took him out of the game, teammate Matt Barnes fired a fastball up-near Manny’s head in the very next game. After Machado turned around at the Red Sox dugout, Pedroia was caught on camera dismissing himself from the whole situation. “It wasn’t me, that’s him” Dustin was caught mouthing at Machado. Regardless of what happened, a leader defends his teammates. Instead Dustin through his team under the bus. Not to mention, it is not many times a leader goes 2-16 in the playoffs, and records the final out of the series.
Of course, true leadership in a clubhouse must come from the coaching staff, particularly the manager. In 2004, Terry Francona seemed to have a fantastic relationship with the players. It seemed he would always interact with his team, never threw them under the bus, and truly trusted his players. The opposite could be said for John Farrell. Farrell was never really spotted interacting with his team, has previously thrown players under the bus and only trusted certain players. This explains the front office going out to get an 8th inning man, and Ferrell choosing to use other players on the staff. Farrell had no control of the clubhouse, which was a big reason that Boston failed so badly in the playoffs.
The 2017 Red Sox team had no leadership. There was no true clubhouse leader, or really anyone that was fully invested in the team for the whole season. If the team wants to go further than getting swept in the ALDS, they need to make serious changes. That means new players must be acquired, or old players must step up.