20120818-110132.jpgIn recent days, President and CEO, Larry Luccino has spoken about the 2012 soap opera that is the 58-62 Boston Red Sox. When Mr. Luccino talks about the Red Sox, he uses the term “brand” quite a bit. The Sox used to be a baseball team, but now they are an asset in the portfolio of John Henry, and job 1 is maximizing financial return on that asset. That’s fine, but the management has seriously lost their way to achieving that goal. Let’s get back to the brand thing. A definition I like is, “a brand is the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced.” For a major league baseball team, that promise is good baseball. What’s wrong with the Red Sox is that good baseball has fallen off their list of brand attributes. Here’s what the Red Sox brand is actually delivering today:

– Fenway Park – a 100 year old theatre of nostalgia
– Commemorative bricks – Yours for $100…
– Miller Lite for $7.75
– A phony sellout streak
– A Neil Diamond song in the 8th inning whether you like it or not

The baseball? Well, it’s always about pitching, and this year, top starters Josh Beckett and Jon Lester have been largely ineffective. Their new closer, Andrew Bailey, was injured in Spring Training, and didn’t throw a pitch until August. Clay Bucholtz has pitched well for the last month, but in general, the Sox pitching has been perfectly imbalanced. On the rare occasion when the starters have not dug an early game hole, the bullpen has buried the team late. The offense has also been inconsistent, and has lacked the big hit needed to win close games. Injuries have played a part. Bailey, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, and most recently David Ortiz have seen pine while mending, but the Yankees lost Mariano Rivera for the season, plus CC Sabathia, Andy Pettite, and Alex Rodriguez have seen DL time. The Yankees are 71-48, 13-1/2 games ahead of brand Red Sox.

The most disappointing thing about this team is the attitude of many of its players. Beckett and Lester never seemed to recover from the fried chicken and beer meltdown of 2011. Beckett wears a smug FU face on and off the field, and Lester has spent the season whining about balls and strikes, usually right before he gives up a bomb. He’s not focused. They’re not focused. During the season, Pedroia told the manager, “that’s not how we do things around here,” Ortiz complained about his contract. Beckett focused on golf while on the DL. Underachieving Adrian Gonzalez texted the owner to complain about the manager. The owner said he really didn’t want to sign Carl Crawford. Kevin Youklis got old and got traded. Maybe that satisfied Beckett, who seemed focused on finding a “snitch” in the Sox clubhouse. Bobby Valentine? He’s no more the problem than Terry Francona was last September when the team went 7-20.

Long time fans of the Boston Red Sox hung in with their team through Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, and Grady Little leaving Pedro in too long. The immense goodwill earned by the team in 2004 erased 86 years of futility and fan frustration. The Fenway circus of the last 150 games dating back to September have burned all of that goodwill into hardened discontent. The owners of the “brand” have another long climb to restore what really matters: their baseball team.

Until then, anyone want to buy a brick? They’re marked down to $75.