Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Red Sox Lester 'Wears' Scarlet Letter Proudly

"Did we drink an occasional beer? Yes," Jon Lester told the Boston Globe Monday. While his Popeye's eating cohorts Josh Beckett and John "Oh-my-god-please-pay-this-mans-entire-salary-and-gift-him-to-a-low-market-team-imediately" Lackey still haven't uttered a word about the Sox epic September fail, Lester tried his best to take some responsibility for his actions.

"We ordered fried chicken maybe three times in six months. Other guys who were not playing that day would come in and have a bite to eat," Lester said. "But what people are trying to do is a witch hunt. They're looking for any reason to basically tear somebody's head off because we lost, and people right now are saying it's because we did this. I'm not shying away from saying I did it."

This, in baseball clubhouses, is what is known as "wearing it." Wearing it is what ballplayers do when they are forced to take responsibility for something they may or may not feel responsible for. It also implies falling on one's sword for the greater good of the team.

I spent this summer in the sweltering heat (like 47 straight days over 100 degrees, my head is melting off sweltering) of Shreveport, Louisiana calling games for Your 2010 American Association of Independent Baseball Champion Shreveport-Bossier Captains. The 2011 Captains, much like the 2011 Red Sox, were underachievers. Shreveport returned 17 players from their championship run, but they never really got it going.

The Captains worked through a lot of injuries (our 35-year-old pitching coach who hadn't pitched professionally in three years and weighed close to 250 pounds started a game) and a lot of questionable roster decisions (the first position player the Captains cut ended up being the only one to return to the Major Leagues this year...pinch runner extraordinaire Joey Gathright, who ended up watching the September debacle in Boston in a Red Sox uniform in the Fenway Park dugout) and ended up 10 games under .500 and out of the playoffs.

It was in the Captains clubhouse that I learned about wearing it. Our catcher was charged with an error on an attempted steal when his throw bounced off the glove of our shortstop, bounded into centerfield and allowed the baserunner to take third. After the game he was upset about the official scorer's decision. "I've been wearing calls like that all year," he said.

Our second baseman got his legs taken out from under him covering second on a double play grounder. "Shortstop should have gotten me the ball sooner," he said. "I just gotta wear it."

Our pitching coach (who walked six guys in two innings...it was a less-than-Ali-like comeback, was griping about his pitchers blaming pitch selection for their woes. "Pitch your game. If you don't like the call, shake him off. If not, make your pitch and wear it."

As you can tell, it was a season of wearing it over and over. We wore it all summer.

And I learned that ballplayers do not like wearing it. In fact, they hate wearing it. Baseball is such an insular environment where players are allowed, and sometimes encouraged, to act out teenage whims and desires (like drinking beers and playing video games when you know you're not supposed to) that when players are called out by the public, they are put in the uncomfortable and unfamiliar position of taking responsibility.

Instead of "owning it," which connotes taking full responsibility without passing the buck even passively (as Lester did when he said his former manager Terry Francona "didn't rule the clubhouse with an iron fist,") ballplayers often "wear it," which implies carrying around the burden of responsibility. Which is what most adults do when they make a mistake.

But hey, if Carl Crawford doesn't give that Robert Andamo base hit "the Union Pacific", the Sox might be in the playoffs and no one would be discussing who is going to be owning it and wearing it all the way through a very long winter.

--Guest post by David Tanklefsky

[image: CBS News]

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