The news came so suddenly, friends barely had time to gather. They raised a somber glass and played the departed's song, which everyone knew by heart, because that's how anthems work.
We're talking "God Save the Queen," right?
Try "Dancing on my Own."
The Red Sox clubhouse is entitled to bemoan the loss of popular backup catcher Kevin Plawecki, but before we go all, "Chaim Bloom doesn't understand people!" again, some reality is in order.
Bloom's not the reason Plawecki is calling it a season two weeks early. His players are. Remain in contention, and the veteran backup catcher isn't going anywhere. Finish in last place, and it would be a dereliction of duty not to cut him in favor of assessing a Triple-A reliever like Franklin German.
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We've rightly focused on front-office missteps as driving the dive to the bottom of the American League East. Shorting the bullpen, ignoring first base, trusting injury-prone starters -- all were self-inflicted wounds that helped doom the season.
But there's another issue we've spent far less time dissecting, and the reaction to Plawecki's departure crystallizes it perfectly. It's this undercurrent of victimization and grievance that has left the clubhouse feeling like it plays no part in the results on the field.
We saw it in the mopey reaction to the trade of catcher Christian Vazquez, whose replacement, Reese McGuire, has significantly outperformed him, it must be noted. We saw it a year earlier when trade deadline reinforcements didn't arrive quickly enough, even though Kyle Schwarber ended up keying a run to the American League Championship Series. And we're seeing it now with Plawecki, a fine backup and veteran presence who isn't the issue here.
The issue is the reaction of players who seem unwilling to accept responsibility for their role in this disappointing campaign. When right-hander Nathan Eovaldi tells WEEI.com's Rob Bradford the clubhouse misses presences like Schwarber, Plawecki, and Hunter Renfroe, it comes off as a direct dig at Bloom's priorities. But how about Eovaldi fills that gap? We're still talking about a veteran-laden roster, after all. From Xander Bogaerts to J.D. Martinez to Rafael Devers to Kiké Hernández to Nick Pivetta to the dearly departed Vazquez, the Red Sox did not lack for experienced, winning players.
So where were they when the season started going south in July? They never stanched the bleeding, even though within their very own division, the Rays survived the loss of burgeoning superstar Wander Franco, Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, All-Star catcher Mike Zunino, ace relievers Andrew Kittredge and J.P. Feyereisen, and potential future ace Shane Baz, among others. They currently trail the Blue Jays by only half a game for the first wild card.
The Rays didn't give up when injuries hit, but the Red Sox did, rendering the final eight weeks of the season meaningless.
Under that backdrop, Bloom has no choice but to focus on 2023. He gave this club a shot to make one final run when he didn't trade Eovaldi or Martinez at the deadline, decisions he no doubt regrets today. The clubhouse didn't reward that token of faith, and so now it should keep it quiet over a late cut that's partly due to the new CBA limiting September rosters to 28 players.
After Sunday's 13-3 victory over the Royals, the sounds of Plawecki's anthem, "Dancing with Myself," filled the clubhouse. Whether it was meant as tribute or protest really doesn't matter, because the conclusion is the same -- Red Sox players need to take a nice long look in the mirror and stop acting like the roster must be constructed with their comfort foremost in mind.
Recognizing the temperature of the locker room is a necessary management skill, and at times the Red Sox could do a better job of communicating decisions to the rank and file. But we often go too far in castigating this move or that as harmful to the delicate clubhouse ecosystem.
Sometimes the players just need to man up and admit that management doesn't owe them anything, because they did not honor their half of the bargain. Sometimes their performance leaves the boss no choice but to cut their buddy because he's not part of the future. Sometimes next year matters more than this one.
In short, they should stop treating Fenway like a mourning Westminster Abbey. The backup catcher is gone. He was a good guy. If they had played better, he'd still be here.