One of the earliest things you learn as a baseball fan growing up in Chicago is the power of narrative. Not so much for the White Sox, who seemed to appropriately blame bad seasons on either bad players or the team playing poorly. No, this was more of a Cubs thing. They were destined to fail because their storied past said so, never mind poor roster development or overpaying for underperforming.
As someone with a science background, this has always been especially infuriating to me. Things don't just happen because they happen. Things aren't just meant to be. You make a poor decision (signing Alfonso Soriano to that contract), it comes around to bite you in the ass. Decisions lead to results which lead to consequences. It used to seem that the Cubs were the prime purveyors of narrative in all of baseball, but over the last decade, that is simply no longer the case. The new high kings of narrative for the past baseball lifetime have been and continue to be the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox choosing to cut A.J. Pierzynski this past week was hardly an earth-shattering development. Boston is having an incredibly disappointing follow-up season to their championship, currently sitting in 4th place in the AL East and all but eliminated before the All-Star break. That's never an easy pill to swallow, especially with a $156MM payroll. So when you're 37-year-old $8.25MM free agent catcher has a .633 OPS and has been worth 0.0 bWAR, it makes good sense to cut bait and see what your minor leaguers can do.
But it's never that simple with the Red Sox. It simply can't be. No other team in the past decade has seemed to require a narrative to explain their seasons nearly as much as the Red Sox. 2004 wasn't the simple story of David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and Jason Varitek more than carrying the load for position players while Curt Schilling pitched like a god supported by Pedro Martinez, Keith Foulke, and Bronson Arroyo. No, it was a bunch of Idiots and their clubhouse camaraderie "cowboying up" and vanquishing the Curse of the Bambino.
The 2012 collapse wasn't due to an aging an increasingly injured core or a pitching staff grossly underperforming. NO! It was because of bad attitudes, beer, and fried chicken in the clubhouse. The rascals had lost their way and were paying for becoming too big for their britches! The 2013 team only rebounded due to being Boston Strong! And this 2014 team's return to sub-mediocrity? Not at all related to having an average hitters' age of 30.2 with the only above average hitters being at 1B and DH or having a rotation with only one starter pulling his own weight. There was a clubhouse cancer dragging the team back to the dire depths of a top 15 draft pick through his selfish ways and lack of team spirit!
I get that it's hard to keep drumming up interest while writing about baseball. I've only been doing so since 2009 and took the majority of this past season off because burnout is very real and very awful. But if you're continually spoon-feeding your fan base narrative to explain the teams' struggles, you're no better than the crazy old people telling children that bad things in the world are happening because of something they did. Sometimes a baseball team overperforms and then comes crashing back to Earth the next season. Aging catchers with questionable attitudes have far less to do with it than failing to appropriately plan for a rapidly approaching future. Numbers are easier than stories, they just tend to be less fun.