A People’s History of Pete Carroll In the Time of the Starter™ Jacket (with scrollable photo gallery)

If the past week-plus of Super Bowl coverage has taught us anything, it is that sports media can be nauseatingly trite and supremely reductive when it wants to be. Everything boils down to the easy explanation, the elevator pitch, the character-capped snipe.

The local discourse is typically binary. You take a side, I take a side. It’s either Brady or Bledsoe. Parcells or Belichick. Bud Light or Coors Light. The unbridled euphoria of Gary Glitter’s Rock & Roll Pt. 2 or a public relations stratagem that includes eliminating the Patriotic right to scream ‘HEY’ after home team touchdowns. You get the point…

When it comes to the Patriots and Pete Carroll’s tenure from 1997-1999, the reductive and universally accepted narrative from the media is that it was a disaster. It was the failure that drove him to grow professionally and prove doubters wrong at USC. Locally, it was the bridge between the two contradicting yet equally polarizing styles of Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.

The prevalent memory of Carroll’s time is that he possessed a damaging level of over-exuberance, embodied most infamously by his proclamation that he was “jacked and pumped,” a throwaway line he gave the media once or maybe twice during the build up to important games for the team he was being paid to motivate.

Predictably, the local scribes ran with that little nugget and the rest is (revisionist) history.

Carroll had his flaws and was ill-prepared at that time to be an NFL head coach. The Patriots record fell from 11-5 in 1996 under Parcells to 10-6 in 1997 under Carroll. He lost a win each year, bottoming out at 8-8 in ‘99. He lost mainly with other people’s guys. And the team’s draft picks were horrendous – though Carroll had limited say in personnel.

A .500 record in some years in this age of parity would still be good enough for a playoff slot. With that in mind, it is intellectually dishonest to paint his time here as an unequivocal failure as many do. It is a simpleton’s narrative that fails the memory of a period of a franchise that was on the cusp of greatness but not yet in its midst. To trash the guy that preceded The Guy isn’t fair.

Each of the three teams Carroll coached fell short of expectations. Go ahead and debate how much of a hand he had undoing Parcells’ accomplishments. However, for those of us with the capacity for complex thought, those years served as a worthy prelude to what has transpired in the 15 years since.

Elated, newly hired Pete Carroll:

Hands-on, slightly creepy Pete Carroll:

Athletic Pete Carroll (better release than Russell Wilson!):

Life-is-good Pete Carroll (1997):

Life-is-hard Pete Carroll (1998):

The face Patriots fans hope makes an extended cameo on Super Bowl Sunday:

Lest us forget Bledsoe’s heroics in playing with a broken index finger on his throwing hand. Without a banged up Drew at the helm to steal a couple of games NE had no business winning, the 1998 Patriots would have missed the playoffs and Carroll would have one less playoff loss on his resume right now.

The ’98 Patriots beat the 49ers at home for the first time since 1975 in a game they needed and which Fuckin’ Scott Zolak started, replacing Bledsoe – who had broken his index finger earlier in the season. (The shy, soft-spoken Zolak handled his success as a back-up with the utmost grace and was never heard from again…)

Let’s close with this mindfuck: What if Bills linebacker John Holecek, who missed Drew Bledsoe on this scramble in 1999, had managed to gain the same angle going toward the sideline that Mo Lewis had two years later?

This @RedSox Tweet Is THE Classiest Way to Tell Fans, ‘Yeah, maybe Lester signs elsewhere’

Here’s to hoping Jon Lester chooses to accept whatever the generous contract offer is from the Boston Red Sox that he currently has on the table over the other proposals from San Francisco, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs.

But if he doesn’t, Red Sox Nation will always have this quote from Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to cherish. Blow this thing up to 11″ x 17″ and put it in a nice expensive frame and hang it above your toilet either next to – or replacing – that cliche God’s Footprints on the Sand piece.

Why won’t the Boston Globe admit it was scooped by 14-year-old on Hanley/Panda signings?

Is this really how professional reporters paid by John Henry are going to spin getting scooped by a 14-year-old kid on the biggest news of the Red Sox offseason?

On Tuesday night, the Boston Globe’s Chad Finn posted a painfully late-to-the-party take on affiliate site Boston.com regarding the evolution of Twitter in the breaking of baseball (but, really, all) news. (Presumably, some iteration of the piece will make it into real-world mailboxes as part of tomorrow’s print edition.)

Of course, for those who did not doze off in the minutes before the evening officially became morning again, the pending signing of Ramirez, the three-time All-Star and sometimes pain-in-the-ass, was not something you learned when you flipped on the MLB Network while waiting for the coffee to percolate.

It was something you slept on, presuming the notion of another slugging, man-child Ramirez playing left field for the Red Sox did not keep you awake. Because the news was broken in that relatively new, real-time conventional way, with no regard for deadlines. It broke, via Ken Rosenthal, the respected national baseball reporter for Fox Sports and the MLB Network…

Somehow, Finn dutifully includes quotes from some of the old guard guys, former beat reporters such as Peter Gammons and Tyler Kepner, but fails to mention what many Red Sox fans already know – there is some 14-year-old kid out there (Jake Wesley @mlb_nl_al) who members of the Boston front office would rather speak to than employees of a news outlet owned by the same boss/company.

Here is Rosenthal’s breaking news:

Here’s Jake Wesley’s, 11 hours earlier:

This is not an indictment on Rosenthal, by any means. But it’s still worth noting that well before bedtime, the information Rosenthal finally felt comfortable passing along to the general public had already made its way to online message boards on the Internet, including the most notorious Red Sox fanboard, Sons of Sam Horn. Speculation was rampant, even if a 14-year-old kid’s proclamations were understandably greeted with a skeptical eye, even with his recent track record for “breaking” big contract news.

It isn’t all too surprising that the John Henry-employed heads in the Boston Globe/Boston.com offices on Morrisey Boulevard don’t seem all that anxious to admit that a 14-year-old scooped them on news of two of the biggest offseason signings in team history.

But c’mon now – advancing a revisionist timeline to make an already floundering operation look a little less asleep at the wheel doesn’t really make a lot of sense, either. It’s self-serving and utter, complete intellectual dishonesty. Plus, they aren’t close to being the only traditional media outlet to be scooped by outsiders on baseball news. It’s been happening for years.

Twitter has been around for more than half a decade at this point and it’s not exactly groundbreaking that social media has the ability to provide a platform through which news can be disseminated at all hours of the day – true ‘UP TO THE MINUTE!’ coverage, etc. etc.

There is nothing necessarily to be too ashamed of here, after all. Any notable news – whether acquired on the level or not – that is reported by a Globe beat writer is likely to come with the smell of favoritism and insider access.

There is, however, a way to combat that perception. May we suggest that with the team sure to experience a surge in popularity, the Globe consider more carefully the quality of its content and coverage of the team rather than concerning itself with a completely lame and indirect defense of itself for being a few hours behind on a Tweet?

The sad Gawkerization of Boston.com under John Henry’s new regime is well underway and probably irreversible. But the newspaper branch of the company might just be able to save itself yet if they’re willing to be honest with itself and its readership about what it can truly bring to the table, literally.

Because let the record show, this kid – Nick Cafardo or Peter Abraham – may be the Red Sox’s front office’s first phone call for a while longer:

Throwback ‘Stache of the Day: Dennis Lamp

Dennis Lamp 'stache

Dennis Lamp came to Boston as a 35-year-old starter-turned-reliever on the back 9 of his career. Nevertheless, Lamp was an effective option out of the bullpen for the Red Sox during his four-year tenure from 1988-1991, posting a 3.76 ERA over close to 400 innings. Most relievers today would need five or six healthy years to reach that total due to the increasing specialization that goes into building a relief corps.

What’s more, it is of course common knowledge that Lamp had the undisputed manliest, ruggedest ‘stache of any right-handed former Red Sox reliever named Dennis in league history. Thus, he was a shoe-in to make this list.

Here Lamp is hamming it up in spring training with Roger Clemens and a few other Sox pitchers.

Throwback ‘Stache of the Day: Mikey Greenwell

Mike Greenwell mustache

Moving along in Fenway Pastoral’s periodic, not quite daily, but definitely every other day or probably at least twice weekly tribute to Movember, today’s throwback Red Sox entrant is Mike “The Gator” Greenwell.

Greenwell played his entire career in Boston, spanning from 1985 until 1996. Looking back at Greenwell’s career totals is underwhelming and does no justice to just how high expectations for him were back in the day. At age 24, he came in second place in 1988 in AL MVP voting to Jose Canseco. (Greenwell has been understandably vocal about his view that Canseco should be stripped of his award in light of the myriad revelations regarding Jose’s steroid-propelled career that have come out over the past decade.)

Back when the photos provided in this column were taken, Greenwell was keeping his ‘stache close and tight. After all, the unencumbered flamboyance of the 1980s were transitioning into the calculatedly cool 1990s (Hammer Time, baby!) and Greenwell was so far doing the Fenway left-field lineage proud. There was no reason to rock the boat too much. He figured to be the bridge to the Millennium, ably receiving the same left-fielder torch passed on from Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski in 1960 and, later on, from Yaz to Jim Rice.

Rice, Yaz, Greenwell
It was a lot of pressure and a very large helping of unfair expectation to be heaped on anybody. Not surprisingly, Greenwell’s tenure marked the end of Boston’s eventual streak of successive Hall of Fame left fielders at three. Getting on base was never Greenwell’s problem – he had a career OBP of .368 – but staying healthy and on the field turned out to be a challenge and Mike retired from the major leagues at the age of 32.

Throwback ‘Stache of the Day: Tony Pena (with a special cameo from Joe Morgan)

Tony Pena and Joe Morgan 1990

Like many pro ballplayers who played in the ’80s, catcher Tony Pena had a respectable mustache. But let’s not beat around the bush – Pena makes it onto our list because any excuse is a good excuse to put up this incredible picture from the Boston Globe of Tony celebrating the 1990 AL East title with manager Joe Morgan.

Pena came to Boston when he was 33 years old after spending his entire career in the National League. He was known primarily for his defense behind the plate, his game-calling and management, and (mostly) the way he would stick one leg out straight out to the side to gain leverage in his catcher’s crouch.

T Pena

As a Red Sox, he hit at the bottom of the lineup, where he posted some pretty ugly OPS figures ranging from 18% below league average in 1990 to 62% below average in 1993 – his last season as a semi-regular in a major league lineup. He retired in 1997 and spent four years managing some terrible Kansas City Royals teams. Since 2009, he’s been the bench coach for the Yankees, although at no point during his tenure in New York has he been in the presence of the coolness exuded by former Sox manager Joe Morgan in the picture above.

Movember Throwback ‘Stache of the Day: Rich ‘El Guapo’ Garces

Rich Garces mustache

During the month of November, Fenway Pastoral will pay tribute to some of the most dignified and dapper mustaches to ever grace the faces of Boston Red Sox players throughout the team’s history.

Our first entry for Week 2 is lovable right-handed reliever Rich Garces aka El Guapo. For those who began growing Movember ‘staches at the start of the month, there should at the very least at this juncture be a thickness that matches early career Guapo. If not, it’s probably time to shave and try again next year.

Garces played for the Red Sox from 1996-2002 and also re-signed with the team in 2005, but did not pitch in any big league games that year. The Venezuelan was a fan favorite on the Pedro/Nomar-era teams of the late-1990s. However, over the course of his Sox career, he totaled just over 3.0 WAR. He was mainly a fastball/curveball thrower, but with an often mediocre fastball, hitters sitting on the pitch hit many balls an awful long way in some pivotal points of games.

While Guapo’s stuff was never truly ‘electric,’ his personality was, and mound presence always fired up the crowds at Fenway when he was summoned from the bullpen in the late innings. The sum was indeed greater than the parts and, well, perhaps there’s a lesson in that for those out there who have yet to see their mustaches make any meaningful connection with the rest of the face. It’s just hanging out there, exposed for the world to see and laugh at. But all the while, there’s a genuine affection that’s laced with just the right amount of irony.