Tough to watch is a bit of an understatement. Ben Cherington and the Red Sox ownership group boarded a plane destined for Seattle last night, to personally see the mess that their team has become.
For the first hundred or so games of the season, there were injuries and bad luck to blame. In fact, it was only until this weekend that the Red Sox did not have a positive run differential on the season. That being the case, it wasn’t hard at all to assume that this was in fact a group of talented players vastly underachieving their potential.
It’s a mess, a full meltdown. The likes we haven’t seen since…well, last September.
This time Boston isn’t blowing a playoff spot though, they’re simply digging themselves deeper into a grave that some would argue was started the day the season started.
At the end of last September, the worst collapse in baseball history complete, the Red Sox fired their manager, Terry Francona. Arguably the greatest manager in franchise history, Francona led the team to two World Series titles, five playoff appearances, and 744 wins over an eight-year span. The front office clearly believed that much of the September collapse stemmed from his inability to control a clubhouse that was quickly spiraling towards a state of entropy.
So, here we are at the dawn of another September, the memories of the last one much fresher than they should be, and all reports coming out of Boston are that manager Bobby Valentine will be sticking around for at least one more year.
Immediately following the blockbuster trade that sent Boston’s three highest paid players to the Los Angeles Dodgers, all signs pointed to the front office building a team suited for Valentine. The Red Sox went on to win their next two games, and it was looking like the team might be invigorated.
Then they went west.
Six straight losses. 54 runs allowed over 48 2/3 innings. 15 runs scored while hitting .231.
This team is a mess, and that’s probably putting it lightly. No one expected them to make a run to the playoffs after trading Adrian Gonzalez and plugging in James Loney, but at least being competitive on a game-to-game basis doesn’t seem like too much to ask for.
Dustin Pedroia is the only player on the team who looks like he even cares anymore. Every pitcher on the team is getting shelled, players aren’t being patient at the plate, the clubhouse is counting the days until October.
If the front office blames the collapse last September on Francona losing the clubhouse, what are they calling this September? There are no more injuries to blame, this is just bad baseball.
The Red Sox are committed to rebuilding. If they weren’t, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford would still be on this team. But how can you rebuild when you still have the one man perhaps more polarizing than any one player on this team? The Valentine era in Boston was a gamble. The owner’s believed that the one thing this team needed more than anything was someone who would keep them in check. Someone who would keep them disciplined, and would not allow the disaster that was last September to unfold for the second year in a row.
Valentine didn’t lose the clubhouse in September as Francona did, because he never had control of the clubhouse to begin with. From Dustin Pedroia calling him out in April, to Kevin Youkilis being pushed out of town, to the team only meeting in July, to the infamous text message, the list goes on and on.
Maybe it isn’t his fault, maybe this collection of players was truly just doomed from the beginning, the chemistry and the comraderie never meant to be. Then it truly is a shame that Valentine had to be caught up in the whole mess, but regardless he becomes a victim. Maybe with a different Red Sox team, he wins the World Series, but that’s just not a risk worth taking.
Some have said that the Red Sox need to get back to the basics. Some have said that they need laughter. Some have said that they just need to try different things, new lineups, new pitchers, etc.
What the Red Sox truly need more than anything is a blank slate. With Bobby Valentine still the manager, this can never happen. He’s been involved in too much controversy this year for it not to linger next year, and if there’s any visceral proof of that, it’s last September and the affect it has had on both the media and the players this year.
Maybe it’s a tragedy that a good manager like Valentine got caught in the middle of this mess. Maybe he’s just a bad manager. Either way, it can’t be him who stands on the first step of the dugout on the first day of the 2013 season, watching as the Red Sox prepare to take the field, ready to start a new year.
Ready to start over.
Categories: Bobby Valentine