When the Boston Red Sox started trading away some of their star players, guys such as Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, upper management seemed to be making a statement about their team's manager: Bobby Valentine is still our guy and we're sticking with him. If you thought a team couldn't keep the manager and trade 25 players, well, watch us.
Hold that thought.
On Sunday evening at Oakland, after the Red Sox had lost for the sixth straight time to fall 15 games out of first place in the AL East, Valentine seemed to lose it. Reporter Brian MacPherson of the Providence (R.I.) Journal wrote the following observations, with a headline of "Dead manager walking":
Bobby Valentine has a contract for this season and next. Valentine still is showing up for work every day, albeit not always at the time one would expect.
Valentine just doesn't seem to want his job much anymore.
Asked how difficult the six-game losing streak has been on Sunday evening, a despondent Valentine just muttered, "What difference does it make?"
As disappointment has given way to embarrassment in what's trending toward the worst season the Red Sox have experienced in almost a half-century, the manager looks more and more like he's ready to get out and move on, to accept the pink slip he'll undoubtedly receive once the season ends — if not sooner.
It's pretty damning. Showing up late to the ballpark. Careless. Despondent. Nihilistic. Depressed. Accepting. Throw in "anger" earlier in the season, and all of the stages of Red Sox grief are covered. And then came the news that Red Sox owner John Henry and GM Ben Cherington were flying to Seattle on Sunday night to meet the team for its series at Safeco Field against the Mariners.
Uh oh. This has got to be the end, right?
Let's also add this mysterious tweet from ESPN's Buster Olney, which reminds us that the Red Sox didn't, in fact, trade all of the players who hate playing for Bobby V:
Red Sox have been hearing from representatives upset with how their clients have been utilized in the last week.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) September 3, 2012
Oh, whatever, Red Sox players. There's still time to send everyone to Triple-A and bring up the Pawtucket Red Sox. Switch the juries!
As for Bobby V, it's back to the ESPN booth, or directing public safety in Stamford, Conn., or re-inventing the wrap. Got to be. When owners and general managers of losing teams get on planes to fly thousands of miles in September, it means someone is going to get fired.
Except when they're not, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI:
According to a team source, those wondering why Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and principal owner John Henry will both be in Seattle this week "shouldn't read anything into" the trips. Evidently, Cherington had planned "for a while" to join the team for its three-game series against the Mariners, while Henry is slated to attend meetings in the city.
[Jeff Passan: Sizzling A's face roughest schedule among 15 contenders]
Perhaps the brass is coming to inspect the troops, or climb the Space Needle, or connect with Bill Gates, or watch James Loney in person. All of that might be true. But Valentine's comments sure sound like self-inflicted wounds designed speed a discharge from Red Sox Nation. He knew the boss was coming, so why not send out a distress beacon, now that he's ready to be put out of his misery?
Unconventional, but very Bobby Valentine. And nothing about this Red Sox season has been routine.
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