The Boston Red Sox on Tuesday hired Bobby Valentine to be their manager, according to numerous reports, so the suits have retaken the clubhouse.
This is what happens when an organization puddles up over a month. This is what comes when an historic decade becomes grounds for gluttony.
Two months from the official end of the freefall, the GM is in Chicago, the manager is bounced, the assistant GM is in the big office and upper management is leaning in.
These are the new Red Sox, cut from consecutive third-place seasons, drawn from $330 million in payroll dollars, in hindsight more wisely used as kindling to warm a stoop on Yawkey Way.
This is the humiliation that chases the epic collapse – a manager search, and then some handwringing, and then a manager search 1B, followed by a Twitter-flood.
This is what it looks like when the adults show up, when the men who spend the money expect a return, and when the men who crave power see an opening.
You get Bobby V.
And, damn, did the Red Sox just get lucky.
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He's smart. He's charismatic. He runs the clubhouse. He owns the top step.
The shame in this is that any love for Valentine will be viewed as a criticism of Terry Francona. It's not intended as such. Francona was the best manager the Red Sox ever had, or certainly for the past century or so.
Given the events of 2011, up to and including September 2011, however, Francona himself might argue Valentine is the better man for 2012 and beyond.
The Red Sox had lost their way. They patched what they could. They bailed where they had to. And still they foundered, in the most chilling way imaginable.
This is why Bobby V made so much sense.
He's 61, a baseball man – you could argue – for exactly that long. He's done New York at its craziest with the Mets. He's battled the Yankees. He's pushed clubs into October.
And this is what he has left. Nearing the fourth quarter of a wonderful life, one spent as a uniformed phenomenon, and a tragically injured player, and a man's man, and a leader, and an international sensation, what comes next is the Red Sox. What comes next is Boston.
The city whose fans – only seven years ago – promised they would shuffle off and die in peace, managed about three months of peacefulness. They won again three years later, and again went stubbornly into the dying-in-peace thing.
Clearly, it's never going to happen. So, they come clean on what it is to sit in that ballpark, in the shadow of those pinstripes, front row to their own angst and insecurities and, occasionally, their peace.
That's OK. It is now, and it is again.
Because, let me tell you, Bobby V is exactly their kind of guy. In his world, you will be with him or you will be against him, just like in their world.
Middle ground is for timid, and he has no room for timid.
The town gets Bobby V, one of the few men alive who could go breath for breath with the boys in the bleachers, the guys who love Kevin Youkilis(notes) and Dustin Pedroia(notes), who couldn't warm up to J.D. Drew(notes), who wonder where the past two years went, and then who the hell was going to do something about it.
Well, they've got their man, a New Englander who gets them, a man who understands what it's like to go a lifetime without winning a World Series, a man who's still working that out.
Now, it won't be all sunshine and Dropkick Murphys encores and Duck Tours with Bobby V.
Hiring a manager doesn't buy you a rotation, a right fielder, a shortstop or a closer. But, in this case, it might embolden the left fielder, and put some pitchers on some treadmills, at the very least. It doesn't dismiss 2011, but it might create a path to 2012.
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That's what the Red Sox needed. Not a young guy. Not a first-timer. Not a vanilla manager.
They needed a big boot and the passion – and the fearlessness – to swing it.
Maybe it doesn't hit its target. Maybe the fellows above new GM Ben Cherington, those rumored to be behind the hire, should understand that Valentine doesn't simply rule clubhouses. He rules cultures. He rules organizations.
Their play to win back their organization might have given away a little more.
But they had to. They had to push back. They had to whip the gluttony.
Plus, they had to pick somebody.
Might as well be the right guy.
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- Red Sox
- Bobby Valentine
- Terry Francona