The Boston Red Sox, and fans like me, thought the team had hit rock bottom last September. The Red Sox had such a horrible month that they blew an almost-certain playoff berth in an epic collapse that hearkened back to the days when it was sadly fashionable to claim that the team was cursed.
Off the field, the Red Sox were apparently a mess in September 2011. Those were the days, we later learned, when pitchers were in the clubhouse eating fried chicken and drinking beer while the rest of their teammates played games at Fenway Park. The dysfunction surrounding the team eventually led to the firing of manager Terry Francona, and the "what's your hurry, here's the door" departure of general manager Theo Epstein.
But the only indication those of us in Red Sox Nation had as to how bad things were getting came on the field. Boston had the best record in baseball from May1 to September 1, and had all of us believing that another long October run was ahead of us. Then, with the turn of a calendar page, it all went wrong. As September opened, the losing began, and it didn't stop until the last game on the last night of the season, when the Red Sox were shockingly eliminated from the pennant race.
As hard as it is to believe, however, September 2012 is worse so far than September 2011 was.
On the field, the record speaks for itself. On September 20, 2011, the Red Sox record for the month stood at 2-8. On September 10, 2012, an off day for the team, the Red Sox record for the month is 1-7. What's worse, the Red Sox are in the midst of an 1-11 stretch dating back to late August.
In the clubhouse and the dugout, there is near open revolt. Embattled manager Bobby Valentine has spent the season feuding with players, the media, even his own coaches. The front office traded away players that had annoyed Valentine in some way; Kevin Youkilis, Kelly Shoppach, Adrian Gonzalez. They fired the pitching coach in favor of Valentine's preferred successor. Still, the sniping continues.
"It's always been personal. All year, it's been personal," says Valentine of his critics. "That's over the line, and I'm not going to take it here in the dugout and I won't take it on a radio or TV show, thank you very much."
I think that, perhaps, criticism of Valentine might tend to be less personal if he didn't insist on making everything about himself - both with the players in the dugout and with the media.
The awful month of September 2011 cost the last manager of the Red Sox his job. The fact that things are even worse at this point a year later would, I would hope, cause the latest Red Sox manager to lose his as well.
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Rick Blaine, an award-winning broadcaster and columnist, is a lifelong Red Sox fan. Follow him on Twitter @RickBlaineCT.
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