Now what, John Henry?
You're looking at your third consecutive dark October, which, if nothing else, will put this season out of its misery and extend the battery life of Adrian Gonzalez's cell phone.
Beyond that, another failure. After more than a half-billion dollars spent the last three years on payroll alone, the momentum of the franchise's finest decade is gone. The players are in revolt. The manager is unpopular in the way that chainmail knee socks are unpopular. The team is on pace for 79 wins, its fewest in 15 years.
But you know that. It's been in all the papers, next to the standings.
This time, I'd pass on the team yacht trip. If Bobby Valentine didn't come back with the rest of the passengers, there'd be questions. More questions.
Tuesday's report by my Yahoo! Sports colleague Jeff Passan that a clubhouse-load of grumbling sprung for a room at The Palace in New York certainly came as no surprise. After all, you were there. That the transition from Terry Francona to Valentine has been met with resistance, well that was the whole point of the thing, right? Maybe Bobby V was supposed to have won over your ballplayers by now. Maybe they'd be playing better by August. Maybe the heft of the payroll was supposed to cover in some part for the catastrophic injury or two, so probably you're weary of hearing about those. Maybe the players would grow up by now.
But here we are. The injured players wrecked your season. So did the healthy pitchers. So, too, perhaps, did all the complaining about the manager, who only did what he does, which – again – is why you hired him. You wanted a culture change? Ta-da!
So, here's what you've got: players who've been hurt or have grossly underachieved being led by a man they don't seem to care for. Yes, it was so different last year, when all the hurt and underachieving guys played for a man they cared a lot about. So far, that's the difference between fourth place and third.
The solution, I guess, could be the same: The new leader didn't work, so a newer leader might.
Now, to draw the conclusion that Valentine is wrong for the job, that your judgment of him and your team could be so inaccurate following the horrors of last September, that's a big yacht to dock. I understand.
You said yourself, in an email to reporters who cover the Red Sox, that field managers have less to do with a team's results than popularized. That was a week ago. "We are not making a change in manager," you penned.
Last December you jumped in on the huddle with Valentine, Larry Lucchino and Ben Cherington, the four of you stacking your hands at the end of the introductory press conference, the all-for-one-and-one-for-all thing. Go-o-o-o-o, Red Sox! It was awkward and sweet. You grinned. Valentine got misty. Cherington almost missed it.
Eight months later, could you have whiffed this so badly?
At the risk of stating the obvious, what you have here is a train wreck. From game one (a loss that would get your Red Sox rolling toward a 4-10 start) to Tuesday night (a loss in yet another Josh Beckett signature start), what could go wrong has, usually accompanied by billowing smoke and leaping flames. It's all really been quite spectacular, you know, from a distance.
Which leads us again to what now.
Your players are backpedaling and slaughtering messengers in the wake of the report of the meeting. David Ortiz suggested to WEEI that they lost Tuesday night in Baltimore because of it. Dustin Pedroia told reporters, "I don't think Bobby should be fired. … I'll go out there and play for him every day of the week." And while Gonzalez attempted to discredit the story based solely on the fact he doesn't personally know the reporter, CSN New England quoted a source saying, "It was pretty heated going into those meetings. The whole organization was there to discuss the current situation. There was a lot talked about and things weren't going well. Frankly, I was pretty surprised that nothing happened afterwards."
Mr. Henry, it's time for another email.
Hold Pedroia to his public statement. Clean up the insecurities in the dugout. Hold the men in your clubhouse accountable for their parts in the past three seasons, but mostly for the past year. Remind them they abused the privilege of having a manager they loved, who would host games of cribbage and look the other way at beer-thirty.
If every clubhouse they walk into stinks, then maybe it's not the clubhouse.
Tell everyone that Bobby V is your man, that he will serve out his contract through 2013, at least, that employees do not fire managers. Tell everyone this isn't working because bad contracts and worse attitudes have fouled the place, but will not any longer. Tell them that it will be addressed this winter, that the talented Cherington is under orders to see to it, no matter the cost in discarded mistakes and malcontents.
Now what? Tell them none of this will be tolerated any longer. Yes sir, the anchor drops here. So watch your toes.
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