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Soup of This Day #251: Lonely Days Are Gone

September 30, 2012

'The Love Letter' by Vermeer
Reading between the lines of Bill’s request for a divorce, Thelma could see that what was really troubling her man was that the only tune she could carry on the lute was Sweet Caroline. Which is not so good – Image: Jan Vermeer, c1669. Jan Vermeer is not affiliated with Longworth72 but since he’s been dead for nearly 337 years that lack of relationship is neither Vermeer nor there. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I’d like to take a moment to declare that for the 1st 25 years of my life I thought hyperbole was pronounced ‘hyper-bowl’. Sometimes I still pronounce it that way – It has an apt ring to it. A hyper-bowl ring.

Which is a nice segue into baseball manager Bobby Valentine. Bobby V. has had a rough season at the helm of the on-field Boston Red Sox – The kind of season worthy of a hyper-bowl ring.

Actually Bobby V. strikes me as someone who is no stranger to a hyper-bowl in any season.

This year though is extra special – The Red Sox have been playing like crap. Historic crap. The projection is for a 72 and 90 effort and that will be the worst since 1966. To be fair to Bobby Valentine I should point out that he was 16 then and therefore can’t be held responsible for that term.

It’s not unreasonable to sheet some of the blame for the 2012 results through to Bobby though. It is natural to blame a manager or head coach – The buck does often stop with them and they are generally the easiest and most effective part of the machinery to replace. This is why so many professional coaches nowadays get sacked after short tenures.

Usually they get dumped right after the club has expressed support for them. Mostly this is unqualified support – Clubs call this crisis management. Everybody else calls it lying.

Bobby V. has had worse than that from the Red Sox hierarchy – He’s had qualified support.

It came on a West Coast road trip in late August and early September. At this point in the season the Sox were gone – With a lamentable 62 and 68 record they had no hope of making the post-season. Consequently expectations were low.

The Red Sox did their best to limbo under them though.

They got swept by the Angels, outscored 10-21 across 3 games. Which is pretty ordinary but even that pales into insignificance when put up against what happened in Oakland. There, in a 3-game series, the Red Sox mustered a paltry 5 runs.

Which might have been ok if the A’s hadn’t battered out 33 of their own, including 20 in the series-opener.

That last was the straw that severely harmed the camel’s back for some Sox watchers. It’s 1 thing to lose and to be out of contention – That happens to every team from time to time – Nobody, not even the Yankees, has a God-given annual ticket to October play. The problem encapsulated by that 2-20 loss against the admittedly hot A’s is that it is not ok to be humiliated.

And the Sox were being humiliated.

After Boston lost the 2nd game to the A’s, this time by a comparatively tight 1-7, Dustin Pedroia was asked whether the Red Sox had reached the point of embarrassment. His reply was telling in its baldness:

‘Yeah.’

For a payroll of $140 million you don’t get to just roll over and die.

It was no surprise to then read that key members of the ownership group and General Manager, Ben Cherington were flying out to Seattle, the next stop on the Red Sox’ West Coast misadventure. John Henry and Co. were either heading out West for a reckoning with Bobby V. or a tour of the Space Needle. The smart money was not on the Space Needle.

The smart money though was wrong, although it’s unclear if anyone went on a tour of the Space Needle. Upper management was there to give qualified support. To be accurate, they had actually given that some weeks before – Team President Larry Lucchino had said then that Bobby V. would ‘unequivocally’ see out the season as manager.

That was before the Sox got ‘unequivocally’ pasted by the A’s though so John Henry flying out to Seattle to have breakfast with Bobby V. had the air of something more serious – Possibly a ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ kind of talk. The kind that ends with 1 party asking the other for their CD’s back.

In this case though Bobby V. got to keep the music and even had some gallows humour when asked what the breakfast was about:

‘You know you don’t go there. What do you think, we talked about art? Liverpool? We talked about baseball and our team, obviously. Things that he’s concerned with are the things that I deal with.’

And when asked if the meeting was a good 1:

‘I always feel good after breakfast. It’s one of my favorite meals.’

Which is a good attitude – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

So the message from all of that was that Bobby V. would remain as manager of the Red Sox.

For the remainder of the season.

Pause.

The silence after that declaration was so pregnant with subtext that it went into labour a short time later and gave birth to octuplets.

And so the Red Sox have forged on, chewing up the last morsels of the season, in much the same way as a centenarian with no teeth and an over-active gag reflex. Bobby V.’s departure is assumed but not confirmed – The front office obviously wants to not feed the hyper-bowl surrounding this team and so they plan to quietly see out 2012 and then review. That self-reflection will no doubt be quick and painless – Sox General Manager Ben Cherington had this to say on that:

‘I’d always rather get the decision right than rush it. But what we know we need to do is hit the ground running this offseason. One of the things that, as I look back on last offseason, that didn’t go perfectly was simply the amount of time that we spent on the manager search and what that did to the rest of the offseason and I would like to spend less time on it this offseason, that’s for sure.’

Hang on a second Ben – Why would you be spending time looking for a manager when you’ve already got Bobby V.? I mean, it’s not like you’ve kicked his arse to the kerb just ye…

Oh… I see…

Awkward.

Ben then issued a clarification:

‘I honestly meant it very literally, like we would like to spend less time on it. That could mean one day, that could mean no days. In my mind, it was nothing to do with Bobby or a decision about him, but I guess people are taking it the wrong way and if I need to clarify it, I’ll clarify it.

The only thing I can clarify is to tell you that I meant it in the most literal sense possible. We’d like to focus less of our offseason on who the manger is. I don’t think that has anything to do with Bobby Valentine. It has to do with how we’re allocating our time.’

Which might well be true although you’d have to question whether Ben’s original comments were a wise appreciation of the level of intrigue surrounding the Red Sox right now or whether they were a tone-deaf confirmation of what pretty much everyone believes.

And to be honest, I don’t reckon that would be the worst thing for Bobby V. right now. This is a man who is frankly bat@#$% crazy, who’s natural state involves hyperactively caromming off the walls like 1 of those super-bouncy rubber balls. His time out front of the implosive 2012 Red Sox though has turned him into a squash ball – Still working hard to bounce but more often coming up flat.

Maybe it’s time for him to recognize that this is not working for anyone.

There is no better template for him in this than the actions of Australian rugby league legend Mal Meninga. Big Mal had a stellar playing career for club, state and country. The centre, who hailed from Bundaberg in Queensland, played the bulk of his National Rugby League (NRL) career for the Canberra Raiders. Canberra is part of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the home to Australia’s parliament. Consequently it’s a bit political there. Even for sports stars.

Big Mal, by all accounts a nice bloke, was tapped to run for the ACT parliament as a social conservative. He was a good bet – Popular, energetic and with a well-drilled machine backing him.

And so he announced his candidacy, via an interview on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio. Halfway through the interview though he hit a snag. He was explaining why he was running for office when it occurred to him that he really didn’t want to run for office:

‘I was… I’m buggered. I’m sorry. I have to resign.’

Thus ended a promising political career. Pretty much where it started.

Since then Mal has been the butt of many jokes. This is unfair though. The big of stature man did what big of heart folks do – Had the wit to work out that it wasn’t for him and the courage to back out with a strange sort of grace, but grace nonetheless.

That grace is still available to Bobby V. Will he take it?

Lonely Days Are Gone

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