Imagine . . . the Bruins and Red Sox both facing elimination on the same day.
This is bad. Four Yawkey Way feels like 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. during the final days of the Nixon Administration. It is only April and the Sox have unraveled completely. Saturday night in the park, the Red Sox blew a 9-0 lead in the sixth inning and were thrashed by the Yankees, 15-9. On national television.
Bobby Valentine has crossed into the Joe Kerrigan Zone. He is the dartboard ornament of Boston baseball. Fans are chanting “We Want Tito’’ (they are not calling for the Yugoslavian president who died in 1980), and booing Bobby V every time he pops out of the dugout. Terry Francona will be in the broadcast booth Sunday, pretending not to be enjoying himself. The Sox are praying for a rainout so they can get out of town without any more hideous home cooking.
Valentine came out of the Sox’ dugout a lot Saturday, but he could not stop the bleeding. Raging Bullpen was officially out of control. The Yankees scored one run in the sixth, seven in the seventh, then seven more in the eighth. In the moments after Boston’s 9-0 lead became a 15-9 deficit, the Fenway system played “Sweet Caroline.’’
Embarrassing. Maybe this would have been a day to honor baseball and start a new tradition. There was nothing “so good, so good, so good’’ about what happened at Fenway Park in the 14th game of the season.
September’s stench has carried deep into April. Your Red Sox are now 11-30 over their last 41 games. That’s not a small sample, people. That’s a quarter season of .268 baseball. Multiply times four, and 11-30 gets you 44-120. The 1962 Mets, generally considered the worst team in baseball history, went 40-120.
So there. The September-April Red Sox of 2011-2012 are the ’62 Mets. With the third-highest payroll in baseball.
“Best Team Ever’’ has morphed into “Worst Team Ever’’ in 12 short months.
When is it too early to speculate on Valentine’s future? Would the Sox make a change in April? Would Bobby quit?
Doubtful. But Cal Ripken Sr. didn’t last this long with the 1988 Orioles.
After Saturday’s debacle, I asked Bobby if he was still glad he accepted this job.
“Absolutely,’’ he answered. “It’s my job. If I said I was only going to be in it for the good days, I probably wouldn’t have come. Challenges are great . . . You’ve got to be tough. I think we’re a tough team.’’
This much is certain; Valentine’s bravado is gone. His energy seems spent. The Ultra Brite smile flashes less than it did when the Red Sox were in Fort Myers, still 0-0. This new manager who invented the wrap sandwich and dances like Astaire has become the poster boy for the Sox early-season struggles. John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino aren’t on the field to be booed. Ben Cherington doesn’t change pitchers in mid-inning. Theo Epstein made a clean getaway to Chicago. John Lackey and Carl Crawford are on the disabled list.
So the bloodthirsty mob showers its disapproval on Valentine. In the Fenway spring of 2012, No. 25 is the loneliest number.
After Friday’s 6-2 centennial beatdown, veteran New York scribe Bob Klapisch (Bergen Record), who covered Valentine when he was manager of the Mets, told his readers that Bobby V in Boston is “a ghost of his former self.’’
How does the new manager feel about the boos?
“It’s expected,’’ said Valentine. “[The fans] like performance. The fans have been great. Things haven’t worked out during games. There’s been vocal reaction . . . I’ve been booed in a couple of countries.’’
He said his reception’s been great everywhere he goes around Boston. Even when he rides his bike around town: “No one’s yelled at me or tried to run me over. I’ve been out every night. It’s neat to feel the heartbeat.’’
Sweet statement. Feeling the heartbeat. That’s not how I remember John McNamara expressing local sentiment in 1988 when he said, “Sometimes people pick you to finish first, just to see you get [expletive] fired.’’
Francona in Boston these days is more popular than ice cream, but he used to dread getting recognized by Sox fans when he’d get stuck in traffic. Fans always had a lot of lineup suggestions and Francona famously said, “Some of the things they ask you to do with that lineup card are impossible. You can only stick it so far [expletive].’’
When Valentine took the job, he didn’t know he was going to lose his closer on the eve of the season. He didn’t know Jacoby Ellsbury would go down for three months in the home opener. He didn’t know Kevin Youkilis was going to hit south of Mendoza and suffer more injuries. He didn’t know he’d start the 14th game of the season with only three bats on his bench: Nick Punto, Kelly Shoppach, and Nate Spears. He didn’t know he’d be managing a hideous bullpen featuring Mark Melancon, Justin Thomas, Vicente Padilla, Alfredo Aceves, and Franklin Morales.
“I had no idea what to expect,’’ he said before Saturday’s debacle. “Situations developed and we knew it was going to be extremely challenging.’’
After the disaster, he said, “It happened pretty quickly. It’s all pretty confusing right now . . . I think we’ve hit bottom.’’
They have lost five in a row. They have not won since Bobby went on Channel 7 and decided it would be a swell idea to call out an eight-year veteran who was part of two championship teams. The cover of Saturday’s New York Post featured a full-page photo of Alex Rodriguez homering at Fenway Friday, headlined, “100 Years of Ass Kicking.’’
This must be the bottom.
Pray for rain. Bobby V and his players need to get out of town as fast as possible.