NEW YORK — This must be what it felt like when Richard Nixon was walking around a near-empty White House, holding a tumbler of scotch and talking to the portraits of former presidents that line the hallways of the residence on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Bobby Valentine’s final hours as Red Sox manager Wednesday were a little sad.
His Boston bowsers rolled over one last time in the Bronx, finishing the season with another pathetic loss (14-2) against the American League East champions. Bobby’s dogs dropped their final eight games, 12 of their last 13, and went 7-22 since Sept. 1. The Sox ended the season with a 1-2-3 ninth, all strikeouts.
The good news is that the worst season of a generation is officially over. The train-wreck Red Sox of 2012 cannot do any more damage. The Sox earned last place, finishing with a 69-93 record, Boston baseball’s weakest showing since the Billy Herman Sox lost 100 in 1965.
I’m sorry to report that unlike Butch and Sundance, Valentine did not go down with guns blazing. In his final pregame press conference — the Sox backdrop logo should have been bordered in black crepe — Valentine took a shot at a few of his coaches (step forward, Tim Bogar and Gary Tuck), telling us he felt he was “undermined” by members of his own staff. He said he wished he’d had an answer for the repetitive questions about whether he’d be back next season. He admitted it was a mistake to call out Kevin Youkilis in the first month of the season. He said he was fine with the backing of ownership and general manager Ben Cherington.
But he did not burn down the house.
After the last limp loss, Valentine said, “It was a very disappointing season.’’
Valentine is expected to be fired Thursday or Friday. Then you can brace yourself for another interminable managerial search (Pete Mackanin is available again; the bench coach of the Phillies was fired on Wednesday).
Asked about his plans for the next few days, Valentine answered, “My plans right now are to wake up and have a long bike ride.’’
Any concerns about job security?
“My life will be fine,’’ he said.
There are those who believe Valentine got a raw deal as a one-and-out skipper. It’s certainly fair to note that few managers get fired after only one season. But this was no ordinary time. The 2012 Sox were a circus from start to finish. We witnessed abject failure from John Henry all the way down to Mauro Gomez. No one is spared. How, for instance, does Cherington explain Andrew Bailey for Josh Reddick. Or Zach Stewart for Youkilis? It just goes on and on.
And Valentine did nothing to make it better. He only made it worse. So he becomes the first to take the fall.
A major housecleaning is in order. Even Valentine acknowledged that.
“I think the Boston Red Sox will look different from what you see today,’’ he said.
Let’s hope so.
These 2012 Red Sox were losers in every sense of the word. Before Wednesday’s sorry finale, only three Sox players stood at the top step of the dugout for the national anthem. While 20 or more Yankees stood respectfully on the top step on the first base side, the Sox were represented by Dustin Pedroia — alone on the home plate side — and Ryan Lavarnway and Guillermo Quiroz next to Valentine on the third base side. Jacoby Ellsbury, Pedro Ciriaco, and Cody Ross were also visible; they stood on the grass down the left-field line.
Nobody else from Boston could be seen. What a crew.
Valentine came out with the lineup card for his final game, exchanging greetings with Yankee coach Tony Pena, and umpires C.B. Bucknor, Dale Scott, Dan Iassogna, and Bill Miller.
The Sox scored a run in the top of the first, but somehow we suspected that would not be enough for the inimitable Daisuke Matsuzaka. In one final pitiful yield for his $103 million, the Dice Man wrapped up six years in Boston with a 2⅓-inning stint in which he gave up five runs. He finished 2012 with a 1-7 record.
I was hoping Matsuzaka would surprise us all and break into English for his final postgame press conference — like the big Chief saying “Juicy Fruit” in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’’
The manager talked in past tense throughout the day and night. Asked if he had any regrets about taking the Sox job, Valentine answered, “No. It was a great life experience. It wasn’t always an enjoyable experience, but it’s been good.”
He spoke of problems with communication and chain of command — problems that won’t be solved by changing managers.
He stayed on message after the game, delivering one last interview with NESN’s Jenny Dell. We can all be glad those things are over.
Bobby V wasn’t a great manager here. The Valentine Era goes down alongside the Daddy Butch Hobson Era, only shorter. But everybody knows Valentine has to go.
I’m going to miss the guy. We barely scratched the surface of all things Bobby. I never got to ask him about his ballroom dancing performance when he was 14 years old at the 1964 World’s Fair. We never talked about the plan for Bobby to replace O.J. Simpson at Southern Cal, Bobby’s double date with Phil Collins, or Bobby’s Connecticut neighbor, Richard Gere.
“I had every opportunity to succeed and didn’t,’’ said Valentine.
Wow. Truth and accountability. Moving forward, the Red Sox could use a lot more of both.Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.