The late Sparky Anderson said it best about “spoilers.’’
“Spoilers are losers,’’ said Anderson, who won World Series in both leagues before he was enshrined in Cooperstown. “It’s easy to play in September when you got nothing to play for. No pressure. You always want to do your best, but anybody who takes pride in playing without pressure and eliminating someone else is a loser.’’
Bobby Valentine is more relaxed than he has been at any time this season. Now that he is a cinch to be fired (the Red Sox probably will arrange something where they don’t have to use that offensive term), the manager is totally at ease. He’s like a man enjoying his last cigarette before he goes to the gallows.
“I just saw the cover of that magazine [Sports Illustrated],’’ Valentine said before Wednesday night’s 5-4 loss to the Yankees. “How did they get my hands to look like reptile hands?’’
The manager twice referenced players (Scott Atchison and Scott Podsednik) who “understand the difference between right and wrong,’’ which always feels like a larger statement about some of the other people who have been in a Boston uniform this season. Valentine used the same parental phrase after Ryan Sweeney broke his hand punching a door.
Bill Ballou of the Worcester Telegram points out that the Sox have some history firing managers before the final day of a bad season. Don Zimmer was dumped with seven games left in 1980. Dick Williams had nine games remaining in 1969 and Billy Herman was 16 games from the finish when he was fired in 1966. The late Johnny Pesky was fired with two games left in 1964.
Is it mean of us to take pleasure in the struggles of Adrian “The Cooler’’ Gonzalez and the Los Angeles Dodgers since the big deal went down? Going into Wednesday’s night’s game, A-Gon was hitting .230 with a .311 slugging percentage since his first game (1 for 5 with a three-run homer) in Dodger Blue. The Dodgers were 6-10 since the trade.
It has been fun reading the Los Angeles scribes who first embraced Gonzo and fell for the phony explanation that he was a media victim in Boston. T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times wrote Tuesday, “He’s every bit the flat liner the folks in Boston said he was there, melting when called on to deliver in a key situation . . . This was his reputation in Boston, shutting down after games when the moment seemed to be too much . . . How do you root for a statue? J.D. Drew comes to mind.’’
Remember the 2011 argument about who was the better center fielder, Curtis Granderson or Jacoby Ellsbury? Granderson hit two more home runs Wednesday night and has 37 this season. He hit 41 homers last year. He has hit 102 homers in three seasons with the Yankees.
Ellsbury has three homers in 62 games this year. He is hitting .268. Ellsbury is the greatest flight risk since Whitey Bulger, and the Sox are not going to contend next year with him in center field.
The Sox must trade Ellsbury this winter. Scott Boras thinks Ellsbury is a $20 million-per-year player. Maybe last year. But Ellsbury has missed 1½ of the last three seasons and is going the wrong way. He’s not even Carl Crawford this season. Trade the dude.
Watching Alfredo Aceves when Valentine comes to take him out of a game is great theater. Aceves totally avoided the manager Wednesday night, running around the outer perimeter of the mound while Valentine waited for reliever Chris “Thanks, Theo” Carpenter.
Add Bill James to the list of those who had nothing to do with the collapse of the Red Sox. John Henry last week reminded us that the stat man’s influence dipped in recent years (a trend Henry regrettably pledges to reverse).
James’s friend, scribe Joe Posnanski, made it clear in a “Sports on Earth” piece that Bill was never high on Carl Crawford, nor John Lackey. Now we have James telling Posnanski, “After we [Red Sox] had been very successful for a long time, we lost sight of the fact that we were still capable of making huge blunders. We sort of started to assume that whatever we did would work out.
“It’s embarrassing, the performance of the organization. But at the same time it presents a new challenge. In some ways I’ve been impatient, waiting to get to the point where we could start to fix this. We’re there now.’’
Dustin Pedroia was every bit the expectant father hours before Wednesday night’s game. Kelli Pedroia was past her due date, ready to deliver their second child. , and the Sox second baseman had his cellphone with him in the dugout at 4 p.m. When Pedroia went to take his swings in the batting cage, he tossed his cellphone to Sox player relations director Sarah Narracci.
“I could be gone at any time, man,’’ said Pedroia.
Pedroia came out of the game in the top of the seventh.
Great ceremony for Joe Castiglione before the game. Castig has been the comforting voice of the Red Sox for longer than many fans have been alive.
ESPN was here, Wednesday night, which meant sharing the press box, elevator, and media bathroom with Nomar Garciaparra and Curt Schilling. That’s a lot of awkward for one night, don’t you think?
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.