On the 1st of September last year, the Sox were strolling into the play-offs, and as I celebrated Jill’s birthday and the wedding anniversaries of Vix and Andrew and Tom and Unity on that day, I was examining my bank account to see if I could justify a trip to Boston in October with a realistic chance of a third World Series in this century.
What followed was the worst collapse in the history of major league baseball, the repercussions of which continue into this September. Our record in August this year was only two wins better, and the mother of all trades has produced no obvious benefit on the field, although the bank accounts of the NOG will be improved to the tune of quarter of a billion dollars. Valentine’s post-game reflections have moved between frustration, resignation and exasperation.
None of us really know what’s going on. I share Rick Hough’s scepticism of what I read in the Globe. And I’ve heard enough of beer-and-chicken-gate, Johnny-Peskey-funeral-gate, Aceves-slamming-doors-gate etc etc to last me a lifetime.
But the fact remains that the Sox are 12 games under .500 this morning, and for a team wearing the Sox uniform, this is unacceptable. It is clear that there is something fundamentally wrong, something which demands appropriately fundamental re-thinking.
That is why I approved of the mega-trade with the Dodgers, especially when I heard that Carmine, the sabermetrics software at Fenway, had given it the thumbs down. That is why I also, paradoxically, approve of the return of Bill James to the inner circles at Fenway – we need his input. And that’s why I will approve of Valentine leaving the club as he surely will at the end of the season. He was the wrong guy at the wrong time, and I have some sympathy for him, because I don’t believe anyone could have steered us to the play-offs this year.
The positive side of all this, for me, is that we have managed to bring everything to a head in a period of 13 months. The organization as a whole is being forced to address these issues radically now, rather than merely tinkering with things over the course of a long decline. The decision not to move for Mauer was encouraging and reinforces the view that Cherington is coming out from under Theo's influence. Having served as director of player development, Ben is well-placed to bring the next generation through into the big league.
That won’t be enough, of course, and Boston being Boston, it won’t be quick enough either.
But it’s one of those fundamentals that are important, and will allow judicious (Cherington used the word disciplined) forays into the market-place.
There are 24 games left, and I propose to enjoy them. I want to see more of Iglesias and Lavarnway and De Jesus and Ciriaco. I want us to sign Cody Ross.
I want to see Baltimore take the AL East from the Yankees, and I want to see the Giants go all the way.
And most of all, I want to see the Sox playing with pride and enjoying being out there.
Today’s listening: Dylan’s new album, streaming on iTunes. Can't get enough of it.