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Fenway's turning 100, but are the Red Sox in any mood to celebrate?

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider
Dustin Pedroia reacts to popping out with two aboard in the fifth. (AP)
BOSTON -- It could have been worse for the Red Sox.

Sure it could have.

They could have been trying to celebrate Fenway Park late last September, or early last October, rather than this Friday.

That would have been worse.

Although, come to think of it, at least then the manager on his way out would have been the one getting booed, and not the manager who was brought in for the recovery.

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I'm still looking forward to Friday's 100th anniversary game at Fenway, and to the celebrations surrounding it.

I'm not so sure Bobby Valentine is.

Is there any doubt that the Fenway fans will cheer the returning Terry Francona (who reversed an earlier decision to skip the ceremony) and boo Bobby Valentine (who has no choice but to be there)?

They booed Valentine on opening day, and booed him loudly again during an eighth-inning pitching change in Wednesday's 6-3 loss to the Rangers. A week that began with Valentine questioning Kevin Youkilis' commitment, and continued with renewed questions about the new manager's relationship with his players and his bosses, isn't getting any better.

The Red Sox are 4-8, and while that's a statistical improvement over last September's 7-20, it's not being received any better by the fans.

Will they be in the mood to celebrate the ballpark on Friday? It should be a good show, so perhaps so.

Will that emotion, and the emotion of the first Yankees-Red Sox series of the season, be any help to a once-again struggling team?

"Whatever it is, I hope it's good for us," a subdued Valentine said.

He didn't sound convinced.

"We'll get some little things going our way, and we'll get a nice streak going," he said.

Again, he didn't sound or look convinced.

So many things are working against Valentine right now. He's without his closer (Andrew Bailey), his center fielder and MVP runner-up (Jacoby Ellsbury) and his left fielder (Carl Crawford).

As Tony Massarotti pointed out so well on the Boston Globe's website, Valentine is operating seemingly without any support from anyone in the organization.

"Bobby V. has been here all of 10 games and is being booed by the fans, dismissed by the players and lectured to by his GM, which is basically what was happening to Francona at the end of last season," Massarotti wrote.

It hasn't been a good start. It hasn't been a good week.

When players openly challenged Valentine's comments about Youkilis, the manager quickly backed down, to the point where he now seems to feel a need to praise his third baseman in every public utterance.

"He's just one click away," Valentine said Wednesday afternoon. "He's working as hard as anyone's ever worked to find it."

The message Valentine sent during and after Wednesday's game doesn't figure to be any better received up here.

In a game the Red Sox trailed just 3-2 entering the eighth inning, Valentine left left-hander Franklin Morales in the game to allow three runs, basically putting the game away. With the bases loaded and one out, Rangers manager Ron Washington pinch hit with the right-handed hitting Craig Gentry, basically inviting Valentine to bring in a right-hander (since Mike Napoli, a dangerous right-handed hitter, was due up next).

Valentine stuck with Morales, explaining later that he wanted to build his confidence. Morales got ahead of Gentry 0-2, but later hit him with a pitch to force in a run. Then, allowed to face Napoli, Morales gave up a double off the wall to make it a 6-2 game.

Then came the boos.

"I was booing myself," Valentine said. "It didn't work out."

Showing confidence in a key reliever in April isn't the craziest idea in the world. But how will it go over in Boston, with a team struggling early in the season? Will Valentine's players see it as a positive, or as just another reason for them not to like him?

It's hardly crucial that the players like their manager. It's hardly crucial that fans like the manager (and if the team eventually wins, they'll surely like him a lot).

But you can be sure that this wasn't the start that Valentine and the Red Sox imagined. You can be sure this isn't the way they wanted things to go, in the week leading up to the Fenway celebration.

But it could have been worse. The cherished sellout streak could have ended.

The way this is headed, that day is coming, too, perhaps as early as the next homestand, when the Red Sox have three midweek games against the A's.

And no Fenway celebration to get everyone excited.

You're excited, aren't you?
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