Is this 'bottom' for the Red Sox? Valentine has to hope it is
When teams lose and events spin out of control, managers lose their jobs. The Red Sox aren't there yet, but this week's madness and Saturday's incredible and ugly 15-9 loss to the Yankees make you wonder if they'll get there. Bobby Valentine says they've "hit bottom." For the sake of his job, he'd better hope they have.
BOSTON -- Early on in the September collapse, fans started asking about Terry Francona's job security.
They won't fire him, we all said, at first.
Then things got worse . . . and worse . . . and the Red Sox did fire him.
So when you ask if Bobby Valentine survives this Red Sox season, as many did during Saturday's incredible-even-for-the-Red-Sox 15-9 loss to the Yankees, the answer is that they can't fire him.
Unless . . .
Sometimes, these things take on a life of their own. Understand that when managers have weeks like the one Valentine just had, with the clubhouse seeming to turn on him and the fans definitely turning on him and the results showing each loss uglier than the one before it, well . . . that's when you start thinking the manager could end up getting fired.
"I think we've hit bottom," Valentine said, after a 9-0 lead in the sixth inning (and a 9-1 lead in the seventh) somehow turned into a loss so lopsided that Mariano Rivera never had to stir in the Yankee bullpen. "If this isn't bottom, we'll find some new ends of the earth."
If this is bottom, Valentine has to survive the year, even if this Red Sox team doesn't.
But what if it isn't bottom?
As the Red Sox clubhouse cleared out quickly Saturday night -- David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia, among others, refused to even attempt to comment on the mess they had made -- the door to Valentine's office closed with owners John Henry and Larry Lucchino, general manager Ben Cherington and Valentine inside.
The owners' presence actually can be seen as a good sign for Valentine. Normally in baseball, when you're really in trouble, the owner avoids you like the plague.
Cherington said later that management is "very satisfied" with Valentine, and that the tone of the meeting was along the lines of "we're all in this together."
They're in a mess together right now, so there was plenty to discuss.
The most obvious issue is the bullpen, and the most commonly mentioned solution is to take Daniel Bard out of the rotation and put him in the closer's role. Valentine was said to be pushing for that move in spring training, and he suggested again Saturday that it should be considered.
Cherington had been dead-set against it, but suggested after Saturday's that it could now be in play.
The GM spent Saturday morning trying to solve other problems, completing a trade that brings center fielder Marlon Byrd from the Cubs for pitcher Michael Bowden and a player to be named later.
Byrd has the lowest average in baseball (.070) for anyone with 40 or more plate appearances, but on a team that has Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford on the disabled list, even he can be seen (or at least hoped for) as a marginal improvement.
As Valentine said when he was asked about Bard and bullpen changes, "You've got to consider everything."
Red Sox fans have been considering the possibility that Francona wasn't the problem in last September's collapse. They cheered the old manager loudly during Friday's Fenway 100th anniversary celebration, and they booed the new manager just as loudly during Saturday's eighth inning.
"I've been booed in a couple of countries," said Valentine, who managed in Japan.
Fair enough, but you just don't see managers get booed this much in their first 14 games on the job. Then again, not everywhere is Boston, and not every situation is the Red Sox, coming off a historic collapse.
And not every Red Sox team loses five straight games, all at Fenway Park. Before this week, it hadn't happened since the Yankees swept a five-game series here in August 2006. Before that, it hadn't happened since April 1996, when Kevin Kennedy was the manager and the Red Sox sometimes played to Fenway crowds of 15,594.
Not every Red Sox team turns a nine-run lead into a loss. Before Saturday, it hadn't happened since June 26, 1987 (also against the Yankees), back when the manager was John McNamara and the left fielder was Jim Rice.
What's happening here is just nuts, even by Red Sox standards. So when Valentine gets asked if he knew what he was in for, as he was again early Saturday afternoon, the answer really should be no.
"I knew it was going to be extremely challenging, and extremely eventful," Valentine said. "It's been eventfully challenging."
Previous Red Sox managers have said that they didn't even want to go out in Boston after any loss, let alone after losses like the ones Valentine has suffered this week. But Valentine insisted Saturday that he has gone out to dinner every night, and gone out to ride his bicycle around town as often as he can.
"No one's yelled at me when I'm on my bike, or tried to run me over," he said. "That hasn't happened yet."
It's not that bad -- not yet.
And if you ask if he survives the season, my answer -- at least for now -- is still yes.