It was not all Bobby Valentine’s fault. No collapse so thorough can be attributed to just one man, even if that man is theoretically in charge, and no manager of a baseball team is ever any more than theoretically in charge, and that on a temporary basis.
When a bank is making money selling bundles of mortgages, nobody on the payroll asks whether the mortgages are garbage, even if that’s what they turn out to be. In that respect, at least, a baseball team is like a bank. For the first half of the 2011 season, nobody asked whether some of the Red Sox might be eating chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse while the games were still going on, because the Red Sox were winning the games.
But they started losing, and then the losing tumbled into the baseball equivalent of Bear Stearns, and when that happens the owners fire the manager, so Terry Francona was fired. Valentine couldn’t clean up the mess in a single season, so now he’s been fired as well. We’ll never know whether another manager might have fared better despite bad signings and money misspent, ill-advised trades, wrong assumptions about who might be able to fill in for whom, and injuries to some of the critical players. That’s because Valentine was the man Ben Cherington either chose or had chosen for him, and it doesn’t matter which now because Valentine got the job, which meant he was the guy who was available to be fired when the time came.
This is not to suggest that Bobby Valentine did nothing wrong. Even he wouldn’t suggest that. He probably wishes he’d been less candid when assessing the performances and dedication of some of his players, especially Kevin Youkilis. But the long view will show — and here comes the mixed metaphor — that Valentine signed on as captain of a ship that hadn’t done nearly all the sinking it was bound to do.
That’s a risky figure of speech to ride, but what the heck? What might as well have been a mutiny against Terry Francona last season didn’t turn out to be a rejection of the particular captain so much as a revelation that the crew was infested with malcontents and frauds. Too many of them were still on board in the spring, and that circumstance, combined with the aforementioned bad investments, injuries and, to a lesser extent, bad bounces sunk the S.S. Sox, or doomed Bobby Valentine to a lonely lifeboat ride, or something.
Looking ahead — and as far as the Red Sox are concerned, that’s certainly preferable to looking back over the past season and a half — we can speculate on whom the Red Sox will next hire and what changes will be made before the next season begins.
Or we can start talking about the Celtics.