The National Football League kicks off its regular season Wednesday night, tennis’ U.S. Open is in its final week and the Yankees have lost all of the 10-game lead they held in mid-July.
Yet Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine is on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, his face in his hands, eyes closed, fingers pulling down on his eyelids, with this as the accompanying headline: “How the Red Sox Lost Their Way.’’
Here are some of the highlights of the story, written by SI senior writer Tom Verducci, who at one point refers to Valentine as Boston’s “Captain Queeg”:
* “In retrospect,” Verducci writes, “Valentine was doomed to fail because 1) [Ben] Cherington had not wanted to hire him (though he did warm to him during the interview process); 2) Valentine, never known to play well with others, was not allowed to handpick his coaching staff; 3) the Red Sox owners gave him the least support possible: a two-year contract. (One-year deals for new hires are virtually unheard of.) The owners were so unsure about dropping Valentine into this group of players that they considered 2012 something of a trial, like trying on a boldly styled suit. They would reassess the fit after the season.’’
* John Henry on Bobby V.: “I think Bobby has done a hell of a job given what he has faced,” Henry wrote Verducci in an email. “He has always been a lightning rod and has never avoided confrontation. Our players were used to what is commonly called a ‘players’ manager.’ Bobby just isn’t that. He’s more of an old-school manager with players while being a new-school manager with his approach to tactics and everything else. He’s brilliant but not someone who’s going to be liked by everyone. Popularity is overrated, but he’s had a tough go this year.”
* Verducci on what to do with Bobby V.: “What to do about Valentine is the owners’ first major decision in rebranding this team. The owners could bring him back in 2013 on his current contract, leaving him with even less security as the lamest of ducks. They could continue to jettison players and coaches not in his camp and extend his contract after the worst Red Sox season in 15 years. Or they could fire him and find the state-of-the-art manager Cherington wanted in the first place. (They could try to pry John Farrell from Toronto or hire Blue Jays first-base coach Torey Lovullo.)”
* Last September a ‘harbinger’: “Other than losing and injuries,” Henry wrote to Verducci, “if you ask what the biggest disappointments were, I would say how hamstrung we were financially with long-term, expensive commitments and the level of our return on those commitments whether due to injury or poor play. . . . But aside from the injuries, we have had no consistency. We would have poor at-bats one night, poor starting pitching the next night, a poor bullpen the next. By mid-August it was clear we needed to rebuild. What appeared to be an outlier month in September 2011 turned out to be a harbinger instead.’’