I've suspected it for a while but now I know it's true. Based on his actions over the last few weeks, and the performance of his team during that span, Dan Duquette is in his office right now, rolling ball bearings between his sweaty fingers and palms. The shades are drawn. He jumps and starts at the beep of his e-mail or the ring of his phone. He hears footsteps down empty hallways. Dan Duquette is Captain Queeg.
It's just a matter of time before the footsteps are real or the phone call will be the one he doesn't want. And he knows it.
|Jimy Williams' No. 1 mistake was his refusal to play Trot Nixon every day.|
When his $100+ million assemblage -- or, what you and I like to call the Red Sox -- finally began to wilt under the strain of some pretty tough injuries (Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek all spent major time on the DL), Duquette fired his manager, Jimy Williams. Most baseball people were frankly amazed that Williams had them 12 games over .500 at the time. Firing him in late August did not seem smart, fair, or loyal -- though Duquette is rarely described as anything close to those last two.
But since he knows this is his last shot at being the general manager who built the Red Sox team that finally won it all, Duquette is desperate. He's trying anything.
After getting swept by the Yankees this weekend, Duquette fired bullpen coach John Cumberland. Red Sox starting pitchers gave up one run to the Yankees in those three games. One run. Firing the bullpen coach (and acting pitching coach) is an odd response.
The Red Sox were swept into next year because they have scored four runs in their last five games. They been losing because they aren't hitting in the clutch like they did earlier in the season.
Jimy Williams was not the problem. And certainly, John Cumberland was not the problem. The team, understandably, ran out of gas. Their fall is not that surprising given the injuries and the remarkable play of the Yankees and A's since the All-Star break. Their own great play for four months led to unreasonable expectations. But Duquette wants the Red Sox team of May back again. And he is doing anything to make it happen.
Duquette's late season acts of desperation are taking the shine off what was a nice season for the Red Sox. Since Hideo Nomo's first-week no-hitter, the Red Sox seemed ready to prove they were better than you thought. Their improbable good play, which they maintained well into August, had people respecting them for their grit.
Good stories abounded: David Cone's inspiring comeback, Nomar's determined effort to get back on the field, Pedro's gutty comeback from injury, the way paper clips and band-aids like Mike Lansing, Chris Stynes, Doug Mirabelli, and Dante Bichette filled in. The surprising effectiveness of Nomo and Frank Castillo. The team's success was a nice story. There were even dreams of a Cubs-Red Sox World Series.
Now the season will just be another sad one for the Red Sox, with the usual acrimony and finger-pointing. Instead of being one to build on, it will be another one to plow under.
Pedro pitched wonderfully on Saturday but suggested yesterday that it might be smart if he didn't pitch the rest of the season. Martinez has had the worst shoulder trouble of his shoulder-troubled career and has embarked on an upper-body strengthening program unlike anything he has tried before. He ought to stop pitching and concentrate on next year. This assessment is very sound and should be music to the ears of Red Sox fans, especially if the team follows through. Because if this season proved anything, it's that the Red Sox chances begin and end with Pedro Martinez.
Duquette's response? In another Queeg-like maneuver, he took exception to his star's take on things. And like he did with Williams, he made it personal. He said that Pedro was not hurt and that he is being paid a lot of money to pitch. As if Pedro tossing a two-hit shutout against the Devil Rays later this month would mean anything.
Of course, Martinez's reasoning and perspective does not jibe with Queeg's ... I mean Duquette's. After all, Martinez will be in Boston for three more years.