Boston likes to remind you of its history, literally marking it with a red line that stretches from Boston Common to Bunker Hill. Their Freedom Trail connects sixteen circa-17th- and 18th-century sites that tend to make repeated appearances in high school textbooks and “National Treasure” movies.
Maybe being surrounded by those memory-joggers is what prompted Harvard-based philosopher George Santayana to write the eternally misquoted line “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Boston's perfect for that statement because, somewhere between Faneuil Hall and Fenway Park, it becomes less of an aphorism and more a way of life. The Red Sox refuse to let themselves forget about the past, which makes me worry that reruns are almost inevitable.
Thanks to the near-constant rehashing of September’s collapse, new manager Bobby Valentine already seems less a shiny new start than a reminder of last year’s crotch-kick of a season. We all know why he’s staring out of Boston’s home dugout and leaning toward live microphones and Terry Francona isn’t: because two months of great baseball were bookended by misery, with an 11-15 April and a 7-20 September that couldn’t have been more depressing without a Bon Iver soundtrack.
After the dust settled around the beer-soaked wreckage and the ink dried on that Boston Globe cover story about their clubhouse issues, the team seemed to know they had to go in a different direction. Valentine made sense because in both his personality and his approach to the game, he couldn’t have been less Francona-esque. He doesn’t coddle players, has no problem calling out opposing coaches and there’s no chance he poses for an herbal tea ad beside Joe Torre.
Most of all, Valentine has a Raymond Babbitt-ish attention to details and runs his practices like they’re outtakes from a Tom Emanski video. There’s no way he misses things like his players’ eroding physical condition or the chicken-scented smudges on the clubhouse furniture (and that statement shouldn’t read like a condemnation of Francona, who will always be the Greatest Sox Manager Ever, both for winning two World Series and for making Dan Shaughnessy stop writing Curse-based books).
That said, the Sox start their season in less than two days, but it already feels like the year’s over, that they’ve finished somewhere between the Orioles and the scrawny kids from District 6 .
Valentine has already endured rumors of a rift with new GM Ben Cherington, been criticized for how he’s managed spring training games and, worst of all, former pitcher Curt Schilling’s mouth is already in midseason form.
"When you talk to [the players] — and I’m still talking to some of these guys — I don’t think this is going well,” he told WEEI last week . “And I think it’s going bad quicker than I expected to.”
On Monday, Schilling told ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, "I just feel like this is not going to go the way people had hoped.”
No, not for the people who hoped Boston’s most famous sock would find its way into Schilling’s mouth. Others — like me — just hope Valentine will get a chance to manage as he thinks best, without having to pencil in roster spots for the ghosts of what was and what could have been.
It won’t be because they lost closer Jon Papelbon, J.D. Drew, prospect Josh Reddick, captain Jason Varitek, any semblance of a shortstop, and Tim Wakefield, who has been carbon-dated and shipped to the Smithsonian. It won’t be because Carl Crawford will most likely miss the first two months of the season after wrist surgery or that their roster still has holes big enough to drive a duckboat through.
It will be because of Valentine, because of who he is and because of the constant reminders of who he’s not. He’s probably well aware the Sox don’t have martyrs; they have scapegoats. If he isn’t, he can follow the red line back into history, Boston’s other Red Line that will take him toward Fenway Park.
Jelisa Castrodale has learned a lot about life by making a mess of her own. Read more at jelisacastrodale.com , follow her on twitter at twitter.com/gordonshumway, or contact her at
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