The parallels between Ditka and Valentine seem to grow closer with every game the Bostons fall behind the hated Yankees (not to mention the Rays and Orioles!). The Ditka saga is well-known in New Orleans, how the Saints were goaded by a sycophantic press corps into believing the Hall of Fame tight end who had coached a Super Bowl champion could somehow come in and resurrect what had become a franchise that lost as many games as it won. So what happened but in his three years as Saints boss, Ditka's teams lost more than twice as many games as they won (15-33), and in the course set the franchise back almost to the days of the Aints.
But they were great theater, weren't they? Trading an entire draft for a talented running back whose Society Anxiety Disorder infected an entire fan base. And who can forget the photo of Rickey's "bride" and Ditka's dreadlocked groom? Yet from a respectability standpoint, it was a time of darkness when Who Dats could only venture out at night lest they be recognized and ridiculed by the enlightened skeptics.
Flash forward to today. The Red Sox are not even within hailing distance of first place, and their chances of reaching the playoffs for the seventh time in the past ten years are slim. Hired as manager last fall when Terry Francona left after a 7-20 fade, Valentine's team is 13 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Yankees and 7 1/2 games out in the wild-card race. Boston hasn't been above third place all season. Twenty-six players have gone on the disabled list, the most for any team since at least 1987. Injuries can't be laid at the manager's door, but even Valentine says he is disappointed with his performance.
"I'm not doing a good job," Valentine said Saturday. "I didn't get paid to do anything other than get to the playoffs, win a lot of games, be in the thick in things right down to the end, even be in first place. The team I'm managing is not there. Simple. So my job has not been a good job, if I had to assess." Cries are growing louder for Valentine's ouster. The unrest is encapsulated in a new website: www.BobbyValentineSucks.com, which is brutal even by Boston standards.
Valentine signed only a two-year contract, so cutting bait after one season would not be a huge financial loss, not that finances ever enter into anything the Sox do. I don't know if Valentine's days are numbered, but if an apparition appears where Big Papi is wearing a wedding dress and Valentine is wearing a dreadlock wig, let it be known that the Apocalypse is certainly upon Red Sox Nation!
by Jim Miller
Jim Miller's new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is now available in local bookstores and at his website: www.JWMillerSports.com
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