Let Bobby V be Bobby V

Let Bobby Valentine give the hook to Red Sox underachievers.

Word out of Boston is that the collection of overpriced whiners and immature horses’ posteriors known as the Red Sox has petitioned ownership to fire manager Bobby Valentine. Apparently Bobby V has embarrassed several of them. (Gee, I would have thought their horrendous play would have done that!) I’m not a Red Sox fan, nor do I think Bobby Valentine was a good choice for the Red Sox. (Sigmund Freud would have been better.) Those who read my spring blogs know that I predicted Valentine would be a bad fit in Boston. But the problems with the Red Sox are not Bobby Valentine’s fault.

Bobby V probably isn’t the right type for today’s game and maybe a change is needed, but if I’m the general manager, that change comes in the offseason (as do many other changes). I know that Sox fans hang on to every scrap of hope, but let’s face it–2012 is a lost season. As I type these words, 45 games remain in the season and if the Sox won 30 of them (a seldom-achieved .666 pace), they’d have but 87 victories and that’s highly unlikely to get a Wild Card. (The wildcard-leading Orioles and Rays need to go just 25-21 to reach 88 wins) My advice would be to unleash Bobby Valentine–let him take off the kid gloves and call out lousy play in public. Let him say what everyone can see: that Josh Beckett has given up. Let him be feisty and get into scraps with his players รก la Billy Martin. In fact, the Sox’s hated rival, the New York Yankees, is a good role model for what to do with Beckett.  

If the team can, it should dump Beckett as soon as possible–perhaps even for an A.J. Burnett-like deal: eat most of his salary and get a bucket of balls in return. If Boston can’t swing such a deal­–Beckett is due nearly $32 million for the next two years and can veto any deal he doesn’t like–the Red Sox should do what the Yankees did to Ken Holtzman in the late 1970s: bury him in the bullpen out of harm’s way. The Yanks brought Holtzman to New York after five fabulous years in Oakland in which he won 91 games. The 30-year-old Holtzman proceeded to stink up the Bronx and the Yankees banished him to the pen and made him a forgotten man. When he reemerged with the Cubs in 1979 at age 32, he got one more year in MLB before he was released. The Yankees did the same with Kevin Brown, though throwing nearly $16 million at a 39-year-old was insanity in the first place. The Yanks also banished Kei Igawa in the minors before cutting him this spring.

If the Sox have the guts to play hardball with Beckett, they can. Pitchers generally have their peak ERA years at age 29 and their peak win years at 30. Beckett, 32, appears to have peaked earlier. He had 67 wins between the ages of 26 and 29, but just 24 since. His current ERA is over 5 and he is, to put it very mildly, a disruption. Send him to the pen for mop-up duty. He would be 35 when he hits free agency again and I will guarantee you no one will offer him $16 million per.

The Sox, of course, have other issues. Bobby Valentine should be unleashed to tell the press that Adrian Gonzalez wasn’t brought to Boston to be a singles hitter, that Jon Lester can’t mail it in, and that if Jacoby Ellsbury can’t play through nicks and pains they’ll give his roster spot to someone who can. He should privately remind Dustin Pedroia that if he’s going to go behind his back, he’s got a guy named Pedro Cirisco whose natural position is second base and is currently hitting .333, 50 points higher than he. (Note: Pedroia has publicly disavowed a spat with Valentine, either because it never happened, or because his agent told him to STFU.) 

As I said, odds are good that Valentine will be let go this winter, so why not give it a whirl? The Sox are going nowhere and the now-sainted Terry Francona couldn’t rule this bunch by kissing their butts. Let Bobby V kick them instead. It can’t get any worse.


Aimee Wilson CD Musically and Lyrically Ambiguous

Unto Us the Sun
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Aimee Wilson’s Unto Us the Sun is a clever play on words as a title; as an album it feels like music in search of a fronting play or movie. Her material is nouveau medieval-meets-introspective folk. Think Loreena McKennitt meets Suzanne Vega and Tori Amos. It’s very dramatic like McKennitt, though Wilson’s band and backup singers don’t have as much going on as McKennit’s solid troopers, nor does Wilson have McKennitt’s vocal chops. (In fact, way too many of her vocals are awash in aural soup that renders them indistinct.) Like Vega and Amos, many of the lyrics exude an ecumenical spirituality and like them, what it’s all supposed to mean is more clear in Wilson’s mind than it is to the listener. “Suri,” for instance has been the name a Muslim ruler, but also an Indian clan, a flower, and poet. I’m guessing Wilson intended to reference the poet, but the lyrics sound more like it’s  a goddess.   At its best, Wilson’s music sounds like the kind of compositions Robert Einhorn scores for silent movies; at its most pretentious it’s what one sees on PBS with middle-aged audiences nodding and fawning, though they’ve actually not a clue what any of it means.

My comments are a bit tough because this is, indeed, the sort of album one loves or hates. It’s also the kind that harsher critics than I call the folk equivalent of rock operas, though the label I’d use is New Age. Like most music in that genre, it’s inoffensive even when it’s over-the-top, and a lot of it has a soothing quality. I can’t say any of it grabbed me. As I said in my opening remarks, it felt like music that needed another context to bring it to life. If your cup of tea is chamomile, you might find more enjoyment than I.  My brew of choice is strong coffee. –Rob Weir


An NL Team for Boston?

Time to merge caps? 

I’ve been doing some research in Cooperstown, so naturally I’ve been thinking about the National Pastime. A lot of my research involves professional baseball’s early years–back when there were teams in places such as Troy, Hartford, Providence, and Worcester. Those teams are long gone, as are franchises such as the Brooklyn Dodgers, the St. Louis Browns, the Washington Senators, the Montreal Expos, and the Boston Braves. The latter has me thinking.

Boston is a very good baseball town. You have to know someone (or pay a scalper) to get a ticket at Fenway Park, which is sold to 101.5% capacity. The newspapers, local TV, and radio crackle with heated discussions about the Red Sox. In my estimation, Boston cares enough about baseball that MLB ought to consider placing a second team in the Old Towne. Or, more specifically, a new team ought to be just outside the Boston limits–maybe a new park in Foxborough to draw from both the ‘burbs, southeast Massachusetts (New Bedford, Fall River), and from nearby Providence, RI.

Expansion? No way! The talent pool is already clouded by bottom-dweller lineups more suited for AAA than MLB. I’m thinking take a page from the old days and move a team. My prime candidate would be the Tampa Bay Rays. Sooner or later MLB needs to face the fact that Floridians don’t care for major league baseball after April 1. The Rays, a very good team, are 29th in attendance, which what they were last year. They’ve never been better than 22nd, and they continually rank near the bottom of putting bottoms into seats. The average attendance is a pathetic 20,609 per game, slightly above Cleveland. (Cleveland, by contrast, has ranked as high as 4th in attendance in the past 10 years.) Oakland also lurks near the pits, a problem that eventually be fixed by shifting the franchise out of the ghetto to nearby San Jose. The Rays, though, are a hopeless case–bad stadium, an apathetic public, and two cities (St. Petersburg and Tampa) that simply aren’t major league towns. Move ‘em to Boston, I say.

The Red Sox would do everything they could to keep the Rays out of Boston and cry territory infringement, but this can be gotten around. First of all, move the Boston Rays (or whatever they are renamed) to the National League East, thereby creating a second Boston-New York rivalry. To balance the divisions, a team from the NL East would have to move to the AL East–Atlanta would be a good candidate.

MLB has some other critical franchises it may need to address eventually. I think taxpayer money was wasted in Miami, another team perennially at the bottom in attendance. It is averaging 28,405 per game this year–in a brand new stadium! As the slogan goes, wait’ll next year. The park is in Little Havana, a part of the city that (rightly or wrongly) makes Anglos nervous, but even if it was in the heart of Yuppie Miami, Floridians still won’t support the team. Mark my words–in four or five years there will be discussion of relocation. Kansas City could use a change of scenery too–to some city that has entrepreneurs with enough money to spend to put a competitive team on the field. Other candidates for a relocated team: Montreal with a new stadium, Memphis, Louisville, Buffalo, and Monterrey, Mexico. But let’s start small; for heaven’s sake move the Rays to someplace that will support them–like Boston.