David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
The Red Sox celebrated 100 years of Fenway Park with a pregame ceremony Friday that featured 212 returning players and a performance by a portion of the Boston Pops.
At this rate, Bobby Valentine may be lucky to survive 100 days.
It's never a good sign when the fired manager, in this case Terry Francona, is treated like a conquering hero while the current one, in this case Valentine, is under siege.
The Red Sox were thrilled when Francona, after initially saying no, accepted their invitation to take part in Friday's anniversary party.
But when the day ended in humiliating fashion, thanks to a 6-2 beatdown by the Yankees that felt much worse than the score, maybe the whole Francona fiesta wasn't the best idea with Valentine in the same building. Not with the Red Sox off to a 4-9 start, as well as having lost 29 of 40 games dating to last season.
When Francona emerged from the centerfield wall, the cheering was among the loudest of the afternoon. Kevin Millar compared the roar to a Learjet. Chants of "Ti-to! Ti-to!" serenaded him, but the fans took on a different tone long after Francona had departed.
In the ninth inning, with Fenway Park more than half empty, the chants began again. But this time the refrain was "We want Ti-to! We want Ti-to!" If the Red Sox fail to turn things around quickly, it probably won't be the last time those words are heard this weekend.
Can you say awkward? The flames had barely cooled on the Valentine-Kevin Youkilis-Dustin Pedroia firestorm, and here were the players behaving as if firing Francona was the biggest mistake since the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth.
"I know there was a lot of controversy about Tito not coming and stuff like that, but it was great to see him out there," Youkilis said. "I know this probably meant a lot to him because the fans love him, and as players, we love him, too. He did amazing things here."
That's putting it lightly. Under Francona's guidance, the Red Sox didn't just end an 85-year title drought, they won another ring three years later. And if the presence of Francona wasn't enough, the Fenway crowd was treated to Pedro Martinez and Millar on the dugout, pouring sparkling grape juice for fans, rallying the crowd to "Cowboy Up."
The Red Sox were fine Friday as long as they focused on the past. As for the present, it's not so pretty. The Yankees hammered five home runs off Clay Buchholz, but Valentine was the one who appeared to be shell-shocked afterward.
Valentine took more than the usual 10 minutes to get upstairs for the postgame news conference, prompting one reporter to ask if there had been a team meeting. The answer was no, and the media session proceeded uncomfortably, with questions spaced out by seat-squirming gaps.
The emotion-stirring ceremony? By that point, it felt as though it had happened in 1912.
"Before the game was spectacular. It was a well-orchestrated, major-league presentation of pride and glory," Valentine said. "It's a downer now."
For a team that stunningly fell short of the playoffs on the final day of the regular season last year after a swan dive of a September, this is the worst possible scenario. And Valentine looked as if he knew it at the end of his news conference. When it was over, he just sat there, staring straight ahead in silence as the room cleared out.
"We got the talent, we just need to execute," David Ortiz said. "I'm not going to spend the whole season just thinking about the talent that we have. We need to win games. We need to step up, do something different, make things happen. I'm frustrated. We got to fix things up."