As baseball season winds down in Boston and does so far too early for the third consecutive year theres a calm thats settled over Fenway Park, the team that plays there, the fans (both real and imaginary) that pack the stands and the media that orchestrates the annual frenzy.
Its as if we all spent the last calendar year withstanding a relentless storm; having our lives turned upside down and being driven to the brink of insanity by the chaos around us. And now that the storm (aka any semblance of hope for a successful season) has moved out, its given everyone a chance to step outside, catch their breath, take stock of the damage and reflect on our respective craziness.
Looking back, I dont think theres anyone player, coach, executive, writer, reporter, fan, big green mascot involved with this Red Sox team who doesnt regret at least one aspect of the way they've acted over this past year. Whether it was something that was said to the media, something that wasnt said to the media, something that was written online, argued at a bar or screamed angrily from the stands, we all have at least one instance that we can reflect on with the benefit of distance and perspective and think: "Eh, I wish I could have that one back." (If you don't place yourself among this company, then you're a better man than I am. Also, you're a liar.)
Anyway, that brings me to a question that was thrown out and discussed last night on UNO's Sports Tonight: Has the media been too harsh on Bobby Valentine?
Or, another way to put it: Has the media been unfair to Bobby Valentine?
Of course, the answer to both questions is an undeniable, size-150-font YES.
The media has been and (especially) was ridiculously unfair to Valentine from the moment he was hired. And while I know that much of what happened is just the nature of the business, this particular situation was worse than anything I've ever seen.
The story I keep coming back to is the day that Bobby V. signed on to do a weekly radio spot with ESPN New York. Remember that little slice of hell? How half the media contingent around here reacted to the news as if they just uncovered a video of Valentine making sweet love to their wives? Yeah, you remember.
So, whatever happened to that weekly radio spot? Oh right. It's still there, and has been every week of this season, without issue. It's been such an unbelievable non-story that I'm sure more than three-quarters of Boston forgot that it even exists.
But at the time, it was an elaborate controversy; another GLARING example of why Valentine was a selfish, self-serving, egotistical prick who was more concerned with his own brand than he was anything having to do with the Boston Red Sox.
In a related story: It was crap.
During this time, everything thing that Valentine did (or didn't do), was painted with that same unreasonable brush. In the eyes of so many local media personalities, Valentine could literally do no right, and there's no question that the obsession with bringing him down before he even stood up, and then as he was trying played a major factor in 2012's legacy as one of the least enjoyable seasons in Red Sox history.
But like I said, we all made mistakes. We all got caught up in the craziness of last year's collapse and this year's struggles and overreacted in our own demented ways. Hell, in the last six months alone, I once spent more than 2,000 words comparing the Sox to a Kanye West mental breakdown, spent hours searching eBay for mean-spirited birthday presents for Josh Beckett and broke into Larry Lucchino's attic to land an interview with a dying and tortured sell-out streak.
And the bottom line is: None of it really mattered.
Even if the media was entirely unfair to Bobby V., it didn't make or break the season. The players who hated their manager didn't need any help. They were as a judgmental and shortsighted as the media themselves. You really think they would have played better or respected their manager more without all the media scrutiny?
And when Valentine is most likely let go at the end of this season, will that be the media's fault? No way. If the media had any real influence on that decision, Valentine would have been fired in April or at the All-Star Break, or after the big trade, or after any one of the million "FIRE BOBBY V NOW!" columns that were written over these past few weeks.
It's not about what's being said in the press; it's about what's going on in the field.
And fair or unfair, that's where Valentine failed. And that's why he's likely, and rather peacefully in the midst of this post-storm calm, on his way out the door.