BOSTON -- This should trump anything that takes place in the game. Given the downbound train the Red Sox have become, that may be just as well.
The Sox are assembling for their annual team photo at Fenway Park on Thursday afternoon -- there was a sign on the clubhouse door advising players to plan on donning their home whites instead of the usual warm-ups. Cold War Kremlinologists should be imported for the occasion.
Remember the old Soviet Union? Power would change hands, which inevitably meant a shuffling of where the party apparatchiks stood in relation to the new boss, and the Soviet watchers in the West would try to figure out what it all meant. Some faces were scrubbed from official photos, and some people simply disappeared.
Anyway, we're not expecting any blood to be shed on Dave Mellor's lawn Thursday, but it should be worth watching who takes their places where, especially since it's not just the players who will be shot -- I mean, photographed. The entire organization, from the ownership to the ushers and everyone in between, usually assembles in the stands, and after the team poses on risers in the outfield, everyone grabs a seat for more pictures.
We assume that John W. Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino will sit together, but what if they don't? The Troika has avoided questions about whether Lucchino has inked the extension he was supposed to sign this year, and if he should somehow be relegated to something less than a position among equals, could that signal regime change? Extreme long shot, of course, but worth keeping an eye on.
And what of first-year general manager Ben Cherington? Does he stand in solidarity with his baseball operations brethren or reluctantly take his place at Lucchino's side?
Even more intriguing will be the placement of Bobby Valentine and his coaches. Bob McClure is gone, eliminating that awkward scene, but if smiling Bobby V. is front and center, as would be expected, where will Gary Tuck line up? If it's his call, with the catchers would be a safe guess, but regardless of where he ends up, expect some distance -- maybe on the far side of Tim Bogar.
Will the medical staff show or be too embarrassed by this epic run of injuries?
If Jacoby Ellsbury is hovering on the fringes, does that signal he expects to be traded this winter?
What about David Ortiz? Will he be given a featured spot or will he, too, be edging toward the periphery, resigned to the fact the club won't give him what he wants to return next season?
Think of all the guys you never imagined would pop up in this year's photo: Pedro Ciriaco, Daniel Nava, Scott Podsednik, Mauro Gomez, Clayton Mortensen. Think of how stumped you'll be 20 years from now, trying to put names to the faces.
Think of Johnny Pesky and Carl Beane, who would have been proudest on this day.
Photos of past Sox teams -- the World Series winners of '04 and '07, the epic '75 collection, the '67 Impossible Dreamers, any team with Ted -- are proudly displayed in the taverns, Legion halls, sports bars and homes throughout every city, town and hamlet in New England. They recall stories, memories, affection.
The guess here is the official 2012 Boston Red Sox photo will not enjoy as wide a circulation. Usually, they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, two words might do.