Blame shouldn't lie with Valentine

Updated: April 22, 2012, 11:16 AM ET
By Buster Olney

BOSTON -- Most of the Red Sox players had scurried out of the Boston clubhouse by the time reporters arrived after Saturday's debacle. "I'm not talking today," David Ortiz said, before quietly exiting.

A few Red Sox players did stick around, from Mike Aviles to Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Felix Doubront, to talk about their historically horrific collapse. But most of the responsibility for answering questions had been left to Bobby Valentine. Seventeen days into his first season as manager of the Red Sox, his entrance into the packed press room felt a little like a condemned prisoner being marched in front of a firing squad. The pointed questions came at him from all directions, and he absorbed the full brunt of implication in each.

"I think we've hit bottom," he said. "If this isn't bottom, we'll find some new ends of the earth."

It became evident at Fenway on Saturday that so long as the Red Sox continue to play badly, Valentine will continue to answer for the sins of a franchise. The angry fans want to show their displeasure, and they can't boo owners John Henry and Tom Werner, who don't wear uniforms and don't appear on the field. They can't boo club president Larry Lucchino, nor general manager Ben Cherington. Theo Epstein is in Chicago now. Josh Beckett doesn't play every game, Carl Crawford isn't here yet. Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia have been spared.

So the fans booed Valentine, as he journeyed repeatedly to and from the dugout throughout Saturday's game. Alfredo Aceves surrendered the last of Boston's 9-0 lead on Saturday, when Nick Swisher clubbed a two-run double off the center field wall, and as Valentine emerged from the dugout to relieve the pseudo closer, the boos began. Valentine accepted the ball from Aceves, patted him on the backside as he walked off -- and the booing stopped.

Then, after Valentine handed the ball to a reliever and turned to walk to the dugout, the booing resumed. To review: One of the half-dozen pitchers who turned a 9-0 lead into a 15-9 loss was spared, but Valentine was booed. It's not business, it's personal.