In the final days of one of the most painful seasons of his career, Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine on Tuesday lay entangled with his bicycle at the bottom of a ditch next to the Central Park Reservoir.
On the wet, slippery path, Valentine was reading a text on his phone from Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox second baseman, and riding his bicycle. When he looked up, he had to swerve to avoid the umbrellas of two French tourists walking in front of him. The bike skidded, and he lost his balance and went careening head over pedals down the side of the hill by the road.
OK, there’s a lot here so we’ll start with the local stuff. Regular readers know I’ve been riding my bike around the city lately, including somewhat regular morning laps of the same Central Park loop that felled Mr. Bobby Valentine. On a personal note, I’m a little bummed I missed this as a) I would have been happy to come to Bobby V’s aid and share with him my feelings on Steve Phillips and b) I typically try to distract myself from the fact that I’m exercising by looking for celebrities on the path, so this would have been a banner day. (I always think I see Alan Arkin jogging but it turns out a lot of old New York guys just look like Alan Arkin.)
Anyway, to Bobby V’s credit, it’s easy to assume you’re safe to fumble with your iPhone while riding your bike around the park, especially during the hours when the path is free of auto traffic. But pedestrians, I’ve found, present far more troubling — if ultimately less dangerous — obstacles to bicyclists than cars, which behave way more predictably. Pedestrians will turn around and make eye contact with you then step right into your path as if they didn’t see you. And pedestrians with umbrellas, we know, are the very worst type. You really can’t ever lose focus.
As for Bobby V, it’s just a pie-in-the-face punchline to an absurdist play of a season. Remember, Mets fans, your opinions of Bobby Valentine a couple years ago? I can’t speak for you, but I loved Valentine in his tenure as the Mets’ manager and felt sure he was unfairly fired for Phillips’ shortcomings. Before his recent stint in Boston, he had all the makings of aTedQuarters hero: Sandwich innovator, fake mustache enthusiast, champion of Melvin Mora, relentless self-aggrandizer, baseball ambassador, manager of the only Mets team in my conscious lifetime to make the World Series.
What happened? Just a few weeks into his tenure with the Red Sox, Valentine appeared out of touch with his players and started throwing some under the bus — the exact opposite of the qualities we always credited him for while he was with the Mets. Did Valentine change, or did he not change enough? Or were the situations just so tremendously different that he was well-suited for one and utterly wrong for the other? Or is he just the fake-mustached face of the Mets’ success in the late 90s and the smirking image of the Sox’ futility now when in both cases it had way more to do with the guys on the field than the man on the bench?
I suspect it’s some combination. But at least he’s survived this latest fall, and it is good to hear he’s communicating with his star players.