Heads from Maine to Connecticut were scratched immediately last fall when the first words about the possible exile of Terry Francona as Red Sox manager were spoken. And when the Sox began canvassing people in the game with an eye toward hiring Bobby Valentine, the scratching intensified and spread to Arlington, Texas, and Flushing, N.Y. I held my tongue and my fingertips then, fully anticipating Valentine would be a monumental misfit. He has exceeded expectations in that regard.
Years ago, when Valentine was managing the Mets and I was a beat reporter covering them, I was asked about him by a member of the Red Sox front office. I withheld nothing in that private conversation. Nonetheless, Valentine was hired. The introduction of New Coke had a better chance for success.
The wrong man gets the job, not routinely but too often, in this game. See Eddie Haas with the Braves, Vern Rapp with the Cardinals, Joe Frazier with the Mets, Bill Russell with the Dodgers, Preston Gomez with the Astros, Alex Grammas and Jerry Royster with the Brewers, Maury Wills with the Mariners, Butch Hobson with the Red Sox, Haywood Sullivan and Jim Marshall with the A's, Norm Sherry with the Angels, Luis Pujols and Larry Parrish with the Tigers, Doc Edwards with the Indians, Russ Nixon with the Reds and Braves, A.J. Hinch with the D-backs, Dave Miley with the Reds and Billy Martin with the Yankees in 1979, '83, '85 and '88.
Now the Astros have a chance to hire the right man. He is Tim Bogar, the Red Sox's bench coach. He is bright, motivated, dedicated, sincere, balanced, personable, Minor League experienced and ready for his chance. And if, in fact, he and Valentine were not on the same page in their months at Fenway ... well, that's another factor in Bogar's favor.
He has interviewed with the Astros, the club he served as a Minor League manager in 2004 and 2005. He won't turn the big league team into a worst-to-first phenomenon -- the Astros don't have the talent at the Double-A and Triple-A levels necessary for that kind of U-turn -- but Bogar's touch will make the Astros' first American League season one of tangible improvement.
Of course, if the Red Sox are smart, they'll keep -- and promote -- Bogar.
New York. New York.
Wednesday: The Yankees swept a doubleheader, Andy Pettitte made his second successful comeback this season, Derek Jeter produced the 200th hit of his remarkable season and Ichiro partied like it was 2004.
Wednesday: The Mets lost 3-2 on a two-out, ninth-inning home run by Ryan Howard.
Thursday: The first-place Yankees gained a fifth successive victory, padded their division lead by a half game. Nick Swisher hit a grand slam.
Thursday: The Mets allowed eight runs in the first inning and a ninth-inning grand slam by Howard, mustered three hits, lost by 15 runs and were eliminated from postseason play. They allowed as many runs in nine innings as they have scored in their previous 10 home games.
Friday: The Yankees began a three-game home series against the Athletics, a team that could deny them a postseason berth if the Orioles win the American League East.
Friday: The Mets began a three-game home series against the Marlins, a team that could push them into last place in the National League East. The Mets led the Marlins by a half game.
The greatest difference in New York these days involves the Yankees and Mets. The Mets' weekend sweep of the Marlins hardly changed anything. The contrast is greater than the old, nine-inch black and whites that gave us Groucho's grainy "You Bet Your Life," and the gigantic screens that give replays and propaganda at the ballparks.
Only twice previously in the histories of New York's two baseball franchises has the disparity been so great -- 1962-1964 when the Yankees won a World Series and three pennants while the Mets averaged 113 losses, and 1977-1980 when the Yankees won two World Series, two pennants and three division championships while the Mets disintegrated in the aftermath of trading Tom Seaver and averaged 97 losses. Even when the Mets owned the city, 1985-1990, the Yankees produced a four-season sequence during which they averaged 90 victories.
The current disparity seems more pronounced because it's fresh and because the Mets are in their 51st season, not their first, and because the Yankees with all their hurdles (the absence of Mariano Rivera, Michael Pineda, Pettitte and Mark Teixeira) are counting magic numbers.
The Mets never will match the Yankees' history. No team will. But the overall disparity now seems to increase each year. In 2009, I suspected the Mets were in for five more years of suffering. I was wrong. Almost three years have passed and they still appear five years removed from a rewarding season. As difficult as it is for them to endure, it's almost more difficult to conceive.
I like Ike
And now the Mets are dissatisfied with Ike Davis? Are they back to preferring altar boys over players who can hit with a runner on second and prefer a postgame beverage to their hotel room? Unless they were to import two regulars with genuine offensive ability or an everyday player and a legit closer, dealing Davis would be a monumental mistake. Period.
Who among the Giants' hierarchy liked Barry Bonds, who among the Yankees' decision makers -- other than George Steinbrenner -- liked Reggie Jackson?
Davis isn't on the level of either player. But in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king and Davis is 30-home run man with a soft glove. If the Mets don't like him, they ought to just deal with it and let him produce until they produce or acquire a player of comparable skills.
One additional factor in favor of R.A. Dickey winning the National League Cy Young Award: he has lost fewer games than the other primary candidates. That says something. Dickey has six losses. Gio Gonzalez (eight), Clayton Kershaw (nine) and Johnny Cueto (nine) have lost more games. All four have made 31 starts. Two of them pitch for first-place teams, and Kershaw's team is in second. The Mets will be hard pressed to win 75 games.
Moreover, Dickey has the lowest ERA and the most innings in the league. That he has one less victory than Gonzalez and two fewer strikeouts than Kershaw serves his candidacy well.
Nowhere in the instructions to the Cy Young electorate is "value" mentioned, though it can be considered. And precedent exists for electing a pitcher from a challenged team. See Steve Carlton, 1972 Phillies; Zack Greinke 2009 Royals; Felix Hernandez, 2010 Mariners.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.