Sunday Discussion: Look, A Rift!

Just imagine that he's staring at Ben Cherington and snarling "This town ain't big enough for the both of us." Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Spring training has a way of creating tempests in teapots. Take, for example, what's been going on in Florida. An Eastern Division team coming off the worst September collapse in franchise history faces a serious question at shortstop. The team had recently traded away a reliably productive shortstop, intending to replace him with a younger, cheaper alternative. That alternative showed promise, and as spring training approached, it was clear who'd be taking the reins at short. March can throw a wrench into those kind of plans, though, and all of a sudden scouts are being wowed by a 22-year-old prospect who can flat-out pick it at short. And though his bat is unproven, it's conceivable that he could steal away the starting gig if he keeps up his strong performance down in Florida.

Clearly, the Atlanta Braves face a potentially team-shattering dilemma, and as the battle lines are drawn in the Pastornicky-Simmons struggle for shortstop supremacy, the franchise will certainly suffer. Positional uncertainty, as we all know, is the strongest sign that a front office has turned into the Danish royal family. No doubt soon Fredi Gonzalez will be stabbing Frank Wren with his own poisoned rapier. Trying times for the Braves.

That, anyway, is what the storyline would be were the Braves still playing their home games on Huntington Avenue. Being in Atlanta, they don't have to deal with stuff like this wondrous piece from the Globe's Chris Gasper. But we're in Boston, where everything has to have a deeper storyline, where lineup changes are discussed with the theological fervor of a fourth-century church council. So I guess it's worth asking y'all if you see anything at all to this.

The column in question starts with three planks of evidence. One: that Bobby Valentine has called Jose Iglesias "major-league ready," despite the front office's desire to season him further in Triple-A. Two: that the same Valentine has openly questioned whether Daniel Bard's transition to the rotation is a good idea. Three: that Valentine's last run in the bigs ended with a rather bitter and public feud with his then-GM Steve Phillips. Toss in a few well-worn tales of Bobby V's clear egomania, and a cover of the November classic "Ben Cherington wanted Dale Sveum and he's been pouting ever since," and the conclusion is clear: Bard and Iglesias are not so much players as they are pawns in the epic chess match between Valentine and Cherington for the soul of the Red Sox.

I suppose it's possible there's a simpler explanation. Valentine could be using the media to motivate his players (Iglesias with the promise of a major-league job, Bard with the threat of losing his starting role), as he's notably done before. Or he could just be a guy who thinks out loud, and is willing to talk openly about the thought process that goes into building an Opening Day roster. One could even point out that Ben Cherington is not Steve Phillips. And, for that matter, if he were Steve Phillips, the Sox would have way, way bigger problems than arguing over who's starting at short.

No, it's probably the epic chess match thing. With the winner moving on to a lightsaber duel to the death with Larry Lucchino upon the top of the Pru. Who knows. As I imagine has become clear, my patience for this sort of wildly speculative writing is pretty much shot. But I'm still willing to hear solid arguments on this. Is there a "rift," or the potential makings of one, in the Sox organization? Can you foresee a situation where clashing dugout and front office egos harm the franchise's on-field production? Or is this all just another attempt to force grand narrative onto the inherently fluid nature of spring training?

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