Leave the Red Sox,take the cannolis

Still haunted by Len Bias

Leave the Red Sox, take the cannolis, part 2

Page 2's Bill Simmons concludes his comparisons of two dysfunctional families: the Red Sox and the Corleones.

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of The Sports Guy’s summary of the 2001 Red Sox season by using quotes from his favorite movie, “The Godfather.” If you missed part 1, click here to check out quotes Nos. 1-24.

bill simmonsLet’s start part 2 with a special section of quotes dedicated to embattled Sox GM Dan Duquette, who officially changed his name to Embattled Sox GM Dan Duquette this week. It wasn’t just his personnel misfires, or the CIA-level secrecy, or his inability to reprimand Sox players for boorish behavior, or his creepy personality (what was up with his serial killer routine during the “Outside the Lines” show on the Manny signing?), or the fact that he couldn’t finish .500 with the highest payroll in team history, or the way he approached his job like he was a roto GM.

I mean, he failed spectacularly. Even Sofia Coppola’s casting in “The Godfather III” wasn’t this big of a misfire. His “revamped” farm system bombed miserably (you couldn’t even field a softball team of Sox-produced ballplayers who actually made the majors in the past seven years). The Everett Saga made the Wil Cordero Era look like a barrel of laughs by comparison. And he handled so many situations so poorly (the departures of Mo Vaughn, Roger Clemens, Mike Stanley and Jeff Frye, the Everett-Jimy debacle, long-term extensions for the wrong players, Pedro’s ’01 comeback, etc.) that it boggled the mind. It’s like he went out of his way to antagonize people.

Some quotes that sum everything up:

25. “What guarantees can I give you, Mike? I am the hunted one. I missed my chance.”
After the brazen Jimy firing, he could have salvaged his job if the Kerrigan Era worked out. Now he might as well be sitting at Louis’ Restaurant — talking in Italian to Michael Corleone and preparing his forehead for the bullet parmigiana.

(By the way, if you live outside of Boston and always wanted to know what the Derek Lowe Face looks like, watch the Louis’ Restaurant scene and check out Michael’s face right before he shoots Solazzo and McCluskey. That’s the face.)

26. “He’s still alive! They hit him with five shots and he’s still alive!”
In a related story, Roger Clemens has gone 88-33 since the winter of ’96, when Duquette pushed him out of town and confidently told the press that Clemens’ career was in decline. Just for the record, I wholeheartedly agreed with the Duke at the time … so I shouldn’t be running the Sox, either.

27. “Dammit, if I had a war-time consigliere, a Sicilian, I wouldn’t be in this shape! Pop had Genco, look what I got!”
Even Sonny didn’t second-guess Tom Hagen as much as Duke second-guessed Jimy on his WEEI radio show over those first few months.

(By the way, when will the term “consigliere” start creeping into our everyday lives? It has an immense amount of potential, doesn’t it? Couldn’t we at least start calling Don Zimmer “Joe Torre’s consigliere” during this year’s playoffs, just to see if it catches on? I’m still holding out hope for this one.)

28. “Barzini will move against you first. He’ll set up a meeting with someone that you absolutely trust, guaranteeing your safety. And at that meeting, you’ll be assassinated.”
Sage advice from the Godfather … and in retrospect, it didn’t seem like Duquette had anyone providing him with sage advice over the last few years. Warrants mentioning.

29. “No more meetings, no more discussion, no more Solazzo tricks. You give them one message — I want Solazzo. If not, it’s all-out war, we go to the mattresses.”
Hey, Duke? This is how Red Sox fans are starting to feel about you. And believe me, we’re ready to go to the mattresses. Please pack up your stuff and go away. We’re asking nicely.

30. “Barzini’s dead. So is Philip Tattaglia. Moe Greene. Stracci. Cunio. Today I settled all family business. So don’t tell me you’re innocent. Admit what you did. Don’t be afraid. Come on … you think I’d make my sister a widow?”
But before you go, answer this one question: You wanted Mo Vaughn off the team because you thought he was a bad guy, yet you traded for Carl Everett 14 months later. How does this make sense? This was one of those “Why the two orders, Col. Jessup?” moments that nobody will ever figure out. Just dumbfounding.

Back to the rest of the Sox …

***** ***** *****
31. “Do you know who I am? I’m MOE GREENE! I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!”
To Pedro Martinez … who reportedly threw a bullpen tantrum in mid-September during a pregame throwing session, chewed out Kerrigan, ripped off his jersey, threw it down and stormed off. And he hasn’t been seen since. It’s difficult to criticize Pedro here — since he was clearly pitching at less than 100 percent and he clearly should have been shut down once the team fell out of the race — but at the same time, Pedro was supposed to be one of the leaders on this team. Hard to figure.

(Speaking of Moe Greene, the actor who played him was one of the all-time That Guys — Alex Rocco, who also played Jo Polniaczek’s Dad on “Facts of Life.” When they build the Joe Pantoliano Memorial “That Guy Hall of Fame” some day, Alex Rocco will definitely be a first-ballot inductee, along with Taggart from “Beverly Hills Cop,” Rocky Balboa’s loan shark boss in “Rocky,” Ivan Drago’s coach from “Rocky IV” and the guy who played Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs.”)

32. “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
To the next person who takes over the Red Sox … Intimidation will be the only way to convince another baseball team to take on the contracts of Offerman (one year remaining) and Everett (two years remaining). DEAD MEN WALKIN’!!!!!!

(Suggestion to the Angels: What about Offerman, Everett and four complimentary lap dances at the Foxy Lady, in exchange for Mo Vaughn and the final three years of his ludicrous contract? We’ll even throw in Kenny Anderson and Terry Glenn. Come on … please? Pretty please?)

33. “Leave the gun. Take the cannolis.”
Sound advice from Clemenza. And here’s some sound advice for Joe Kerrigan …

Joe, if you ever get another chance to take over a baseball team, don’t needlessly put yourself on the line from Day One with easy-to-come-back-and-haunt-you quotes like “I’m going to pick a set lineup and keep it that way.” When you follow that up by using 32 consecutive different lineups, well … it makes you look a little foolish.

(And just for the record, if they ever make a “Godfather” parody, Horatio Sanz has to play Clemenza. I will not argue about this.)

34. “Don’t ask me about my business, Kay.”
To Jimy Williams … that was Michael Corleone’s version of “Manager’s decision.”

35. “I knew that Santino was gonna have to go through all of this. And Fredo … argh. I never wanted this for you … I always thought, when it was your time, that you would be the one holding the strings. Sen. Corleone. Gov. Corleone. Something. There just wasn’t enough time, Michael. There wasn’t enough time.”

36. “We’ll get there, Pop. We’ll get there.”
For me … my favorite part of the movie. Always gets me.

37. “Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter … ‘s wedding. On the day of your daughter’s wedding. And I hope their first child will be a masculine child. I pledge my never-ending loyalty.”
Luca Brasi’s clumsy speech goes to the clumsiest moment of the Red Sox season … the Everett-Kerrigan shouting match that happened only five days after the Sept. 11 tragedies (and was exacerbated by Everett’s claims that Kerrigan called him a racial slur in January, after which the team ultimately sent Crazy Carl home for the rest of the season). Coming so close to Sept. 11, the incident made you feel angry and embarrassed to be a sports fan in the first place. Probably the first time I ever wished during a baseball season that the Red Sox would just go away. Seriously.

(Quick Everett observation: Not since Jim Rice developed rigor mortis between the ’87 and ’88 seasons has a Red Sox player declined so quickly and abruptly from one season to the next. Once a .300/30 switch-hitter with a decent glove and enough power to carry the team for a few games on end, Everett simply fell apart in 2001 — he put on weight, couldn’t hit righties, couldn’t run anymore and made Manny look like a young Fred Lynn in the field. Just a shocking collapse. It’s like he aged in dog years.)

38. “I’m an American hiding in Sicily … My name is Michael Corleone … There are people who will pay a lot of money for that information … But then your daughter would lose a father … instead of gaining a husband.”
The smoothest move in the movie goes to the smoothest Duquette move of the season … stealing Oogie Urbina from the Expos for Tomo Ohka and another prospect (in case you’re scoring at home, “Tomo Ohka” means “Brian Rose” in Japanese). Great move on paper. Not only did Oogie settle down the bullpen, he gave us a closer named Oogie. Can you put a price on that kind of fun? I think not.

On the flip side …

39. “You told me to make you dinner!”v
40. “Hey, bah fangul, huh?

41. “Ah, bah fangul you!”

To Urbina … who nearly started a brawl on Monday night after Wakefield and Nixon asked him to turn his boom box down on the airplane to Tampa Bay — maybe my favorite “Dopey Clubhouse Incident” of the season. Did any team in the history of baseball have worse chemistry than the Red Sox this season? I keep waiting for them to sign Shannen Doherty and Janeane Pettibone for the final week.

(Speaking of the Bah Fangul scene, isn’t it disorienting to see Adrian Balboa get slapped around like that? I keep waiting for her to scream at Carlo, “You can’t win!” or “Hit me all you want, but it’s not gonna bring Apollo back!”)

42. “Tom, can you get me off the hook? For old times’ sake?”
43. “Can’t do it, Sally.”

To Bichette, O’Leary, Lansing, Arrojo, Nomo, Rod Beck and David Cone … That’s about $30 million-$35 million worth of veterans coming off next year’s payroll. Now if we can only find the right person to spend it.

Just for the record, I’ll miss Coney (the classy veteran who mistakenly thought he was joining a playoff contender, never realizing that this was “General Hospital” with bats and gloves) and Beck (the perennially overworked reliever who allowed an impossible 15 homers in 80.2 innings before his arm finally fell off last week — he’s having Tommy John surgery this week). Two guys that I didn’t mind rooting for … they were few and far between on this motley team.

(And if you think we’ve reached the section in this feature where I offer advice to the next GM and throw out names of free agents like Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon … well, you have another thing coming. Seems inane to discuss the 2002 Sox when the franchise hasn’t even been sold yet, when we don’t know if Pedro and Nomar will be healthy and we don’t know about next year’s budget. I don’t even feel like thinking about it yet. You’ll just have to wait.)

44. “Whaddya think, this is like the army, where you shoot them a mile away? You gotta get up close like this … BADDA-BING … you blow their brains all over your nice Ivy league suit!”
One of my favorite quotes goes to one of my favorite moments of the season … Pedro’s eight-inning, four-hit, 13-strikeout shutout of the Yanks at Fenway. Those are the Fenway nights I miss most — Pedro with his fastball crackling, the crowd behind him, a no-hitter or a 15-strikeout game waiting to happen. And we savored every inning even while it was happening, maybe because we learned from the all-too-brief Bird/Orr Eras that greatness in sports is truly ephemeral.

We’ll be back on the “Sports Reporters,” after this.

(Unfortunately, that was Pedro’s final A-One performance before he injured his shoulder one week later, ending his unforgettable 26-month run as the “Dominican Larry Bird” — 71 starts, 511.1 innings, 708 strikeouts, 341 hits, 87 walks, 27 hit batsmen, 104 earned runs, a 48-11 record and a 1.83 ERA. I can’t even talk about this without getting upset. Let’s just move on.)

45. “Now you listen to me, you smooth talking son-of-a-bitch! Let me lay it on the line for you and your boss, whoever he is. Johnny Fontaine will never get that movie! I don’t care how many dago guinea wop greaseball goombahs come out of the woodwork!”
46. “I’m German-Irish.”
47. “Well, lemme tell you something, my Kraut-Mick friend. I’m gonna make so much trouble for you that you won’t know what hit you.”

The goofiest exchange of the movie goes to the goofiest moment of the Sox season … Everett ripping into Jimy Williams during a clubhouse meeting in Oakland (the beginning of the end of the Jimy Era). That nearly replaced Rickey Henderson and Bobby Bonilla playing cards in the Mets clubhouse during a ’99 playoff game as the “All-Time Clubhouse Moment You Wish Had Been Captured On a Surveillance Camera.”

(Note: ESPN needs to create a reality-TV sports show and throw Everett in the same house for six weeks with Bryan Cox, Isaiah Rider, Derrick Coleman, Bill Romanowski, Arvydas Sabonis’ wife and Martina Hingis, to be held at Cedric Ceballos’ summer house on Lake Havasu. We could even get Rickey and Bobby Bo in there for a guest appearance to re-enact that card game. I’m telling you, I should be running a network …)

48. “I forego the vengeance of my son. But I have selfish reasons. My youngest son was forced to leave this country because of this Solazzo business. I have to make arrangements to bring him back safely and clear him of all these false charges. But I’m a superstitious man, and if some unlucky accident should befall him — if he should get shot in the head by a police officer, or if he should hang himself in his jail cell, or if he’s struck by a bolt of lightning … then I’m going to blame some of the people in this room. And that I will not forgive.”
My favorite monologue in the movie goes to my favorite game of the season … Nomar’s improbable “2-for-4 with a dinger” comeback at Fenway in late-July. Positively Brando-esque.

49. “They want to have a meeting with me, right? We’ll set up a meeting. It will be me, McCluskey and Solazzo. Let’s set the meeting. Get our informants to find out where it’s gonna be held. Now we’ll insist it’s a public place — a bar, a restaurant, some place where there’s people so I’ll feel safe. They’re gonna search me when they first meet me, right? So I can’t have a weapon on me. But if Clemenza can figure a way to have a weapon planted there for me … then I’ll kill ’em both.”
Michael Corleone’s breakout moment goes to Trot Nixon … who had a breakout moment of sorts as the de facto leader of the Red Sox down the stretch (he was the only guy willing to express his dismay/disgust with some of the malingerers and troublemakers, through the press, on the record). A Nixon-Everett brawl in the locker room would have had Luke-Darth repurcussions in Red Sox Nation. … I’m still rooting for it, frankly.

50: “Tattaligia’s a pimp. He never could have outfought Santino. But I didn’t know until this day that it was Barzini all along.”
To the Jimy Williams Era … It’s finally starting to make sense. Count me among the fools who believed that this “talented” Red Sox team was being held back by Jimy. In retrospect, Jimy kept them going.

I’ll explain …

Jimy made so many bizarre/ludicrous/inexplicable moves and turned himself into such a unique “Peter Sellers in ‘Being There’ “-type character that he deflected everyone’s collective focus away from the matters at hand — that the 2001 Red Sox were an aging, limited, dysfunctional team that couldn’t run, couldn’t play defense, couldn’t get along and couldn’t function without its three best players (Nomar, Pedro and Varitek).

Was this Jimy’s intention? Of course not. By all accounts, he pulled the same routine in Toronto back in the late-’80s. But the “Rain Man” act worked for this particular team — you can’t have a rational person managing a bunch of lunatics. And we found that out the hard way. Anyway, it wasn’t Jimy’s fault. … I didn’t know until this day that it was Duquette all along.

Bonus quote: “How did things ever get so far? I dunno. It’s so unfortunate, so unnecessary …”

Translation … there’s always next year.

Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.

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Bill Simmons is the founding editor of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

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