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Soup of This Day #102: Like Resignation To The End, Always The End

November 20, 2011

The Kagu, New Caledonia’s ghost – Photo: Frank Wouters, 2006. Frank Wouters is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

A MacGuffin is a term that you tend to hear movie buffs float around from time to time. If you are a movie buff then look away now because you’re about to get the Longworth72 definition of a MacGuffin and it might make you wince a bit. Later on I’ll quote Hitchcock, quite possibly wildly out of context and this will almost certainly get you foaming at the mouth. I’m not saying you wouldn’t be justified either…

A MacGuffin is a plot element. It can be a physical item or it can be something more ephemeral, like a threat to life. What it is isn’t necessarily important – It’s enough that the characters in the story are driven by it. To put it another way you, as the viewer, don’t have to understand why the characters are motivated by the MacGuffin – You just have to accept that they are motivated by the MacGuffin.

The Maltese Falcon of the eponymous film is a classic example of a MacGuffin. Yeah, everyone is chasing it but what it is doesn’t really matter to the story. The plot is around everyone wanting it – It could have easily been the New Caledonian Kagu and if it was desired enough then that would be ok too.

The Kagu is an actual bird that is endemic to New Caledonia. You should read about it. The story of this enigmatic ghost of the forest is a little sad because it’s largely flightless, spending all of it’s time close to the ground.

As do cats and rats.

Both of which kinda like to eat Kagu and/or Kagu eggs.

So the ghost is in danger of being called that because it is actually a ghost. As opposed to being labelled thus as a metaphorical reference to it’s grey colouring.

To sport:

The role of Manager for the Boston Red Sox is rapidly becoming a MacGuffin. It’s been 50 days since Tito left Fenway and the main plot-line is now almost more about how the Sox are acquiring the new guy, rather than who the new guy actually is.

The story so far is that Theo Epstein, as the GM of the Red Sox, started the search for Tito’s replacement, pretty much the day Francona left. Unfortunately this day was not too much later followed by the day Theo himself left, head-hunted by the Cubs. Theo’s Fenway deputy, Ben Cherington, took over the search and lined up a series of interviewees. They were largely younger, hungry, minor-league guys who had some interim management experience at best. Step forward Sandy Alomar Jr, Torey Lovullo, Pete Mackanin, Dale Sveum and Gene Lamont.

Ok, so Gene Lamont is 64 and has had 7 years as a Manager for the White Sox and the Pirates. He’s possibly the red herring, the plot device designed to throw everyone off the scent.

Of this group Sveum seemed to have the nod – from Cherington anyway. The rookie GM looked to be aiming for a malleable mid to longterm prospect, 1 who could work with the baseball department. Sveum seemed to fit – he’d been the Sox 3rd base guy in 2004/05 so he knows Fenway but he also seemed to have an edge that would be welcome post 2011 meltdown. Theo Epstein has described him as having a ‘rare ability to hold players to high standards and hold them accountable, while also earning their respect and admiration.’ This kind of adherence to a standard that presumably didn’t include fried chicken meant that Dale got a 2nd interview and scuttlebutt had him as the new dugout boss down Yawkey Way.

Except, after Sveum had lunch meeting with the ownership triumvirate of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, the Sox announced they were still searching. The Cubs on the other hand announced that they were done searching and Theo signed Dale Sveum to helm the Chicago outfit. That nice quote from Theo that I referenced above came at the Cubs unveiling of their new Manager yesterday.

And now we’re back into the hunt and a new front runner has emerged: Bobby Valentine. Bobby was not in the original frame because he’s not young, has managed in the big time and as a forceful 61yr old media statesman he’s not really malleable. Actually he seems to be about as flexible as a piece of 2 by 4. Which some, possibly including the ownership group, might think is what the Fenway clubhouse needs across the back of it’s collective heads.

I’m on record as saying I’m not the guy to consult over the new Manager. As covered in Soup #96 I was wrong about Roy Hodgson for Liverpool FC. I’d seen him as the experienced internationalist who would bring calm and structure to a team of superstars.

Or not, as it turns out.

Bobby Valentine has some similarities with Roy: He’s experienced – He has MLB managerial stints with Texas and the Mets under his belt, totalling some 15 years. He’s also an internationalist, having twice led the Chiba Lotte Marines in the Japanese Pacific League. Whilst he experienced some success in Japan there are a couple of flags on his MLB time – Particularly at the end of his Mets tenure when he barely seemed to keep a lid on an out-of-control clubhouse of egos.

The Red Sox may already have that scenario in play.

Oh, and Valentine is described as a ‘longtime friend’ of Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino. To be fair, I’m not all that sure that being a ‘longtime friend’ in the cut-throat world of MLB really counts for much but the perception is there – Valentine would be an owner’s Manager, not necessarily a GM’s guy…

Alfred Hitchcock was an early proponent of the MacGuffin. In a 1966 interview he illustrated the use of such a device:

‘It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says “What’s that package up there in the baggage rack?”, and the other answers “Oh, that’s a McGuffin”. The first one asks “What’s a McGuffin?”. “Well”, the other man says, “It’s an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands”. The first man says “But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands”, and the other one answers “Well, then that’s no McGuffin!”. So you see, a McGuffin is nothing at all.’

I think the Red Sox can narrow down the search – The new Manager is out there trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands. I hope he gets back soon.

Like Resignation To The End, Always The End

  1. I haven’t heard a single name mentioned in conjunction with that job that I find appealing. That being said, I have not given the subject a great deal of thought as to who the Sox should hire to sweep up the clubhouse of all that post-season rubble. Apparently, neither have the Sox. I am surprised it has taken this long. Clearly, when Tito was shown the door there was no “Plan B” for Boston.

    • Yeah, it’s not an inspiring line-up, that’s for sure. The Red Sox reacted to the drama around September with just more drama, shuffling off experienced hands Tito and Theo with some haste and yep, no Plan B. The contrast with St Louis is pretty stark – Team wins World Series, Manager steps aside, replacement found and implemented – No fuss succession planning right there. Even Atlanta, who suffered a collapse almost as great as the Sox, have barely made the news. The Braves fired their hitting coach. So far that’s it. Maybe they’ll get around to firing their Manager (I hope not and this is the club that stuck by Bobby Cox for 2 decades so there’s no form) but I’m guessing they’ll get a plan in place before they do so.

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