Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy was talking to reporters before last night's game at Camden Yards when Bill Gould, chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, wandered into the dugout.
He was checking up on baseball's latest work stoppage: the '96 Red Sox.
Actually, Gould is a longtime Sox fan with considerable influence in baseball's corridors after helping end the 1994-95 strike.
Maybe he was looking for a way to have this season canceled, in the fashion of the '94 World Series.
What Red Sox fan hasn't contemplated that fantasy in the last week?
Kill the season! Pretend it never happened!
Baseball-crazy New England would rejoice if Bud Selig announced such a measure today.
To say that the Red Sox are off to a poor start is to say that Greg Norman didn't quite come through in the clutch at the Masters.
Or that we had a little snow over the winter.
The Sox's 6-1 loss to the Orioles last night at chilly Camden Yards dropped their record to 2-11.
"This is getting monotonous," Kennedy said.
The start is the Sox's worst in 69 years, since Babe Ruth was hitting cleanup for the Yankees.
How bad is it?
They have scored 41 runs and allowed 83.
They're 8 1/2 games behind the Orioles after playing 13 games, which is almost impossible.
At the rate they're going, they'll be the first team in history to be eliminated by Memorial Day.
"We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but right now it's very dim," said pitcher Jamie Moyer.
How bad is it?
Six American League pitchers -- Mike Mussina, David Cone, Andy Pettitte, Roger Pavlik, Brad Radke, Sterling Hitchcock and Greg Keagle -- each have more wins than the Sox.
The Sox lead the majors with 21 errors and 19 unearned runs allowed.
They haven't scored a run in the fourth inning all season.
And they have Brad Pennington warming up in the bullpen.
Things are so bad that their manager is already spewing bromides.
It's way early for bromides.
"When you climb a mountain, you don't jump over it, you climb step by step," Kennedy said before last night's game. "That's the way I take it, that we've got a mountain to climb."
Kennedy had to be exhausted by the time the game began. Not from climbing the mountain. He'd been in meetings all day.
There was the meeting with the front office early in the day. Then there was the meeting with the players before batting practice.
Then there was the meeting with reporters, at which Kennedy revealed that he had also met with slumping shortstop John Valentin.
The front office meeting was pretty shrill, no doubt. The Sox thought they had a decent team going into the season, a team with enough quality to challenge the Orioles and Yankees in the AL East. They won the division in a runaway last year, remember.
"We all feel the talent is there and it's just a matter of when that talent breaks out," Kennedy said. "We're 12 days into a season, coming off a very good year. That isn't ample time to quit on anybody."
Last year was one of those years when everything went right for the Sox, though. Question marks turned into career years throughout the lineup, rotation and bullpen.
Such magic is always difficult to renew.
The Sox went into the season with lots of punch, decent pitching and lousy defense.
"If there's one thing we felt good about, it was the hitting," Kennedy said.
Now the hitting has gone south, too. The Sox haven't scored in 23 innings.
"We're south all right, no doubt about that," Kennedy said.
Mo Vaughn, last year's AL MVP, has one homer and five RBI. Jose Canseco is hitting .234. Valentin is hitting .156 with no homers.
"I told Mo that he didn't need to try to be every player on the field, just be Mo," outfielder Kevin Mitchell said. "He's the leader on this team. He's trying so hard to go out there and do what he can. But he's overdoing it. That can create problems."
Kennedy stressed that point, among others, at his meeting with the players before yesterday's game.
He told them that the season had just begun, that it was far too soon to panic, that it was wrong to worry about furthering the poor start.
"If you think about consequences, you're doomed to failure," he said. "We can't make up eight games in one day."
Kennedy was upbeat before the game, as managers always are.
"How are you going to start playing better defense?" someone asked.
"Maybe the meeting will help," he said.
After the game, he sat in his office, leaned back in a chair and quietly answered questions. After a few minutes there was a pause.
"I only got so many answers, guys," he said.
"I only got so many answers, guys, and I think I've used just about all of them."
Pub Date: 4/17/96