If owner George Steinbrenner could bring Billy Martin back four times to manage the New York Yankees, why can’t John Henry return Terry Francona to the Red Sox clubhouse just once? Not that Francona would be eager to help the man who pushed him out that door in the first place.

Someone needs to try to put this broken franchise back together, and Francona may have the best toolbox to do it. The Red Sox players did tune out the manager who treated them like professionals last summer. Deaf ears everywhere and too few put team ahead of self.

Now Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and the boys are living through a nightmare of their own making. Guilt alone could make them listen, wake them up. The desire to make amends can be powerful. Do they really want to be remembered as the beer-and-fried-chicken September losers?

Francona isn’t Saint Tito. He can’t mend broken bodies. But then, the injury excuse has worn thin.

The Yankees aren’t all that healthy. Baltimore plays with a patchwork lineup.

In 2004 and again in 2007, the Red Sox won the World Series and their fans thumbed their noses at the Yankees. It would be the Red Sox decade, maybe a Red Sox century if you felt real giddy. Instead this Red Sox version has been exposed as the team with no clubhouse leadership, no soul. No pitching, too. I’m sure there was a Yankees team that was the same. I just can’t remember when.

The television on the wall is showing Thursday night’s Red Sox-Orioles game from Camden Yards. Lots of empty seats. Not too long ago, thousands of Red Sox fans who couldn’t get good seats at Fenway Park without raiding their 401k for a scalper snapped up tickets to good seats in Baltimore. Not Thursday night. Not the night before.

Players and fans keep waiting for someone to rally around. Bring back Francona. He can’t put the ball in play or throw strikes but he, more than anyone else, can bring order to disorder.

In the meantime, current Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine is the sympathetic figure. More than predecessors Grady Little and Jimy Williams. For all his seeming insincerity, people tell me they feel sorry for Valentine, the absolute wrong guy for the wrong job at the worst time. But he’s believable when he talks about his foundering team and trying to communicate while everyone else is not.

Henry, team president Larry Lucchino, Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez sound more like the voices on political ads. You want to tune them out.

In their frustration, fans tell sports talk radio the Red Sox need to get rid of certain players with bloated, guaranteed contracts. Pitcher Josh Beckett heads that list. Can’t trade them, then dump them. Can’t do, say the talk show hosts. Red Sox ownership can’t have so much money tied up in dead contracts.

What’s the difference? Unless something changes, it’s a dead team. 

THE UNITED STATES beat China in the final medal count in the London Olympics, 104-88. My son is pretty pumped up over that. I didn’t get caught up this time. Years ago the U.S. was competing against the Soviet Union and the countries behind the Iron Curtain. Capitalism vs. communism, freedom vs. captive peoples. When you think about it, the Chinese are closet capitalists. Few liberties but the freedom to buy, buy, buy.

I like that a Swiss woman won the triathlon and a Frenchman won the pole vault and Hungary won three gold medals and more females from countries like Saudi Arabia competed. 

WHAT WAS Melky Cabrera thinking? The San Francisco Giants’ outfielder tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and his nice breakout season is poof. Another athlete, another deal with the devil. The lure of greater strength, greater recovery will aways be hard to resist. 

THE ATLANTA BRAVES tryout session that was scheduled for Monday at St. Joseph’s College has been canceled. Apparently facilities at NCAA schools are off limits to major league baseball for tryouts. There wasn’t enough time to move this tryout to another place. In this age of numerous summer leagues for college-age players and baseball showcases, who knew that old-fashioned tryout camps were still a path to a pro contract?

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveSolloway