The Boston Red Sox and the Boston Symphony. Together, they’re Boston’s two most venerable performing institutions. Both are wildly adored at home and on the road, respected for their artistry, and play in wonderful, turn of the century arenas. They have a lot in common. And because they do, they can learn a thing or two from each other. Manny tooting out Mahler on the oboe is certainly something we’d like to see. But more pertinently, it’s worth noting that if the BSO management had been paying better attention to the strategies of the Red Sox front office, they just might not find themselves in the unfortunate situation in which they are now embroiled. We refer, of course, to the injury to the BSO’s ailing maestro James Levine, who tore a rotator cuff while exiting the stage after a performance earlier this month. Now he’s out of commission for several months, and the orchestra is stuck, its scheduling and plans all atwitter. But that’s really just the least of it. Levine’s fall was the product of his already questionable health, and the truth is that, despite some good reviews, there are reports that there is already considerable dissention within the orchestra as to his leadership.
How does this relate to baseball? The BSO signed Levine to replace it’s outgoing conductor, Seiji Ozawa, in 2004. At the time, he was already showing serious signs of the debility that led to the fall that has now knocked him out. The BSO signed Levine despite this obvious red flag, and despite his refusal to give up his post at the helm of the Metropolitan Orchestra. (Imagine suiting up for the Yanks and the Sox—in the same season). This isn’t quite an Albert Belle-level catastrophe, but it’s hard not to see the BSO’s current predicament as the product of extremely poor vision in the front office, poor vision that led to an equally poor free agent signing. Maybe the BSO board should be talking to Theo.