Theo Epstein and Terry Francona have been linked for eight years in the Red Sox organization.
They've been lauded together as the central figures in the best decade in team history. This month, they were side-by-side as targets in a budding rumor that suggested the two were not seeing eye-to-eye.
And on Wednesday night at Camden Yards, they were paired once more in a quest for answers.
"This is one for the ages, isn't it?" Epstein said in the moments after a gut-wrenching loss teamed with a Tampa Bay Rays win to end Boston's season. "We played poorly in September. You can't sugarcoat this. This is awful. We did it to ourselves, put ourselves in a position for a crazy night like this to end our season. Shouldn't have been this way. [We went] 7-20 in September. If we go 9-18, we're where we want to be, and 9-18 is winning a third of your games? The worst teams in baseball win a third of their games so there's no excuse.
"We did this to ourselves."
Down the hall, speaking in a rather hushed tone, Francona gave his reaction.
"You want to go home when you dictate, not when somebody makes you," he said. "It's extremely disappointing."
There are myriad issues to analyze with the Red Sox, both in terms of what went wrong in September and in terms of how to fix it. Not a minute after Orioles walked off with the victory, the first few words were uttered on Twitter and in chat rooms as to who is to blame, with both Francona and Epstein getting some immediate heat.
That will continue. It's just a natural result of the worst September collapse in baseball history, something that demands action on some front. Epstein knows this all too well.
"You can't deny that this happened," he said. "Just because it was preceded by four months of being the best team in baseball doesn't mean that it didn't happen. We'll have to take a very close look at everything that's not right, we have to fix. That includes the whole organization.
"If there's any silver lining from the whole thing it's that you can't look away. If there's anything that's not the way you want it you have to address it now. That process is going to be difficult but it's something we have to do."