Here we go again.
That is what Red Sox fans have to be saying to themselves after the Boston Globe reported this morning that a “wedge” is already developing between general manager Ben Cherington and manager Bobby Valentine.
Admittedly, this is not a good look for the Red Sox right now. After the discord that enveloped the organization during the fall of 2011, fans had hoped that the new faces brought in to lead the franchise would bury the past and move forward.
Then the reports began to emerge that Cherington didn’t even want Valentine in the first place; he preferred Dale Sveum, the former Brewers manager and Sox third base coach, who was instead tabbed by former GM Theo Epstein to manage the Chicago Cubs. Valentine, it seemed, was the type of big name the owners (led by Larry Lucchino) preferred to lead the team.
Since they sign the checks, the owners got their way.
Now it seems the philosophical differences between Cherington and Valentine are coming to the forefront. The Globe article cites two key disagreements as the focal points of this dysfunction: Valentine’s desire to make Jose Iglesias the starting shortstop vs. Cherington’s feeling that Iglesias needs more seasoning at Triple-A; and Valentine’s desire to put Daniel Bard back in the bullpen vs. Cherington’s feeling that Bard will succeed as a starter.
What I fail to see about this whole difference of opinion is why it is such a big deal.
Yes, one would prefer to see the manager and GM on the same page at all times with regard to player development, but that is simply never the case in professional sports, particularly baseball. The manager’s day-to-day, one-on-one involvement with the players creates a different relationship with the team than the one the GM has. Both perspectives are equally important, as together the manager and GM shape the present and future of the team, but their different experiences are naturally going to beget different visions of how the team should be shaped.
Valentine has been known to clash with GMs before, having had a very difficult relationship with Steve Phillips when he was with the New York Mets. The Red Sox knew all this when they hired him.
Both the best and worst part of the Bobby Valentine experience is that he loves to talk. He will say pretty much anything if you put a microphone in his face. Sometimes, this is a good thing; his ability to be a lightning rod and occupy the media diverts negative attention away from his players and allows them to just go out and play baseball.
In a market like Boston, that ability to distract is a huge asset.
On the other hand, sometimes the things he says can run contrary to what others in the organization want or believe. While this differing viewpoint is obviously not preferred, it is going to happen in any organization no matter what business it is. Not everyone is going to agree.
Ultimately, with regard to many of the personnel decisions, Cherington is going to have most of the say. He is the decider. If he wants to demote Iglesias, it is his prerogative to do so and Valentine can’t do anything about it.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact, though, that these men are both professionals. They don’t have to like each other, but they both know that keeping their jobs relies solely on their ability to work together. It may not be the marriage they wanted, but it is the one they have.
Fans should have some faith that Cherington and Valentine will make the relationship work. It is still in its infancy, after all.
There may be bumps along the way like this one, but both men have the same goal: to bring the Red Sox a championship in 2012. As long as that remains a constant, they will learn to play nice and find some middle ground.
And if that doesn’t work, there’s always couples therapy.