Early-season failures will allow Bobby Valentine to manage the way he wants and mold the Boston Red Sox into the team he thinks they should be.
Bobby Valentine was supposed to turn the Red Sox around in 2012. Following a disastrous collapse last season, Valentine was brought in to replace Terry Francona, change the team dynamic and get the Red Sox back to the playoffs.
So far, Valentine has failed to turn the Red Sox into a contender. They have the talent and were the team that was the best in baseball for the bulk of the 2011 season. Despite struggling out of the gate and collapsing down the stretch, the Red Sox showed why many baseball pundits had them as World Series favorites.
Red Sox's Early-Season Struggles Aren't Valentine's Fault
With the team struggling, particularly the pitching staff, Valentine will be able to make the changes he wants and mold the Red Sox into winners once again.
Valentine’s first move, moving Daniel Bard back to the bullpen, should credit Mother Nature. If the game wasn’t rained out yesterday, this move would never have happened. However, sometimes all you need to do is catch a break, and this may be what Valentine needs.
Bard needs to move back to the bullpen for two reasons. First, the bullpen is atrocious, and Bard has a proven track record at the end of games and will instantly make the bullpen better. It won’t be the solution to all their bullpen problems, but it is a step in the right direction.
Secondly, Bard still doesn’t possess the control needed or a proven third pitch to be an effective starter. Moving him back to the bullpen may upset him, but it is what’s best for Bard and the Red Sox.
Bard would have been on an innings limit either way, and moving back to the bullpen will allow him to pitch the entire season.
If Bard proves effective and the team wins before his next scheduled start, Valentine won’t have to convince ownership and management that he should stay in the bullpen—the results will do it for him.
Once that move becomes effective, Valentine will have the ammunition needed and the confidence he seems to lack right now to start making other necessary moves.
Is This a One-and-Done Situation for Valentine?
Valentine knows that he is on a short leash despite reports that he received a vote of confidence from his bosses. In order to stick around, he will need to start makings moves to both the roster and the locker-room dynamic.
Other than Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis, the team seems to lack that drive needed to succeed. Adrian Gonzalez is an outstanding player, but as the highest-paid player on the team, he lacks the leadership ability that this team needs.
Valentine needs to take advantage of this terrible start and take control of the team. He will certainly piss off several if not all of the players on the roster, but someone has to light a fire under this team. They are 4-10 for the second straight year, and I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel with this roster.
It’s sad and scary to say this, but Daisuke Matsuzaka would provide a boost to this pitching staff.
Valentine has managed to patch together a lineup that has certainly scored enough to win. He needs to build upon that and start making similar moves to the starting rotation and the bullpen if they want to see .500 before June 1.
Valentine needs to pull a page out of the John Henry and Larry Lucchino handbook and give the players presents. However, this time, rather than giving them expensive headphones, Valentine needs to give them all mirrors and tell them if they wonder why they are struggling they should look no further than at themselves.
Managers are human, too, and they are allowed to make mistakes, but Valentine hasn’t had much success early on. He left Daniel Bard in too long during one start, failed to commit to shaking up the locker room when he criticized Kevin Youkilis and has failed on a number of bullpen decisions.
Just as the Red Sox need the pitching staff to go on a hot streak and carry the team, Valentine needs to go on a hot streak and start making better decisions.
So far, Valentine has been even-keeled during and after the games, regardless of the poor results. That hasn’t worked, and he needs to change things up. I don’t think calling out players will do much on a team that seems to defend themselves rather than listen to criticism.
Valentine needs to show emotion, and though it may only work once, he needs to pull a Lou Piniella and just go ballistic. It may be just what the team needs to turn things around.