Boston Red Sox: 10 Reasons Bobby Valentine Is on the Hot Seat
Bobby Valentine was hired to change the culture of the Boston Red Sox' clubhouse, rid the team of their epic September collapse and instill his knowledge, which would ultimately win many games.
Thus far, the experiment has not exactly worked, as the Red Sox have struggled to maintain any sort of consistency.
Valentine is certainly a polarizing figure in the game of baseball due to his demeanor, and plenty of people in the industry predicted that his personality would conflict with that of the veterans of the Red Sox.
To be fair, Valentine entered an extremely volatile situation. He is certainly qualified to handle the mess, but the Red Sox bullpen got off to a disastrous start, which made him appear more poorly equipped to handle the situation than he deserved credit for.
At the same time, this is a performance-based industry. If you are getting paid and not producing, then the organization may search for somebody who can get the job done.
Here are 10 reasons that Valentine has drawn ire from Red Sox management already. Boston has been playing much better ball over the past month, but if they fall on hard times once again, Valentine may be shown the door earlier than expected.
The Kevin Youkilis Controversy
Whether Valentine wanted to stir the pot with a controversy, or he simply made an ill-advised comment, he certainly caused an awkward situation with his comments regarding third basemen Kevin Youkilis.
Early on in the season, after Youkilis had struggled mightily and was suffering through a sore groin, Valentine told reporters after the game he did not know if he was as "physically or emotionally into the game as he had been in the past for some reason."
It was certainly a curious choice of words to use regarding a player who is beloved in the city of Boston and has been lauded for his toughness, not to mention the season was less than two weeks old at the time of the comment.
Valentine admitted to reporters a few days later that his intention was not to take a jab at Youkilis.
The clubhouse was just as confused as the media and Dustin Pedroia made it known that the team is fully invested in winning.
Out of all the ways he wanted to begin his Red Sox tenure, initiating a clubhouse rift was probably not high on that list for Valentine.
Handling of the Josh Beckett Situation
Josh Beckett is a two-time World Series winner, and possesses plenty of credentials when he steps onto the baseball field.
But, when he is a .500 pitcher with over a 4.00 ERA, he should be expected to obey the same clubhouse rules as every other player.
When Beckett missed his scheduled start due to a sore lat, yet played golf with teammate Clay Buchholz the next day, it showed that Beckett plays by his own rules.
The truly great players live for baseball, and avoid negative publicity.
Clearly, this is not the first blemish on his off-the-field record, as he was the culprit of the "Chickengate" clubhouse scandal during last September's turmoil.
Bobby V needed to send a message to Beckett and show that he is not above the rules of the clubhouse. In addition, the pitcher's performance has not exactly allowed him to be free of criticism.
His performances have been improved lately, but the Seattle Mariners are not the best barometer of a pitcher's ability.
Bobby V was asked about the incident and told reporters "I never seen a pitcher get hurt playing golf."
He may be correct, but that incident was a huge negative reflection on the organization, which should have made it clear that winning is the priority and Beckett should be more focused on that.
Daniel Bard's Leash
Daniel Bard was once a dominating setup man for the Boston Red Sox.
At this point, he is simply a mediocre starting pitcher who has issued more walks (29) than strikeouts (28).
Valentine is trying to allow himself to transition into the starting role by giving him leeway, but it has been detrimental to the team.
The prime example of this, which has been covered extensively by the Boston media, was the April 16 game against the Tampa Bay Rays in which Bard was left in to face Evan Longoria with the bases loaded at 107 pitches, and Bard walked him to allow the go-ahead run to score.
Bard's once overpowering fastball has seemed very hittable, and at this point, he appears to be a bit mentally defeated when circumstances become tight.
The Red Sox will need Bard to straighten out if they are to win, and if he is not consistently a seven-inning starter, then Valentine will need to do a better job of knowing when to lift him in favor of a reliever.
Thus far, the two are not getting the job done.
To be fair, a manager can not be at fault for their relievers' inability to record outs when called upon.
Also, the bullpen has been very effective over the past month. But, Valentine has shown the propensity to stick with struggling relievers for extra batters, and if someone such as Scott Atchison or Matt Albers begin to fade, it could decimate the team down the stretch.
Valentine must know which matchups are favorable for his pitching staff, and he has been exposed several times for making the wrong decision.
For example, the first month of the season was riddled with big innings, which may have been avoided if the manager brought in a fresh arm.
Mark Melancon was absolutely dreadful during his short stint this season. He gave up 11 runs—including five home runs—in two innings of work.
That was obviously a reflection on how bad the Red Sox performed early on, but Valentine certainly should have had a different pitcher in rather than allow Melancon to throw batting practice.
Also, Aaron Cook and Justin Thomas performed poorly and were allowed to give up a combined 10 runs in seven innings.
Not Paying Attention to Detail
This may not seem like a huge deal, but managers are expected to be on top of everything.
When a manager has miscues such as mispronouncing player's names or not knowing whether the opposing pitcher is a lefty or a righty, that is not a great reflection on their competence.
Valentine filled out a lineup card with the understanding that opposing pitcher Liam Hendriks was left-handed. That is not the case, as he found out just in time to make a new lineup card.
In any other sport that would not make a difference, but obviously, in baseball it is important if your lineup features several players with notable differences within their lefty-righty splits.
Insulting Red Sox Heros of the Past
It's always interesting to see how a new addition to a team handles criticism from a former star of the club.
In 2012, it did not take very long for the Red Sox fans to get a taste of that.
Although they were former co-workers at ESPN, Curt Schilling claimed on an interview during the "Mut & Merloni Show" on WEEI that Bobby Valentine's style is not conducive to winning in Boston.
It rubbed Valentine the wrong way, who then appeared on the "Dennis and Callahan Show" and said to "consider the source" when hearing the comments. He then added at a later interview with WEEI that Schilling should not "make stuff up."
This happened before the season, but it showed that Valentine is not afraid to get in a verbal battle with anyone. Even a Red Sox World Series legend.
It's one thing to shrug off the comments, but to question the credentials of Schilling? General manager Ben Cherington and company could not have enjoyed the season getting off to that beginning.
The Culture Has Not Changed
The baseball season is a very long one, so there will be peaks and valleys for every team.
Right now, however, the Red Sox seem to suffer through many more tough defeats than any other .500 ballclub.
That has to do with the culture of the team.
While the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays are finding ways to win close games, the Red Sox are still unable to get that big hit or convert that big save to propel them on a sustained hot streak.
Granted, right now they are playing their best ball of the season, but last year they had been playing exceptionally well from May to September 1 and that did not matter.
The Atlanta Braves are in the same situation, except they did not bring about major change in the offseason.
A reason to back up my notion is their home record. The Red Sox are 13-11 on the road and 11-13 in the confines of Fenway Park.
The only logical explanation, despite the small sample size, is that the players are feeling a bit more pressure among their own restless fans than on the road.
Great managers are able to utilize their home field to their advantage, Bobby V must turn around this trend before it undermines their season.
He Is Not the Lovable Character He Once Was
The 1999 and 2000 New York Mets were mildly talented clubs, led by future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza on offense and an above-average pitching staff led by Al Leiter.
They were definitely not the best team in the National League by any means. Yet, Bobby V found a way to get the team within two wins of the pennant in '99 and led them to the World Series in 2000.
At that time, there were few people more beloved in New York than Bobby V.
His eccentric personality and shrewd decision-making often made it seem he was a part tactical genius, part mad scientist.
He was not only loved in America, but also Japan, once he led the Chiba Lotte Marines to a championship.
He was the focal point of ESPN documentary "The Zen of Bobby V" which followed the Marines during the 2007 season.
This season, however, he has not displayed the same affable personality and has caused uncomfortable moments within his clubhouse
Perhaps it is due to the Boston media, but Bobby has not appeared as relaxed as in the past, and that is not what allowed him to land the job in the first place.
Poor Intra-Division Record
If the Red Sox played in the AL Central, they would be in a much better position to win the division, considering their 11-7 record against Central division opponents.
Unfortunately, the Sox play in the East.
The Red Sox will face each of those teams 19 times this season, and simply can not afford to play sub-par ball against those teams and hope to contend for the division title.
As of May 28, their record against the East division opponents is 8-12.
The Terry Francona-led Red Sox were able to perform respectably within the division, finishing 38-34 last season even with their disappointing September.
The historical 9-0 blown lead to the Yankees in late April actually directly led to a major turn around in the Red Sox' season, allowing them to reach .500, but Boston is talented enough to be outplaying the Blue Jays and Orioles routinely.
Bobby V must find a way to get the Sox back to dominating within the division.
Beginning War of Words with Opponents
What pleases the fans and what pleases the upper management are two different things.
The fans want to see their team fight hard and show a backbone while the management may focus more on the business part, and having operations run smoothly.
During last weekend's series between the Red Sox and Rays, pitcher Franklin Morales beaned Luke Scott with a pitch, which ensued a fracas, and Rays manager Joe Maddon felt the pitch was intentional. Maddon then tweeted his feelings after the game.
Bobby V took exception to the criticism and told reporters after the game that the Rays coaching staff was immature and were "instigating the situation."
Time will tell whether these comments will cause further confrontations between the two clubs, but Valentine certainly added a bit of fuel to the fire by electing to criticize the Rays coaches as opposed to diffusing the situation and acknowledging it as part of the game.
Members of the front office are not generally in favor of coaches who initiate brawls and melees. This could be just another strike against Valentine, whose ice may become much thinner if the Red Sox fall further behind the pack in the AL East.