Bobby Valentine: Red Sox Manager Will Survive 2012, but What About 2013?
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In an Aug. 16 radio interview with WEEI's John Dennis, Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino confirmed that Bobby Valentine will remain as manager for the rest of the year. Yet Lucchino's subtle vote of confidence won't be enough to save Valentine from being fired this offseason.
But for what it's worth, Valentine has encountered a great deal of obstacles this year.
This season, the Red Sox have led the league in games missed due to injury, indicates Jay Gaffe of SI.com (h/t Baseball Prospectus). Roughly 40 percent of the team's payroll has been lost to injury. It's hard to win with a decimated roster like that.
But the disabled list isn't even the worst of Boston's worries. It's an issue of dysfunction that has marred the Red Sox.
According to ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes, there was a rift between Valentine and rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks after a two-error inning earlier in the campaign. Valentine reflected on his remarks during a pre-game media conference on Aug. 2:
“[Middlebrooks] came into the dugout, he made a couple of errors, and I said, ‘Nice inning, kid.’ I had thought I had established a relationship with him where I could say something like that to him, kind of smile, relax him a little. Maybe he grimaced, I don’t know.
Then on Aug. 14, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports broke a story about Red Sox players meeting with the front office to complain about Valentine. Passan writes:
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Boston Red Sox players blasted manager Bobby Valentine to owners John Henry and Larry Lucchino during a heated meeting called after a text message was sent by a group of frustrated players to the team and ownership in late July, three sources familiar with the meeting told Yahoo! Sports.
That incident was allegedly sparked from Valentine leaving pitcher Jon Lester in the game after allowing the Toronto Blue Jays to score 11 runs on July 22. The bold decision to leave Lester out there to dry was questionable, but the reported disgust of the players is more concerning.
In the aftermath of the Yahoo! story, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, as well as first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, confirmed the meeting, yet denied that it was held because of bad blood between Valentine and the players, cites ESPNBoston.com.
With incidents like these, it appears as though the Red Sox clubhouse is unraveling. And it doesn't even matter if the reports are true, it's simply too much of a distraction to move forward with.
In hindsight, perhaps Valentine was too divisive of a personality for the Sox managing gig. His relationship with the players shrivels in comparison to the departed Terry Francona—a true player's manager.
If Boston's players made a two-time World Series-winning skipper look bad after the fried chicken and beer scandal and last year's September collapse, then Valentine's fate won't be any different.
Regardless of what has transpired behind closed doors, the organization has been delivered a black eye. And because of that, Valentine won't be back in 2013.
That's not to say all the blame can be put on Valentine's shoulders, however. Boston's problems start from the top, and trickle down.
The Sox front office of principal owner John Henry, CEO Larry Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner have put a stranglehold on the responsibilities of Valentine and general manager Ben Cherington. Neither Valentine, nor Cherington, have been able to command the club from a personnel standpoint.
A prime example of the front office's overruling control was the hiring of Valentine, suggests Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Madden writes:
It was, however, a hire that had all the earmarks of front-office dysfunction since the Sox’s rookie general manager, Ben Cherington, who had just replaced Theo Epstein, wanted to hire another rookie manager, Dale Sveum, and was very publicly overruled by Henry and Lucchino.
A line was never drawn to separate the ownership from managing the team. The Sox hierarchy came out of the woodwork to hire Valentine, just like they did with the ballclub's assistant coaches.
The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham explained how Valentine's co-workers were already in place:
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But don't fire Valentine because he doesn't get along with a bunch of assistant coaches who were hired by and remain loyal to Francona and/or the front office.
Most managers have the liberty of picking their coaching staff. Valentine, on the other hand, has had to work with what he was dealt. Pitching coach Bob McClure and hitting coach Dave Magadan may not gel with Valentine's gameplan, but they weren't part of his previous regimes, either.
When it comes to the product on the field, both Valentine and Cherington have been stuck with the expensive underperformers already on the books from the Theo Epstein era of general managing.
Per Spotrac.com: Carl Crawford's contract is worth $142 million over seven years, John Lackey's deal is for five years and $82.5 million, Daisuke Matsuzaka makes $52 million over six years, Josh Beckett is inked to a four-year, $68 million deal and Jon Lester has garnered a five-year, $30 million pact.
Matching the finances with the on-the-field performance this season, Crawford has hit .283 in just 30 games, Lackey hasn't pitched due to Tommy John surgery, Matsuzaka has a 6.65 ERA in only five starts, Beckett is 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA and Lester is 7-10 with a 5.03 ERA.
Bobby V knew what he was getting himself into when he signed on with Boston. But the poorly spent money was in flux long before he and Cherington took their limited control of baseball operations.
Former Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach, who was recently traded to the New York Mets, answered honestly when asked about Boston's woes. According to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, Shoppach said:
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“Let me be very careful. I think, and maybe this is as far as I’ll go with it, too—there is a disconnect in communication between the players through the upper management."
Shoppach's comments teeter on the line of disloyalty, but he hit the nail on the head. The chain of command from the men upstairs down to the men in the lineup must be transparent—it's not.
In a typical major league organization, players play, coaches coach, general managers put the talent on the field and owners make sure that fans are in the seats.
Yet within the confines of Fenway Park, it doesn't work that way. The ownership does more than oversee the day-to-day happenings—they have their hand in the day-to-day happenings.
Baseball minds should be the ones making the baseball moves. Business minds should be the ones making the business moves. Overstepping those bounds leads to the mess that is the 2012 Red Sox.
Boston's problems go beyond the man in the dugout. But at the end of the day, a sub-.500 record for one of the major league's highest payrolls is unacceptable.
It's been an ongoing trend for the Red Sox. The last time the team made the playoffs was 2009 and a postseason series hasn't been won since 2008.
Clearly, the misfortune is not all Valentine's fault. Yet if he doesn't have the respect of his players, as well as the ownership, he cannot be heading the team.
Once the Red Sox season ends, Valentine will be all but gone. And the saddest part about that is, he will probably be happy to leave.
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