Boston Red Sox: 5 People Most Impacted by Bob McClure's Firing
In a move that was more a matter of “when” than “if,” the Boston Red Sox fired pitching coach Bob McClure last night, according to Joe McDonald of ESPN Boston. It was McClure’s first season in Boston.
The Red Sox’s pitching has been terrible this season; they are 23rd in the MLB in ERA, and the starters rank 26th. McClure’s relationship with manager Bobby Valentine was strained at best, and ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reported this morning that the relationship between the two had “deteriorated” over the course of the season.
While it would be easy to linger on why McClure was dismissed, the focus must now shift to how this move impacts a team still mathematically alive for a playoff spot. A miracle run at this point may be unlikely, but if the pitching staff can rally, a playoff berth is still not completely out of the question.
Interim pitching coach Randy Niemann will have a difficult job to do, but having worked with Valentine on the Mets, the two will surely enjoy a better rapport than the one Valentine had with McClure.
With a key new coach coming in, let’s take a look at who will be most impacted by this change.
Clearly, Valentine and McClure did not get along. This much was evident during Valentine’s August 1 interview on Boston radio station WEEI, where he described McClure as going on a “two-week vacation” in the middle of the season.
While Valentine’s comment may have been unwarranted (McClure was attending to a sick child), it nevertheless revealed the massive disconnect between the manager and arguably his most important coach.
McClure, hired as a special assistant three weeks before the manager, was foisted upon Valentine without the new skipper having any say in the matter. Now that “friend of Bobby” Randy Niemann has the job, Valentine can expect to receive a bit more support from his coaches.
It’s also possible that, by bringing in one of Valentine’s former coaches, the Sox are indicating that Bobby V will be back next season.
The struggles of Josh Beckett and calls for him to be traded (or outright released) have been well documented this season. After his latest mediocre performance, he now holds a 5-11 record and 5.23 ERA. He has one win since May 20.
With an ERA yet to dip below 4.00 and career worsts (or near-worsts) in WHIP, H/9 and SO/9, Beckett has likely bottomed out as a pitcher. Even if he has regressed somewhat at the age of 32, the Sox’s “ace” is not as bad as his numbers would indicate.
Having a new voice and new direction as he looks to right himself can only benefit the burly right-hander.
Like Beckett, Jon Lester has had a career-worst season. His 7-10 record and 5.03 ERA are by far the worst numbers he has put up in his seven years in the MLB.
Lester thrived under former pitching coach John Farrell; in Farrell’s four years in Boston from 2007 to 2010, Lester posted a 54-23 record with a 3.40 ERA over 109 games. Obviously, he did not enjoy the same success under McClure.
While the onus for his poor season is ultimately on Lester, McClure bears some responsibility for the left-hander’s decline. Combined with his recent improvement (a 2.93 ERA in 27.2 August innings), a new pitching coach may be the kick Lester needs to finish this season on a good note.
Daniel Bard’s first—and hopefully only—season as a starter was an unmitigated disaster, with the transition going as badly as it could have been imagined. After being demoted following a six-walk, two-hit batsmen performance over 1.2 innings in Toronto, Bard has continued to flounder with Triple-A Pawtucket.
More than anyone else in the organization, perhaps, he needs this season to just end.
Undoubtedly, the Sox are not ready to give up on the hard-throwing right-hander. Bard flashed elite-level talent as a setup man in 2011, and the Sox will likely try to return him to that role for 2013.
For them to do that, though, they will need Niemann (or whoever is the pitching coach) to rebuild not just the pitcher’s mechanics, but his damaged psyche as well. This job is a difficult but critical piece to the Sox’s success next year and going forward.
One of the pitchers who seemed to benefit from McClure’s coaching is Clay Buchholz. After a poor beginning to the season that can be largely attributed to rust, Buchholz has run off a very impressive last 15 starts; over that time period, he has logged an 8-2 record and a 2.69 ERA, with the Sox going 11-4 in games he has started.
It is worth noting that McClure seemingly saw this run of success coming, as he told the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber back in early May that the right-hander was “a start or two away. If [Buchholz] has a couple good ones, then it’s a done deal.”
Big things were expected of the right-hander after his promising 2010 campaign, and it seems that those projections were fair. How much of an effect McClure had on Buchholz's success remains to be seen.