Boston Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine.
The Boston Red Sox's painstakingly prolonged fall from grace has been cringe-worthy even for an outsider to experience. Although the BoSox were once a proud franchise with an avid fan base, the entire organization has lost sight of their values—and with that, most of their best players.
It all began with last season's infamous September collapse that left the team out of the playoffs. The decline continued into the offseason with the departure of Terry Francona, and it has been further exacerbated in 2012 by new manager Bobby Valentine.
From the outset, Bobby V and the Red Sox seemed like an awkward fit. While nobody has ever questioned Valentine's knowledge of the game, it's no secret that his public antics had caused some issues earlier in his career.
Whether it was dressing up in Groucho glasses and entering his team's dugout after being ejected from a game or just his history of clashing with his bosses, the hiring of Bobby Valentine sent red flags up immediately.
All things considered, it shouldn't be a shock to anyone that Bobby V's time in Boston has been nothing short of an absolute train wreck. The team is currently 15 games out of first place and has lost seven straight. With the growing speculation that Valentine will be a one-and-done manager, the Red Sox season is basically over.
Let's examine four ways Bobby V has changed the BoSox culture this year, and how the team can eventually get back to competing for championships.
Bobby Valentine and former Red Sox third basement Kevin Youkilis.
Contrary to popular belief, a manager's primary responsibility is not to strategize throughout the course of a game.
Sure, it's awesome to have a guy that can out-manage his counterpart. However, it's more important to have the ability to handle the vast range of personalities on any given team in a professional yet authoritative manner.
Bobby Valentine has acted unprofessionally for his entire tenure as manager of the Boston Red Sox. It started by publicly blasting New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi over a spring training game. However, the real unprofessionalism came when he called out veteran Kevin Youkilis for his lack of desire. Here are Bobby V's exact words, via ESPN.com.
"I don't think he's (Kevin Youkilis) as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason."
Kevin Youkilis had been nothing but a hard-working, consummate pro as a member of the Boston Red Sox. If his two World Series rings didn't prove that, then maybe the outcry of public support by prominent teammates, namely Dustin Pedroia, was enough to let fans know that Bobby V was talking out of line.
Furthermore, this is Valentine's first season in Boston, so there is no way he could make an accurate comparison on Kevin Youkilis' physical or emotional investment in the game to past seasons.
Even if Youkilis did suddenly lose his will to compete at a high level, that's the kind of thing that stays in-house. A good leader has the ability to find a problem and squash it before it ever becomes an issue. Bobby Valentine has shown a repeated inability to do this, and it has been a major factor in the BoSox on-field failures in 2012.
For the Red Sox to find success in the near future, the team must find a level-headed yet respectful leader who is capable of managing not just games but people as well.
Bobby Valentine and Adrian Gonzalez.
Maintaining a semblance of control over your team is essential for any manager.
Although it may not be prudent to micromanage every aspect of daily life, any successful leader has a pulse on the general attitude of his team and has enough authority within the locker room to adjust the team's attitude.
At this point in the season, Bobby Valentine has neither the ability nor the necessary respect to change the way his team goes out and performs on a daily basis.
In late July, ESPN.com reported that several Red Sox players, meeting with ownership, called for Bobby V to be fired. While the hope was that the meeting could help the team fix itself, it created a media firestorm that placed further pressure on not just Bobby Valentine, but on the players themselves, to perform.
The Red Sox fall from grace this year has been due to a lot of factors, but Bobby Valentine's inability to control what goes on within his locker room is a major aspect of why the Red Sox find themselves where they are.
For the team to return to prominence, the Red Sox must find a new manager who not only has the respect of the players, but who has the ability to control what goes on behind closed doors as well.
Red Sox players Dustin Pedroia and Alfredo Aceves exchange some heated words.
The Red Sox have always had several players on the roster who were capable of keeping the team together through even the toughest times.
When the team was down 3-0 to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, the BoSox had Curt Schilling and Johnny Damon to lead them to their first World Series title since 1918. However, while this year's squad has players capable of that leadership, Bobby Valentine has yet to bring it out of them.
Managing a team has to come from more than just the manager. The veteran leadership is also responsible for keeping things together on a daily basis. However, when the veteran leadership is constantly at odds with the manager, it can create a sense of chaos throughout the entire organization.
Case in point, Dustin Pedroia and Alfredo Aceves exchanged some words in the dugout during a Red Sox loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday. After watching the video, the entire incident seems to be overblown because it never got out of hand. However, the bickering back and forth during a game is just one example of how this team lacks accountability.
The Red Sox need a new manager to come in and place the onus on the players to produce. Bobby V's antics have given the BoSox an excuse for why this season was a failure. However, in the future, the players are going to have to take responsibility for their on-field performance.
Former Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.
The biggest thing that fans will take out of the Bobby Valentine era in Boston will be that this team, as constructed, is no longer capable of contending for World Series titles.
That's not to say that they can't get there in a few years, but they just traded away all their best players for prospects.
With the development of their farm system, along with some smart free agent signings, the Red Sox will be able to rebuild quicker than most. After trading over $200 million worth of player salaries to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston's increased financial flexibility will grant them some freedom during the rebuilding process.
That having been said, this team entered the past two seasons with World Series aspirations, only to fail miserably both years. It's going to be a long way back to the top; Bobby Valentine will almost surely not be around to see it. However, with the right player personnel moves, the Red Sox have the potential to become serious contenders within the next few seasons.