I was recently playing golf with an old school Red Sox fan in suburban Boston. “The Sawx are a mess, that’s for sure,” the old-timer muttered. “But I don’t think Bobby Valentine is the problem, he really knows baseball.”
I swallow hard in reaction, unable to formulate words. My hands begin to quiver, and I yip a 3-footer dead left for bogey. I just don’t get it – I really don’t. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “Bobby Valentine knows baseball” I could afford to pay Adrian Gonzalez’s contract next season.
When I look at Bobby Valentine, I see a guy who has gotten as little as he possibly could have out of the 2012 Red Sox. Want to know about someone who knows baseball? He may run his mouth, but look at the Orioles’ Buck Showalter. While the Red Sox have had a hugely positive run differential all year, their recent slide has dipped them to a run differential of 8 runs fewer than their opponents so far this season. The Orioles have had a negative run differential all season – they’re currently at -19, even worse than the Red Sox – yet they’re 14 games ahead of Boston. That’s what you call managing your team – getting the most out of what you’re given. The Orioles are currently tied with the Yankees atop the AL East despite having a payroll less than half the size of Brian Cashman’s.
This is certainly maddening, and while Valentine will finish the season as the skipper of the Sox, I have serious doubts about whether or not he’ll return for next season. With the terrible possibility that he does looming, here are a few players who should at least fit in well with Valentine’s scheme in 2013.
1) Cody Ross – Cody Ross is one of few Red Sox who has made a convincing case for making re-signing him an off-season priority. Ross is coming off the most productive season of his career, despite playing in only 2/3 of the Red Sox games. He’s made it clear he thrives in the confines of Fenway and has provided several of this season’s relatively few highlights.
2) Franklin Morales – Franklin Morales is still young (26), and unlike Daniel Bard he showed this season that he’s capable of handling the additional responsibility of moving from the bullpen to a starting role. He maintained a lowish ERA of 3.77 throughout the season, and you better believe that Valentine’s trust in him will not be lost on Morales heading into 2013.
3) Will Middlebrooks – Similarly to Morales, Valentine’s trust in Will Middlebrooks will likely not be forgotten. Middlebrooks played his way onto the team, thus allowing Valentine to move the issue that Kevin Youkilis was becoming. There’s good karma flowing both ways here, and with Middlebrooks growing up in Texas, I’m sure he’s gotten used to playing for managers who aren’t exactly cut out of the Terry Francona mold.
4) Andrew Miller – After a tough end to the 2011 season under Terry Francona, Andrew Miller seemed to find his role in the bullpen under Bobby Valentine’s tutelage. Like Morales, he’s young (27) and a lefty, making him valuable to Valentine. He managed to maintain a 3.53 ERA for the season.
5) David Ortiz – I don’t think David Ortiz loves Bobby Valentine, but I think he showed this year he’s willing to play for him and assume a prominent leadership role on this team. His real issue is with the front office, as I believe it should be. Ortiz showed that despite whatever his dynamic with Valentine might be, he can perform on the field. He was on a torrid pace from the get-go this season before being derailed by injury.
My preference is absolutely for Bobby Valentine to be shown the door immediately following the season, but if he’s not, it’s nice to know that there are some players who’ve shown they can play in his system.
Geoff Roberts is the Founder & Managing Editor of howiGit.com, a Boston Red Sox blog.