Bobby V deserves to keep his job.
As of Monday, September 24, 2012 the Boston Red Sox are 69-85. That's 16 games below a .500 win percentage and a whopping 20 full games back of the Yanks for the AL East division lead.
The Sox have done nothing short of fall flat on their faces this season. As per usual, Red Sox fans and sports media ravenously hunt for a scapegoat. At first glance, Valentine seems an easy target for the criticism.
Here's why what's happened this season is not cause for Bobby Valentine to be removed from the helm of the Red Sox.
Already a Mess
Take a second and think about the end of the 2011 season. In one of the more epic collapses in Sox history, the team dropped a nine-game lead in the final three weeks.
Yet, the poor on-field play was only a symptom of larger problems within the organization. As the infrastructure of the Sox begin to tremble, news of players drinking beer and eating friend chicken in the clubhouse during games brought the house crashing down.
Beloved Terry "Tito" Francona was run out of town just a few seasons after guiding the Sox to two World Series victories in four years.
Times were clearly changing and general manager Theo Epstein departed for the Chicago Cubs. After recognizing that his massive signings of John Lackey, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez hamstrung any efforts the Sox could possibly make to improve in the immediate future, Epstein cut his losses and headed out.
Enter new faces GM Ben Cherington and his first manager, Bobby Valentine. The two were immediately responsible and held accountable for the Red Sox success. They failed miserably in 2012.
Yet, they failed miserably with other people's tools. Cherington was not responsible for most of the Sox starting lineup at the start of the year, and Bobby V's options were pre-defined.
Neither had a fair chance to implement their personal system in 2012 because the organization suffered a legitimate hangover from the brutal end to last season.
At different points throughout the season, OF Carl Crawford, DH David Ortiz, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, P Josh Beckett, P Clay Buchholz, 3B Will Middlebrooks, P Andrew Bailey and 2B Dustin Pedroia were out of the lineup with injury (among others).
Now, every team should still be held accountable for their performance regardless of the lineup on any given day. Valentine does need to do a better job of being a consistent, disciplined manager when times get tough, as they did this season.
Yet, it is really hard to win at the Major League level without consistently employing top talent. In 2012, the injury bug bit the Sox so hard and so often that they never had a chance to keep up with the superpowers emerging in the AL East.
Fault Valentine for not being the rock the Sox needed this season. Hold him accountable for how poorly he has handled himself and the team. Also, consider if any manager could have had a much more successful season given all the different players the Sox were forced to put on the field.
Oh that's right, Valentine accepted the job as manager of the Boston Red Sox. I must have forgotten that that meant he'd be so forcefully pinned in the limelight that any words that passed his lips got turned into scandal.
He did make a mistake in starting his campaign by shoo-ing fan-favorite 3B Kevin Youkilis out of town. Admittedly, Valentine could have found a different, better way to make a first impression on Boston and the Fenway faithful.
Cherington's decision to send Youkilis to the White Sox marked a divisive moment between the Boston fans and front office. Valentine was seen as the catalyst.
Give the man a break.
As humans, we are guilty of committing the "Fundamental Attribution Error", a psychology term used to describe our tendency to judge individuals' behavior without accurately weighing the influence of circumstance.
I'd argue that that is precisely what has happened this season. Bobby V never really had a chance; until Sox fans can admit that to themselves they will be content to run another capable manager out of town.
The media in Boston has little patience for failure and has been spoiled by the recent success of one of the MLB's most storied franchises. How quickly fans are willing to forget the 86 years of humble pie previously served to the Sox during their lengthy World Series drought.
It is fair to hold your team to a high standard and to be upset when they don't perform to expectations. It is also necessary to re-evaluate expectations based on a variety of factors that occur over the course of a season.
Although he did not even near succeed in 2012, Valentine's contribution to the failure has been blown way out of proportion. Hungry journalists and a fan base unwilling to adjust expectations despite ruinous circumstances are not enough reason to remove Bobby V after just one year.
Small Sample Size
Lastly, Valentine should keep his job because he has had it for just one year, and it was a wild one.
He needs a fair chance with a consistently healthy lineup before it is fair to diagnose Bobby V as the source of Sox woes.
Remember that the current skid started before Valentine was even given the reins! A team with big names like Ortiz, Pedroia and former World Series MVP Josh Beckett fell harder than most teams during September of 2011.
When faced with such a massive collapse, recovery takes time.
The Red Sox are an organization committed to success and are still among the most successful brands in the MLB. In order to find top status once again, they need to suppress the finger-pointing and unite behind a man I believe capable of leading them to the postseason.
It may take more than one season, as proven by the below-average season the Sox are experiencing. Yet, consistency has to start from somewhere.
If the Sox hang on to Bobby V, they'll be taking a step in the right direction.