Ben Cherington sounds like a man who has some serious firing to do this offseason.
Bobby Valentine is not going to be back as the manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2013. Count on it.
Um, no. It's not official yet. The Red Sox have yet to scratch out their decision on a stone tablet and present it to the masses. For that matter, all signs point toward them not making anything final one way or the other until after the season is over.
But if you've been following the situation over the last few weeks, you'll know that the Red Sox have hinted pretty strongly that Bobby V's days in Boston are numbered. Even if you don't buy that, you have to concede that the Red Sox haven't said anything to suggest that Bobby V's days in Boston aren't numbered. The closest thing to a vote of confidence Valentine has gotten is an assurance from Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino that he won't be fired...this season.
The clearest hint we've gotten yet that Bobby V is a dead manager walking came across the airwaves on Thursday morning. Here's what Sox general manager Ben Cherington said on WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan" show when he was asked about the team's managerial situation in the event that Bobby V is fired after the season is over:
I'd always rather get the decision right rather than rush it. But I think that what we know we need to do is hit the ground running in this offseason. One of the things, as I look back at last offseason, that didn't go perfectly was simply the amount of time that we spent on the manager search and what that did to the rest of the offseason. I would like to spend less time on it this offseason, that's for sure.
You don't need to be a master code-cracker to read between the lines here. A general manager who isn't planning on undertaking an offseason search for a new manager isn't going to say things like "I would like to spend less time on it this offseason," with the "it" referring to the "manager search" in the previous sentence.
That's a pretty heavy implication that another managerial search is coming for the Red Sox, and that it will be getting underway very soon.
But did Cherington unwittingly spill the beans, or did he just flat-out misspeak?
He hinted that he merely misspoke in a text message to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, saying, "It had nothing to do with Bobby. But if it came across that way, my mistake."
With that, he was trying to shut the door on all the speculative chatter. The last thing the Red Sox need, after all, is another distraction.
However, Cherington then turned around and nudged the door back open in an email to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com:
I meant it in the most literal sense. We've made it clear that we'll meet after the season (to make a decision on manager Bobby Valentine). One way or another my hope is to spend less time on the matter than we did last offseason.
Again, the indication here is that some sort of a decision is coming. The dilemma is that the only way the "matter" is going to be over quickly is if Cherington and his superiors decide that no change needs to be made. They could put the situation to rest in a matter of minutes and then go about patching up a roster that needs a lot of patching up.
If Cherington and the Red Sox were leaning toward retaining Valentine as the club's manager for the 2013 season, Cherington wouldn't be at all worried about the "matter" possibly dragging on for a long time. No, this is something that he's clearly worried about, and that's a sign that he knows full well another managerial search is in his future.
As Heyman pointed out in his writeup, Cherington's insistence that his comments had "nothing to do with Bobby" has to be taken with a grain of salt. In Heyman's words, it's really hard to fathom how Cherington was "talking about an upcoming managerial search that wouldn't affect the current manager."
Or, in the words of Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, "Ben Cherington has kinda, sorta said Bobby Valentine will be getting fired."
Pretty much, yeah.
Now, are we all sitting here putting words in Cherington's mouth? Are we assuming too much?
Yes to the first question. Cherington didn't actually say that Bobby V is a goner. We're merely translating his words to mean that Bobby V is a goner because, well, that's really the only logical translation that can be made of his remarks.
And this leads us to the answer to the next question: No, we're not assuming too much.
Shoot, name me one good reason why Bobby V shouldn't be fired.
It's true that he can only be blamed so much for the fact that Red Sox have clinched their first losing season in 15 years, as he didn't throw any pitches that contributed to the team's 4.61 ERA, nor can he be blamed for all the injuries that plagued the Red Sox in the first half of the season.
What he can be blamed for, however, are all the various protocol errors he committed throughout the course of the season.
Throwing Kevin Youkilis under the bus? Bad form, Bobby.
Responding to a question about the team's mindset after a six-game losing streak by saying, "What does it matter?" Bad form.
Threatening to punch a radio host? Bad form.
Complaining about your roster? Bad form.
My personal favorite, however, is Bobby V's ongoing feud with Alfredo Aceves, which has seen Aceves act like a disgruntled child and Valentine act like a disgruntled child right back at him. The two of them together have resembled characters from a dark British comedy, the kind that Guy Ritchie would have directed back in the day.
All of this stuff represents exactly what Bobby V skeptics were so afraid of when the Red Sox hired him as Terry Francona's successor last winter. The skeptics were worried that Valentine would stir up too much controversy, and that's precisely what's happened.
I doubt anyone thought it would be as bad as it's been. One assumes the Red Sox didn't anticipate all the horrendously bad vibrations, either.
Well, maybe Cherington did. His first choice for Boston's managerial position, apparently, was Dale Sveum, who was eventually hired by the Chicago Cubs. That was a personal defeat for Cherington, as he at one point figured he had Sveum in the bag.
Here's what Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston reported last November:
The failure of the Red Sox to extend an offer to Sveum will be perceived as a stunning rebuke to Cherington and his baseball operations staff, who thought they had their man in Sveum. They presented him as such to the Sox ownership troika -- John W. Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino -- when they assembled here for the owners' meetings. And Sveum told close associates he anticipated receiving an offer.
Henry and Boston's brain trust said thanks but no thanks. They wanted Valentine for the job, and Valentine was the man they got.
Edes' final words from his report loom rather large right now: "It will be impossible for the Red Sox to sell [Valentine] as Ben Cherington's man."
Nearly a year later, here's Cherington saying that he's hoping to spend less time on the manager situation this offseason, and that he's hoping to get it right this time. He sounded very much like a man who can't wait to resolve a mess that was not of his making.
It's safe to assume that he's chomping at the bit to fire Valentine.
There's that word again. "Assume." Here I am assuming that Valentine is a goner just because Cherington said something mildly prophetic during a radio appearance.
But be honest. You're assuming the same thing. So are a lot of people. And none of us are wrong to do so.
It's not a matter of if Valentine will be fired. It's a matter of when.
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