Last autumn, Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine became the first hire in the tenure of newly appointed general manager Ben Cherington. That made him the first new coach/manager tabbed by a new general manager on the city’s professional sports scene since Peter Chiarelli came to town—and put Dave Lewis behind the Bruins bench.
Valentine tacked on another basic common thread with Lewis on Thursday when he was discharged from his Fenway Park office after a single season. That makes him Lewis’ only companion among Boston sports skippers of this young century not to be invited back for a second campaign.
Naturally, the next question for the Red Sox ought to be “Who is going to be their Claude Julien?”
There will be plenty of time to address that topic as Cherington tries to make like Chiarelli and rapidly reboot after a false start to his Boston rejuvenation project.
In the meantime, it is worth asking—of those to cross the city’s sports scene in recent memory, was Lewis or Valentine the greatest one-year blunder?
Do they even compare? Or, better yet, do they even contrast?
Lewis, a former assistant and head coach for the semi-dynastic Detroit Red Wings, was allotted a retooled roster featuring the likes of Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara. Valentine, a former manager for the New York Mets and Texas Rangers, was handed a team that had its share of overhaul but also its share of holdovers from a 2007 World Series title.
Both offered no evidence of jelling with their pupils in the tone-setting phases of the season and later failed to finish strong.
Lewis’ Bruins started at 2-5-1 and did not surpass the .500 mark until Game 16 on Nov. 16.
Valentine’s Red Sox started at 4-10 and did not so much as reach .500 until Game 20 on April 28, attaining their first of several short-lived winning records on May 29 at 25-24.
As Boston’s first-year captain under Lewis, Chara ultimately regressed to his New York Islander days at minus-21. Patrice Bergeron’s minus-28 finish that season remains the only time he has logged a negative rating in his major-junior or professional hockey career.
Although the Sox did not have a comparable mass of individual statistical drop-offs under Valentine, their rash of losing streaks throughout the year spoke plainly enough to their sorry state. Among other slumps, there were 11 cases of Boston being swept in a three-game series, including the opening set in Detroit and their last six games in Baltimore and New York.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, in particular, dished up some critical quotes in April over Valentine’s assessment of third baseman Kevin Youkilis.
Four months later, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports published a lengthy and detailed report recounting a multitude of episodes between Valentine and either a player or member of the coaching staff. Those referred to by name in the column included Adrian Gonzalez, Jon Lester and Will Middlebrooks.
Maybe not so surprisingly, when that report was published on the afternoon of Aug. 14, the Sox were 57-59 on the year with 46 games to spare.
By then, regardless of the exact cause, the effect was virtually the same. It was safe to write off Valentine’s Red Sox and Lewis’ Bruins before the homestretch of their respective seasons. As if they had not already, they presaged their swift dismissal by each losing their final six games.
As to who was worse, the debate is a real stalemate, although some are bound to declare one or the other the greater disappointment.
Valentine and Lewis both set back their respective Boston teams when all the former had to do was turn around a team that regurgitated its 2011 playoff passport at the last minute while the latter just needed to get into the top eight of the Eastern Conference.
To bring up an adage, though, their egregious and ephemeral performances give the local sports scene’s 21st century diary two hands’ worth of sore thumbs.
In a way, that speaks to the otherwise appreciable fortune this fanbase has had for the past dozen years.