Dust off the guillotine, break out the gallows and tether four horses to the corners of Copley Square: it’s time to atone for your 2011 Boston Red Sox.
First on the chopping block is our favorite manager, Terry Francona, a man whose two rings in the last eight years can’t clot the bloodshed. This is the worst September collapse of any Boston baseball organization in history, replete with the worst cumulative ERA and highest payroll on record. Ultimately, the people don’t care about the manager’s limited means to right a sinking ship, so Terry will have to go, even if for purely ceremonial reasons and even if his sacrifice doesn’t suffice for the pound of flesh that the fanbase currently demands.
Let’s take a look at the four most likely candidates to right the Red Sox:
Tony La Russa
Two World Series credentials, four-time Manager of the Year and a proven winner with unlimited credibility in the big leagues, La Russa is big-name solution to a clubhouse that became notoriously complacent.
La Russa has a mutual option to depart St. Louis this offseason and is no lock to leave, but the spotlight of the AL East could be persuasive to a man who has accomplished just about everything in the NL. He does have a history of chewing up young psyches (just ask Colby Rasmus), but with Red Sox veterans in serious need of a tongue-lashing, this could be a perfect fit.
The only other potential Francona successor who could compare to La Russa’s resume, Joe Torre is an interesting fit in Boston as he’s previously succeeded in a similar high-intensity media environment.
No one talks to the press, defends his players from the unwanted spotlight or is a more respected skipper than Joe Torre. The Red Sox faithful would easily forgive his previous leadership of the Yankees if Torre returned winning to Boston, but stylistically, he may be too similar to the outgoing Francona. Torre has been known to coddle players at times, and the Red Sox may want a disciplinarian the next time around.
Maybe the cure to under-performing major leaguers is a minor league vet with an All-Star knowledge of the game. DeMarlo Hale, who skippered for seven years in the Red Sox farm system before ultimately becoming their bench coach in 2010, is the leading in-house candidate and would represent the smallest degree of shakeup.
He’s regarded as an elite teacher and interviewed for the Toronto Blue Jays top job in 2010. Hale’s reputation for player development makes him an asset to the existing team, but the Boston faithful prefer a bigger name and the team might require a confrontational personality to change the tone in the clubhouse.
There is no more outlandish manager in major league history, and if there’s one guy who can light a fire under John Lackey’s $82.5 million butt, then it’s gotta be Bobby V.
His makeup is ideal for Boston, as he has managed in high-pressure environments both domestically (New York Mets) and internationally (Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines). Replacing the player-friendly Francona with Valentine is a strong move in the opposite direction and could suggest that players underperformed in 2011 because management chose to be understanding rather than demanding.
Valentine is a forceful personality that will clash with upper management over control of the team, but this is exactly the kind of kick-in-the-pants move that the Red Sox need.