In 2004, Terry Francona rode into the Boston city limits on a white horse and created a nation of millions.
After decades of being punchlines and punching bags, the Red Sox have won two championships in the past seven years and generated a culture of success that long suffering fans have embraced.
With that being said, after a choke job worthy of Henry Heimlich’s praise in 2011, the times that were oh “so good, so good, so good” are over. By means of underachievement and discipline issues, the Red Sox ushered in a pompous and self-indulged Bobby Valentine to man the team.
Now that Francona and Valentine have switched spots with the former going to ESPN and the latter manning the reins in Fenway, a new era rears its head in Boston.
Don’t get your hopes up, Red Sox Nation.
Both Terry Francona and Bobby Valentine’s playing careers are merely footnotes in the catacombs of baseball history. Instead, they became household names by their success in managing teams.
That’s where the comparisons end.
During Francona’s administration, he oversaw a clubhouse that was extremely player-friendly. His well-documented pre-game cribbage games with Dustin Pedroia are a perfect example of how loose the Red Sox clubhouse has been since 2004.
In the past seven years, the cast of characters to walk through the clubhouse have been comfortable with the ambiance Tito propagated. Along with the players, the media also enjoyed having him there, as he pulled no punches and didn’t engage in childish mudslinging.
Enter Bobby Valentine.
With an enforcer reputation and a tendency to ruffle more feathers than a peacock, the Valentine transition will be swift. However, it might not be popular with the players.
Obviously the culture in the 2011 locker room required a tune-up, but the players are likely going to struggle with the sudden 180-degree change.
Pampered divas will publicly cry to the notebooks of the Boston media. The new skipper will issue a rebuttal, and before anyone realizes it, the whole team will be lost and a season wiped away under the guise of “rebuilding.”
Bobby Valentine had a successful career managing baseball teams.
Just ask him about it. He won’t hold back.
With impressive accomplishments in the MLB and the Far East, Valentine beat his chest like King Kong to lead the masses.
Inviting the public to witness how he runs his operation, ESPN produced a documentary called The Zen of Bobby V. The manager wasted no time showing filmmakers how popular and beloved he was in Japan. Audiences were treated to cutesy images of Valentine riding his bike through the streets of Tokyo and larger-than-life posters as testaments to his rock-star status.
No one can forget his shameless self-promotion when he was ejected to only return to the dugout donning a mustache and sunglasses.
It’s no secret Valentine’s priorities revolve around the promotion of his image over anything else. Launching early salvos like “I hate the Yankees” goes to show it’s not just a Yankee-Red Sox rivalry.
It’s the Bobby V. show, and the Red Sox are his supporting cast.
Get used to it.
As the Red Sox open their new spring training facility, JetBlue Park at Fenway South, Bobby Valentine will walk through the clubhouse doors with a purpose. He will make one point abundantly clear.
This is his team. Not theirs.
It’s quite possible this will annoy some players (Who wants to make a bet that Josh Beckett is the first player to tangle with the manager?) because it’s happened in the past.
Back in 1997 with the Mets in a slump, Valentine ran to the New York media to suggest catcher Todd Hundley’s recent slump was due to his lack of sleep. Hundley was quoted as saying, “I don't get paid enough to have a relationship with that guy. You couldn't pay me enough.”
In the infamous “WhartonGate Affair,” Valentine once again opened his extremely large mouth while speaking at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. During the small speaking engagement, Valentine not only made disparaging remarks about players, but also questioned the day-to-day operations coordinated by his superiors in the front office.
The talk was not well received by general manager Steve Phillips or the players in question.
With the slicing and dicing capabilities of the Boston Media, don’t be surprised if Valentine has Dan Shaughnessy and Bob Ryan on speed dial to air his irrational grievances.
The guys sporting the uniforms are the not the only people who have developed ire for Valentine’s antics. Giving front office executives conniption fits is nothing new to Bobby V.
In 2002, it was suspected the Mets had a problem in the clubhouse with marijuana. Supposedly, there were up to seven players who were getting red-eyed before games. Valentine informed Steve Phillips of the problem to then become one himself.
Later that day, Valentine addressed the media about said situation while proceeding to swing a bat as if he were under the influence. The suits were not pleased.
His opinion on social issues didn’t end there. When it was rumored there was a gay player on his Mets, Valentine announced that baseball was “probably ready for a gay player.”
While the question and answer is worthy of debate, the Mets’ brass felt that Valentine was setting the scene for a player’s for a player to “come out” and not focusing on more important things—like winning games.
Even in Japan, where he is loved and adored, Valentine caused a scene. In 1995 during his first Japanese tour, Valentine was fired by the Chiba Lotte Marines’ general manager Tatsuro Hirooka because Valentine didn’t understand Japanese baseball.
While that conclusion is up for further talks, Valentine’s constant public gloating made the situation an uncomfortable one.
While Valentine has experienced success in the United States, he has not managed a MLB game in 10 years. He’ll have to dust off the mothballs on his American managing skills and be ready to shine in one of the most difficult environments in baseball.
If the Boston Red Sox manager sneezes, the residue is splashed on the pages of the Boston Globe.
Indeed, his rust with the American game might handicap him. He’ll be managing new players and facing different opponents.
Sure, some remain from his last job with the Mets, but like they say, “It’s a whole new ballgame.” Assimilating himself to constant cross-country flights and a longer season could hamper his mind and attitude.
Ultimately, the rust will show in some department.
The Red Sox will have to deal with the cleanup.