The Boston media is restless. With the Patriots having recently destroyed their chief rival in primetime; the Celtics on an indefinite hiatus; and the Bruins still basking in their post-Stanley Cup victory glow, there isn’t a lot to discuss. They’re bored, and have little to write about that hasn’t been covered ad nauseum over the past few weeks. Naturally, the conversation has drifted back toward the Red Sox and their still unresolved managerial situation.
Initially, the Red Sox focused their search on five inexperienced, albeit strong, managerial candidates. When none of them turned out to be an ideal fit, management decided to regroup and expand their search. Of course, this opened the club up to a tremendous amount of speculation and criticism from the media. Rather than taking the search expansion for what it truly is (a desire to find the right manager), many resorted to expressing crackpot ideas and conspiracy theories.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, a long time admirer of Bobby Valentine, jumped into the mix this weekend during his “Sunday Notes” column when he proclaimed inexperienced managers are ill-equipped to manage in Boston.
“It’s not that an inexperienced manager can’t succeed in any market or in any situation, whether the team is rebuilding or in win-it-all mode.
The hiring of Dale Sveum with the Cubs, Robin Ventura with the White Sox, and Mike Matheny with the Cardinals indicates a trend toward youth and inexperience.
But this is Boston.
Boston requires a manager with some backbone, background, and one who won’t need on-the-job training. It’s common sense that in this situation you would have to be interested in Bobby Valentine or Gene Lamont or Larry Bowa. Those guys have seen it all.”
But this is Boston… This is the same excuse I resort to when “because I said so” and “nah nah nah I can’t hear you” seem a little too played out. I don’t care if I’m in Guam and discussing second century Chinese basket weaving. If you disagree with my opinion, I’m going to drop my “But this is Boston” excuse, and effectively win our conversation. Case closed. End of story. Period.
Seriously though, why is “But this is Boston” ever an acceptable reason for the managerial situation. It comes across as not only incredibly lazy, but also reaking of self-importance. I realize that Boston, New York, and even Philadelphia to an extent are different than most other towns in terms of sports coverage. The fans are more rabid, and the media is relentless. Still, I don’t see how that fact qualifies or disqualifies anyone for the position based on experience.
I can understand and even sympathize with someone who wants a manager with “backbone, background, and won’t need on-the-job training.” In this vein, a proven, successful manager like Bobby Valentine, although not a great fit, would make sense. That said, the careers of Gene Lamont and Larry Bowa have been spotty at best. Quite frankly, I don’t care if they’ve “seen it all.” I want someone that has the skill set to be a successful manager with the club. Experience is part of the equation, but it should never be the end all, be all.
Later in the article, Cafardo expands on his hypothesis.
“The Red Sox, meanwhile, are coming off a season in which they suffered a 7-20 collapse. The front office must have felt it was epic because the organization is undergoing a major makeover.
The underlying issue was discipline, or lack thereof. Is that a place for a young manager?
“Boston is the most unique situation in baseball. Everything from the ballpark, the scrutiny, the media, the fans,’’ said one National League GM. “Sure, you might come up with the next great manager if you go with a young, inexperienced guy, but if it fails there, it’s really ugly. Every failure is magnified that much more.’’
For instance, how did young Butch Hobson work out in Boston?”
Cafardo has a clear misunderstanding of the situation in Boston. The underlying issue for the collapse was not discipline; although that was a part of it. It was a mixture of injuries, poor performance, and plain bad luck. John Henry, one of the most rational men in baseball, realizes this; as does his new General Manager. The Red Sox were neither as bad as their 7-20 finish than they were as good as their 81-41 run from May through August. Bringing in someone with a reputation for discipline doesn’t necessarily change anything.
Furthermore, the club isn’t undergoing a major organizational makeover because of the collapse. They’re doing it because Terry Francona and Theo Epstein both chose to leave the Red Sox of their own volition. We didn’t notice it at the time, but Francona appeared less engaged than he had in years past. He seemed tired, stressed, and burned out. Considering the problems he reportedly was facing both on the home front and in the clubhouse, it should come as no surprise that he was ready to leave. Epstein, following the Bill Walsh career plan, had apparently already decided he was going to leave after the 2012 season. With the Francona resigning and the perfect opportunity opening up in Chicago, he jumped at the chance to take that next step in his career a year early. We can spin it all we want, but the “organizational makeover” is the result of factors that were primarily external to the Red Sox.
I don’t want to downplay the importance of picking a manager in Boston. It’s an important decision; one that needs to examined very carefully. Still, if the next manager fails, it will be a disaster whether the manager is young and inexperienced or a grizzled veteran. It’s that simple. Basing the decision solely on experience seems incredibly shortsighted. Countless managers with spotty track records have received second (and even third) shots at managing a club based on their previous experience. In most cases, they’ve either failed or been given mixed reviews. Citing Butch Hobson’s turbulent tenure in Boston as a primary reason for not hiring a young, inexperienced manager is like saying, “Moneyball as a concept is crap because one time a ball hit a bird.” It’s a non-sequitor argument that detracts from the issue at hand.
Regardless of a person’s managerial experience, there exists a great deal of risk in making a selection. Management needs to select the best person for the job; not kowtow to any particular group. And that includes the sabermetrically inclined community as well.
Categories: Boston Red Sox