By now it seems a foregone conclusion that the Red Sox will fire Bobby Valentine at the end of this season. Ben Cherington all but admitted that it would occur in a recent interview on WEEI, although he walked back the comment later that day. Although Bobby V’s departure might be for the best right now (but there’s an argument that it would not be for the best — inmates running the asylum), I want to discuss what happened in regard to Valentine’s hiring and what these incidents mean going forward for the Red Sox.
Lord knows that before Bobby Valentine’s car turns right onto Brookline Avenue from Yawkey Way, people in the Red Sox organization and team will be talking to reporters, trying to get out their version of “the truth.” But we can already discuss the things that we do know.
First and foremost, at the end of the 2011 season the minds of the Red Sox brass were more concerned with the status of Theo Epstein than they were of the next manager. Once Ben Cherington was appointed to the general manager’s position, the manager search could begin in earnest. It was widely reported that Cherington wanted Gene Lamont to be the next manager but that President/CEO Larry Lucchino wanted Bobby Valentine. Lucchino won the initial power struggle with Cherington and Valentine was appointed. Welcome to the new position, Ben.
However, part of the condition of Valentine taking the job was that he was not allowed to hire a full coaching staff of his own choosing. (To be fair, this may have been due to the fact that Valentine was hired in late November, due to the attention paid to Epstein.) Pitching coach Bob McClure, bench coach Tim Bogar and bullpen coach Gary Tuck would remain on the coaching staff. Reports would emanate that these coaches would barely talk to Valentine. McClure would be fired in July, to replaced by Randy Niemann. So let’s be clear here. Valentine didn’t insist on these three coaches losing their jobs upon his taking the manager’s job, and they repaid him by barely communicating with him.
I think that the Kevin Youkilis incident and its aftermath was the beginning of the end for Valentine, and it happened in April. Valentine said to the press that Youkilis wasn’t “as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.” I don’t know whether Bobby was making an honest assessment of Youkilis or if he was trying to motivate Youkilis to perform better than he had been. What was more important to me was Dustin Pedroia‘s response of “that’s not the way we do things around here.” Oh really, Dustin?
The ‘way things were done around here’ was to disrespect the supposedly beloved Terry Francona by drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the locker room during games (or for not calling out the chicken-and-beer brigade), and by making things so personally trying for him that you forced Francona, a man many of you claimed to love, to quit a job he loved. You got rid of the nice guy and you got a hard-ass in Valentine as a replacement. Was it then time to start hounding Valentine to force him to quit? Was April 16 that time? Was this the “Red Sox way?” I understand that Valentine isn’t a “player’s manager” (whatever that means) but the players, including Terry Francona’s cribbage buddy Saint Dustin, forfeited any right to complain about treatment from their new manager once they forced their old manager out of town.
The came the infamous July incident of players texting the owners with complaints and the owners coming to meet the players. It may have been the case that the players had been complaining to Ben Cherington about Bobby Valentine but that wasn’t enough to get Bobby V fired, so they went over Ben’s head. Either way, the incident shows incredible disrespect for both Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherington. And, playing no small part in this is that the owners actually agreeing to meet the players, further undercutting the authority of Cherington. I believe that psychologists call this behavior by ownership “enabling.”
Now let’s look at what might happen in the future. The Red Sox have left themselves with few options for their next manager because of their collective treatment of Valentine. Their actions have limited their search to in-house or former in-house candidates, such as Jason Varitek, Tim Bogar, Brad Mills, John Farrell or (hang on to your hats) Terry Francona. Why would anyone on the outside want to come into this dysfunctional organization? From ownership to the general manager’s office to coaches to the players, they all screwed Bobby V in one way or another from the start. Why would anyone without a previous connection to the team want to get screwed like that?
I’m not here to claim that Bobby Valentine has been a perfect manager. I think he did the best with what he had, given all the injuries the Red Sox sustained. Once he figured out bullpen roles, the bullpen was the strength of the team. He usually made the right decisions regarding playing time, especially for Will Middlebrooks, Pedro Ciriaco and Franklin Morales. But on the personal side, there is a lot of blame to be spread around with what happened with Bobby Valentine.
And the person who comes out looking the best out of this cluster-you-know-what is Bobby V.