Bobby Valentine has to go. The naming of Mr. Valentine as manager of the Boston Red Sox on December 2, 2011 was a mistake, and the Red Sox ownership group needs to man up and admit their failure if the organization wants to compete over the final 132 games of the regular season. The hiring of Valentine was made to help the organization disassociate themselves as much as they possible could from the collapse of September 2011, and ownership thought that hiring a happy-go-lucky personality who had been to the World Series once before (lost to the 2000 World Series to the Yankees while managing the Mets) would be enough, and in doing so John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino proved that they know less about baseball than they do about running a business. These four gentlemen, along with the loss of Theo Epstein to the Chicago Cubs (and the ensuing battle for compensation, which ended with the Red Sox getting an injured Chris Carpenter), have turned what was once a very likable team into the laughingstock of the 2012 season. This current ownership group would never put the team up for sale (even though John Henry and Tom Werner seem preoccupied with Fenway Sports Group which owns Liverpool F.C. in the English Premier League and Roush Fenway Racing in NASCAR), so the only other solution would be to let Valentine go and see if somebody else can manage the team that General Manager Ben Cherington is trying to assemble.
Any manager, whether a field manager of a Major League Baseball team or an office manager at a corporation or even a department head for a grocery store, needs to have one thing to succeed: the respect of the people that work with you. That means that the manager’s subordinates, as well as the higher-ups in whatever organization you work for need to have the trust and confidence in the work that you do and the skills that you bring to the team. And in the case of Bobby Valentine it has been obvious for quite a while that not everybody is buying into his system when it comes to the 2012 Red Sox. There have been two incidents this past week and a half, as well as the highly publicized ripping and then apologizing of Kevin Youkilis back in April, that prove that the Sox players are not “all-in” when it comes to the manner that Valentine approaches the day to day operations of the Boston Red Sox.
The first incident I’m referring to that occurred this week actually dates back to last season, when Bobby Valentine was still an on-air personality as a baseball analyst for ESPN. In August 2011, during a game between the Red Sox and the Yankees that Valentine was in the booth for Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, Valentine made critical comments towards Beckett and his pace of play, saying that he took too long between pitches. And yes, Valentine was right, Beckett was breaking the rules, but the pitcher did not appreciate getting called out for it on national television. The two men met during the offseason to discuss the issue, but obviously not all of the resentment ended with that discussion. On Boston’s off day last Thursday, Beckett was spotted golfing with teammate Clay Buchholz, just two days before Beckett missed a start because of stiffness in his right lat muscle. Today, Valentine downplayed the event and said that he is yet to talk to Beckett about the event and also commented that “Beckett wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his team or his season”, but in my opinion this is just one more event to the drama between the two men. Normally, I wouldn’t care if an athlete played golf on his off day (golf is my second or third favorite sport) but for Beckett, who has been batting blisters and a sore back for what seems like an eternity, there are probably better ways to spend your days off and his boss, Bobby Valentine, should have a talk with him about his conditioning. That has yet to happen and Beckett is back on the mound tonight against the Indians, so I have a feeling that discussion will never take place.
Another “incident” (if you want to call it that) is in regards to Will Middlebrooks, which if you have read my column from Monday: https://weynethworld.com/2012/05/08/get-to-know-will-middlebrooks/) you would know he is the Red Sox new third baseman. Earlier this week Bobby Valentine discussed potentially moving the young infielder to the outfield when Kevin Youkilis is healthy enough to return, saying that the idea “has been tossed around in some corners” while later admitting that he hasn’t spoken to upper management about the idea. General Manager Ben Cherington felt that he had to refute any possible notion of Middlebrooks moving to the outfield and said that when Youkilis comes back the third base job is Kevin’s. Cherington said on the matter“ It’s great that Will has come up and done a good job and we like him a lot and he’s a big part of our future, but Youk’s on the DL and he didn’t lose his job because he got hurt.” That’s all well and good, normally players do not lose their position when they become injured (even though Middlebrooks is outplaying Youk this year), but the bigger issue is that these are the types of discussion that need to be handled “in-house” and not through the media. Bobby Valentine, as he so often does, spoke without thinking and now the Sox are forced to play Youkilis when he is healthy enough to return instead of playing it by ear when that time comes. It’s yet to be seen what impact, if any, these comments will have on Middlebrooks, but why even put the kid in that situation where he knows he can’t win the position outright when given the chance to play. Anyone ever heard of Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig?
Finally, and probably most importantly, the issue with Kevin Youkilis at the beginning of the year is something that Bobby Valentine should still be on the hook for. It’s hard to let go of an issue when a new manager who has been out of Major League Baseball for a decade decides to call out one of the few players who was a part of both Red Sox World Championships in my lifetime. And to call Youkilis out on his effort and question whether he is physically or emotionally still into the game was an asinine statement to make at the time and something that the whole team still probably thinks about on a regular basis. At least Valentine realized how dumb he sounded and acted, and though he apologized to Youkilis the next day he still does not know if his apology was ever accepted. Valentine also said that he liked the comments made my Dustin Pedroia and others about the players having each other’s backs and the strong bond in the clubhouse. I’m not sure how Valentine felt about Pedroia telling the media “I don’t really know what Bobby’s trying to do, but that’s not the way we go about our stuff here” and then questioning if that coaching style worked in Japan (where Valentine coached twice after going 45-41 with the Rangers in 1992 and 75-86 with the Mets in 2002). From that moment you could tell that the team was divided, and the way that they are playing currently (12-18, 7.5 games back in the AL East) you could say that things have not improved much.
Bobby Valentine was never the right man for this job. Boston is not the type of town where you go to work every day with a smile on your face (unless you’re David Ortiz) and go about your business without recognizing the flaws and weaknesses that impact you. Valentine was signed as a public relations move and has tried to put a positive spin on everything that has happened this year, but at some point you have to face reality. This Red Sox organization and team as its currently constituted is just not very good (plenty of factors and I’m not trying to blame it all on Valentine) but at some point the right changes need to be made. Do the right thing Red Sox, find a manager that the players will respond to and one who can actually help this team win games on the field. The only thing Bobby Valentine should be making is more of the wrap sandwiches he “invented”, because as a manager of the last-place Boston Red Sox he is just not cutting it.