When the axe falls it never falls softly. Last night immediately after Boston’s game 162 drubbing at the hands of the New York Yankees, BSI posted a poll asking you, dear reader, how many hours you thought it would be before Bobby Valentine received his pink slip. While it technically didn’t fall within the 1-12 hour category, it didn’t last much longer than that for Boston brass to have a meeting with him and announce about noontime today that Valentine would indeed not be asked back to manage another season. Forty percent of our readers got it right. The only question left is will one of you take this job?
Valentine’s firing was an academic exercise in more ways than one, not the least of which was a direct parallel to a college student who flunks all his courses. When this happens there are no histrionics or hand wringing; the university responds by simply not asking him back.
Certainly, all of Boston’s 2012 ills cannot be laid at Valentine’s feet. It truly takes a village to so spectacularly flame out as the Red Sox did this year.
Atrocious management moves over the past three years included but were not limited to overspending and taking on washed up retreads and somehow thinking that by putting on a Red Sox uniform they would be imbued with the winning spirit. There was also an appalling lack of backbone as Theo Epstein put in place some of the moves that ultimately sunk this season.
The players too must take their share of the blame. There has been petulant whining (pick a player, any player at any given time), combative posturing in opposition to Valentine (Dustin Pedroia and Alfredo Aceves to name two), and outright stupidity (who can forget Ryan Sweeney‘s ill-fated mano a wall-o resulting in a busted hand after clocking a dugout wall).
Injury of the non self-inflicted type also played a huge part in Boston’s 2012 demise. Boston players on the DL approached a record-setting staggering 1,500 cumulative games missed due to injury.
Valentine can be held accountable in a couple of important ways. Valentine’s faults were both of commission and omission, sometimes inadvertent. He opened the mouth that roared early in the season, calling into question beloved Sox icon Kevin Youkilis‘ will to win and intensity. Youk has been a lot of things over the years. A slacker isn’t one of them. Pedroia rushed to Youk’s defense and publicly bitch slapped Bobby V, setting the stage for a season-long cold war.
After 12 years away from the game, it also became clear that major league baseball appeared to have passed Valentine by. He was slow to get the bullpen in order early in the season, stubbornly sticking with Daniel Bard when it was clear Bard was becoming the Steve Blass of this era. It cost him dearly. To his credit, he became a master juggler of an ever changing lineup but ultimately could never put it together both from a functional and a team chemistry perspective.
In the end, the sum total of bad decisions top to bottom, a team and manager that appeared to not like one another very much, catastrophic injury and a steady stream of off-field dramas (anyone remember Beckett’s day off golf outing or Aceves marching into Valentine’s office and going off?) eviscerated Valentine’s enthusiastic can-do attitude, leaving nothing but a shelled out husk of a team.
The deal with the Dodgers that sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto to the left coast was but the first play in a series of big-time chess moves that the Red Sox will have to make in order to climb out of the graveyard and back into respectability, never mind contention. Valentine’s firing was a must. As the winter of our discontent approaches Red Sox fans are smart enough to know that the seismic shifts of August and October will have to be tempered by a brick-by-brick rebuilding of the franchise in order to return to a winning tradition that Boston fans have now come to, based on Red Sox ticket prices, justifiably expect.
Mr. Cherington, Mr. Lucchino, Mr. Henry, Mr. Werner – your move.
I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go
-Watching The Wheels, John Lennon