Bobby Valentine has been fired by the Boston Red Sox after one season. We could see this coming from a mile away, and he is the fall guy.
Cut back to the fall of last year. Terry Francona, reading the writing on the wall, asked Red Sox management to decline his contract option for 2011, effectively allowing him to leave without resigning or forcing the team to consider firing him. His departure was amicable. Instead of bringing in (a) someone like Bill Parcels, who has a winning history and get away from being harsh and abrasive, or (b) someone the players know, and who management trusts to correct the problems, they hire Bobby Valentine. In addition, they allow Theo Epstein, the boy wonder GM, to jump ship to become President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, replacing him with Red Sox assistant GM Ben Cherington.
However, this is like changing the frosting on a bad cake; on the surface it looks, and even tastes, a little better, but what lays underneath is still pretty bad. They refused to get rid of the players, even the ones whose bad habits caused their meltdown in 2011, which effectively means that many of those problems are just going to linger. On top of that, you have a manager who has problems keeping his mouth shut, as shown when he openly questioned Kevin Youkilis after assuming the position, and recently questioned the loyalty of his chosen coaching staff. The management did not want to blow up the core of their World Series teams, which reflects that they truly did not know what to do.
The proper guy to hire as manager… was the manager. If management had talked with Terry Francona and asked him to stick around for at least one more year, if they had truly supported and backed the man who brought them their first World Series title in 86 years, and then another a few years later, then the problems would have been solved; Epstein would have likely remained in Boston, keeping his genius there. The players, for all their criticisms of Francona, loved him. There was plenty more that core to do.
The biggest problem with what the Red Sox management did was pander to what their fans wanted, and not what their team needed. This wasn’t the uproar that occurred when latino fans got pissed at Ozzie Guillen for saying he admired Fidel Castro, where they could potentially cost the team millions of dollars in revenue; this was some fans who were angry that their team melted down.
However, given that I am likely to not win this argument, I now return to Bobby Valentine. So, they bring him in. They know his personality and temperament. They still haven’t gotten the rotten apples out of the clubhouse. They know that. What were they expecting to happen?
The beer and chicken scandal was bad, but don’t you think that instead of just quickly and summarily banning alcohol in the clubhouse, don’t you think Bobby Valentine would have been well-served to talk with the players about it? Even if they disagreed with his decision, wouldn’t it have been better if they felt like they had some input?
To make it worse, management didn’t catch the memo that you can’t just change a culture by changing the manager; you need to review the players, and see what’s to be done. They did this mid-season, once it became clear that the team was going to be stinking it up for the rest of the year, by clearing $280 million off their payroll in that waiver trade (which I am not entirely cool with by the way). They had previously traded away Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox, which I imagine they probably thought would solve the problem.
I defend Bobby Valentine, even though by most standards, he should be fired. However, what is truly indefensible to me is the continual ineptitude of the Red Sox management since their 2011 season ended. They let go of Francona, which was dumb. They filed the void with Bobby Valentine, who was entirely the wrong hire to begin with. They expected a change in team culture without taking any steps to facilitate it.
You know what, and I never thought I’d find myself saying this about a Red Sox manager: I’m glad they fired him. He’s too good for them.
Head back to the booth, Bobby. You do well there, you’re comfortable there, and most importantly, you’re paid to talk smack about the players, coaches, and management. ESPN will probably take you back; Terry Francona is looking to become the manager of the Cleveland Indians, back in the dugout, where he belongs.