As everyone knows, [and in case you didn’t, you knew it was coming] Bobby Valentine is no longer the Red Sox manager. The team dismissed the 62-year old skipper after just one year at the helm, not even 24 hours after the Red Sox’ 93rd loss in their final game of the season.
From what the players and fans have said throughout this traumatic year for the Sox, you’d think Valentine’s firing was a huge step in moving forward and rebuilding a seemingly reborn franchise. Following 86 years of losing that ended in 2004, the Red Sox have won more World Series (2) than any team this century, and have appeared in the playoffs a total of 6 of the last 10 Octobers.
No, a dynasty to challenge their rival Yankees never happened, but right now, Boston has had the upper-hand in the first twelve years of the century where it counts most – the World Series.
Yet here we are, for the second straight year discussing the dismissal of the Red Sox manager and the dis-array the team lies in. Last time, it was well-respected and celebrated Terry Francona after a historic September collapse, that still left the Bo-Sox with a 90-72 record in 2011. Now, in 2012 it’s Bobby V, who miraculously survived all 162 games after the Red Sox’ worst season since he was fifteen – in 1965.
As the final result shows, Bobby V and the Red Sox fell well short of a “perfect match”, as some had predicted when he was hired by new GM Ben Cherington not even a calendar year ago. Tears streamed down his face as he first buttoned up the Red Sox jersey over his suit the day he was introduced to the Boston media.
Valentine was supposed to represent a change in the attitude of the defeated and disrespectful bunch of goons Fenway Park’s cramped dugout housed. People knew Bobby V was not a player’s manager, but at the same time was not as big a dictator as some perceived. So as spring training beckoned, it was hard to say that Boston couldn’t rebound this year and make the playoffs under the rule of Mr. Valentine.
Then came something so shocking to the Red Sox, that they immediately crumbled in Florida before they even played a game home in Boston – discipline.
I’m not trying to disrespect what Terry Francona did in his seven years as Red Sox skipper, but clearly he kept a very long leash on all of his players. Maybe it was because of how long he knew them, but then again, maybe that’s just who he is as a manager.
Bobby Valentine immediately tried to send a message that playtime was over and that it was time to start working hard towards returning to the playoffs. Yet amazingly, the Red Sox players completely tuned him out. Was he doing anything wrong? No. He was simply trying to assert himself and the changes that would happen under him, like every new manager should do.
But the players were so conceded and so used to being pampered by Francona for all those years that they just said “no”, and “that’s not how we do things” to nearly everything Bobby V brought to the table. Imagine a group of middle school children and how they act when a substitute teacher is in for the day. Now imagine a few of them with goatees, beards, and fried chicken. And viola! You have the 2012 Boston Red Sox.
The worst part of it all is somehow, someway, the Boston media too were in favor of the players and twisted Bobby Valentine’s actions into evil plots to make the players’ lives hell. If Mike Aviles did not cover his position properly, let it slide. If Kevin Youkilis is struggling, let it slide. If Dustin Pedroia hates you, let it slide.
Valentine didn’t let things slide, rightfully like a skipper should, and somehow he ended up being (to fans) the source of the Red Sox’ problems throughout the 2012 campaign.
Look here – the definition of a baseball manager is “someone in charge of training a team”. Spot the key phrase? In charge. That’s not what a baseball player is, and yet, that’s how the Red Sox carried themselves. They were the managers, and Valentine was the managed.
30 years ago, this would not have happened. Managers were specifically brought in because of spitefulness or disciplinary reasons, in an effort to focus the team more on winning than anything else that came with playing professional baseball. Now a days, it seems that a manager needs to “relate to the players” and needs to be lenient with them in order to be a good coach. And that is simply false. Had Bobby Valentine managed in the 60’s or 70’s, I’m sure he would have found more success and fame except for just one N.L. Wild Card and Pennant with the Mets in 2000.
Simply put – Bobby V is your classic old-school manager who the Red Sox dis-respected and mis-treated horribly. They didn’t want to accept change and didn’t want to man up to their childish actions, and therefore it showed on the field. With the team that was assembled this year, not many other managers could have done a significantly better job.
So before you go out and hang this embarrassment of a season for Boston on Bobby Valentine’s shoulders, it was the players themselves who started and deliberately continued a dramatic string of events that unjustly cost a great baseball mind another shot at managing.
May the Curse of Bobby V begin…and never end.