Bobby Valentine is not going to be fired this week.
Red Sox owner John Henry took a break from watching synchronized swimming Monday to issue an ultra-defensive vote of confidence for his beleaguered manager.
“An organization is much more than the field manager,’’ wrote Henry in an email to reporters. “We all share responsibility for the success and failure of the Boston Red Sox. We are not making a change in manager.’’
There you go.
How did Valentine feel about this show of support?
“I regret they had to do it,’’ said the manager. “But I totally appreciate it.’’’
Henry’s proclamation did not stop with the backing of the manager.
“To blame Bobby Valentine for the Red Sox being .500 at this point in the season is simply wrong,’’ said the soccer aficionado. “A lot has been written about injuries to key players this year. The impact of that on the Sox this year should not be discounted.’’
Please. Can we not insult Red Sox fans by singing the song of wounded ballplayers? These Red Sox have been just as dead-ass since the return of the “varsity” as they were when they truly did have an inordinate number of players on the disabled list.
So they are not making a change. But are they letting Bobby be Bobby?
“In regard to the notion that we have somehow not empowered Bobby, you should ask him directly about that,’’ wrote Henry. “We have been nothing but supportive of him inside and outside the clubhouse. Stories that imply otherwise are due to speculation that is not warranted at all by the facts.’’
I asked. Valentine said, “I don’t know about the notion. I can’t even fathom that. Whoever ‘they’ is. The ownership has a very expensive payroll. [GM] Ben [Cherington] is working 24/7. He’s been in my office every day. There’s never been anything we’ve had major disagreements on. I don’t know how I could be more empowered.’’
OK. Let me help. Sox bench coach Tim Bogar is not Bobby’s guy. Pitching coach Bob McClure is not Bobby’s guy. Bullpen coach Gary Tuck is not Bobby’s guy. Valentine would have liked his pal Bill Buckner as a hitting instructor. The Sox have given Bobby little control over his coaching staff, but insist that these coaches are his choices. They will not admit that they forced these guys on Bobby, just as they won’t admit they fired Terry Francona. It’s so much gentler to say that the previous manager chose not to return.
More facts: when Valentine ripped Kevin Youkilis at the start of the season, Cherington made Valentine apologize. When a Sox player went upstairs to complain about Bobby being mean to Will Middlebrooks, the player was given an audience. Bobby told us he was told to rest Carl Crawford when he wanted to play Crawford. These are not phony facts from a bloodthirsty media. This information comes from the Red Sox manager.
More paranoia from Henry: “The notion that we are not present and attending games is misleading to the public. Tom, Larry, and I seldom miss a telecast when on the road if we aren’t there. This is a 365-day-a-year sport for us — as it is for Ben and for Bobby. Even when we are away we discuss issues daily. Just because we aren’t answering all the media questions doesn’t mean we aren’t on the job. We are.’’
It is little comfort for Red Sox fans to be told that Boston’s ownership trio “seldom misses a telecast.’’ Jeremy Jacobs always told us he watched the Bruins on TV when he was home in Buffalo. It’s clear that Liverpool, Roush Fenway Racing, and LeBron James are as important as the Red Sox. And the Olympics were more important than being here for the trading deadline. That doesn’t make anybody a bad guy, but it indicates the Sox are not as important to the owner as they once were.
“Our commitment to winning is unabated,’’ wrote Henry. “That is our focus. We continue to have the 2nd highest payroll among the 30 clubs. We have been at this for more than 10 years in Boston, and winning is just as much our focus today as it was when we took over.”
Henry’s payroll contention is misleading. Yes, the Sox are in the top three in payroll, but that is because of bad decisions regarding pre-existing contracts. We all know that the Sox spending stopped after Theo Epstein signed John Lackey and Carl Crawford. The big-spending days are over. The Sox are done. Since Theo left, it’s been a soft parade of Nick Puntos, Aaron Cooks, and Ryan Sweeneys. The Sox are Wannabe Yankees no more. Today they make acquisitions in the image of the A’s and the Pirates. Got to stay on the safe side of the luxury tax threshhold.
Before Monday’s 9-2 victory over the Rangers (no team looks better in blowouts than the 2012 Red Sox — it’s the 4-3 games that give them trouble), Valentine said he didn’t know much about calls for his dismissal.
“I didn’t read the papers or listen to the radio, nor do I comment on things written or said,’’ said the manager. “I don’t know what it means. I just come in and do the best job I can do. I can’t control that process.”
“I manage for my job every day,’’ he added. “We’re on a winning streak now. I think pressure is a thing you put on yourself when you’re unprepared. I have great expectations when I wake up every day of my life.’’
Are players responding to his ‘style’?
“I don’t know what my style is,’’ he answered. “Guys who are having good seasons have responded well. Guys who are not having good seasons are not responding well.’’
The Red Sox are back to .500 after only 110 games. And don’t forget; they still have a shot at the wild card.
. . .
Josh Beckett and Lackey carry themselves as unlikable characters who don’t care about the image they present to fans and media. Despite this, they get unwavering support from their teammates. We repeatedly ask why they receive this support. Should we instead be asking what this support says about the people who populate the Red Sox roster?
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Has Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino signed the contract extension that was put in front of him in spring training? Not sure. Contacted regarding this issue, Lucchino said he would have no comment.
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The Dodgers Monday hired Janet Marie Smith as a vice president of planning and development. Smith is the architectural genius behind Camden Yards and she oversaw the renovation of Fenway Park. It’s never been explained why she left the Red Sox so abruptly in 2009. She will be in charge of renovating Dodger Stadium. The Cubs should have hired Smith to rebuild the dump that Wrigley Field has become. Chicago’s loss is LA’s gain. Just take a good look at Fenway Park these days.