He was everything we thought he would be.
Bobby Valentine was goofy, opinionated, telegenic, smart, calculating, connected, and a little off the reservation. He was a terrific dancer.
Unfortunately, at the age of 62, 10 years removed from a major league dugout, Valentine was not a very good manager of our dysfunctional, entitled, and underachieving Local Nine. The 2012 Red Sox were the worst Boston baseball team in 47 years, and finished in last place, 26 games behind the New York Yankees.
Valentine was fired Thursday afternoon, exactly 14 hours and 14 minutes after the Despicable Me Sox completed their dismal season with a 14-2 loss at Yankee Stadium.
“I understand this decision,’’ Valentine said in a statement released by the Sox at 12:47 p.m. “This year in Boston has been an incredible experience for me, but I am as disappointed in the results as are ownership and the great fans of Red Sox Nation.’’
Give the Sox points for decisiveness on this one. They did not delay in making a move that was both obvious and inevitable. And unlike what we witnessed in last year’s polygraph-imploding Terry Francona press conference, the Sox did not attempt to frame this firing as any kind of mutual decision.
Valentine got the news early Thursday when he met with general manager Ben Cherington and team owners John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino at Lucchino’s home in Brookline.
“This year’s won-loss record reflects a season of agony,’’ said Lucchino, the man solely responsible for hiring Bobby V after ownership rejected Dale Sveum, the candidate put forth by first-year GM Cherington. “It begs for changes, some of which have already transpired. More will come.
“We are determined to fix that which is broken and return the Red Sox to the level of success we have experienced over the past decade.’’
The 2012 Red Sox were a big bowl of wrong. Valentine’s methods never worked. He got into a dust-up with veteran infielder Mike Aviles during a relay drill in the first week of spring training, and Sox veterans turned on him immediately.
When Valentine called out Kevin Youkilis in the second week of the season, questioning the two-time champion’s physical and mental dedication, Dustin Pedroia buried Valentine, saying, “I don’t really understand what Bobby’s trying to do. That’s really not the way we go about our stuff around here. I’m sure he’ll figure it out.’’
Cherington forced Valentine to apologize. The tone was set.
Valentine was on an island throughout the season. He didn’t have the ear of his GM. He didn’t have the support of his coaches (an occasional conversation would have been nice). He didn’t have the backing of most veterans on the roster.
He infuriated Jon Lester when he left the slumping lefty on the mound to take an 11-run beating against Toronto in July. That led to the Palace Revolt, when Sox players asked for (and received) a meeting with the owners — a meeting that excluded Valentine.
It was all over after that. Ownership artificially inflated Valentine with phony votes of confidence, then the Sox traded away $276 million in payroll (Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto) Aug. 25.
That was the end of the Red Sox as we knew them. The Sox went 9-27 after the deal. They went 7-22 after Sept. 1. They lost 12 of their last 13, including the final eight.
It’s grossly unfair to blame the 2012 train wreck on Valentine. The Sox suffered an inordinate number of injuries. Lester and Beckett underperformed, and none of Cherington’s deals worked. Picking up where they left off last September, Lester and Beckett were terrible. New closer Andrew Bailey had surgery on his thumb on the eve of the season opener and was never a factor.
Valentine was working with a two-year contract. He knew it was over after a curious lunch with Henry in Seattle in early September.
He jumped off the rails a few times in the final days. He threatened to punch a talk-show host. On the final night in New York, Valentine said he had been undermined by some of his coaches. But for the most part, he tried to take the high road.
“I had every opportunity to succeed and didn’t,’’ said Valentine.
Cherington gets to pick the manager this time, and there is no question he wants John Farrell, who is under contract to the Blue Jays for one more season. If compensation can be worked out, Farrell will be named the 46th manager in club history later this month.
Meanwhile, Bobby V goes down in Boston sports lore as a rare one-and-out manager. The last man to manage the Sox for a single season was Bucky Harris in 1934.
“There was some element of unfairness to it,’’ acknowledged Lucchino. “Especially given the epidemic of injuries. But our job is to look forward and see the most direct path to a successful baseball team. That objective trumps every other consideration.’’
In lieu of a traditional press conference, the Sox parsed out the details of Valentine’s demise in a series of “round-table” discussions, with Lucchino and Cherington taking questions from individual media outlets. Dr. Charles Steinberg’s fingerprints were all over the place.
The one constant was the absence of Henry. The principal owner missed last year’s Francona firing after he suffered a minor injury when he slipped and fell on his yacht. Henry was not present for Thursday’s round-tables.
“The job of dealing with the press, for better or worse, falls with Ben and me,’’ said Lucchino.
And let’s not forget that the big Liverpool-Udinese match from Enfield was unfolding while Lucchino and Cherington explained the firing of Valentine. Victims of a dreaded “own goal,” Liverpool lost, 3-2.
Hope nobody got sacked.