Why Bobby Valentine and the Red Sox didn’t work
Looking ahead at who might replace him as manager
The Red Sox will move on to their third manager in three years, as Bobby Valentine was dismissed after just one season and a 69-93record, the worst by a Red Sox team since 1966.
The dysfunctional organization is changing managers as if it is changing socks.
On deck could be Toronto manager John Farrell, who has had an unsuccessful two-year tenure with the Blue Jays. Farrell, who is still under contract for one more year, barely avoided last place in the AL East — the Sox claimed that — but Boston management’s familiarity with him makes him the top choice.
When he was the pitching coach in Boston from 2006-10, he showed an ability to work with the team’s youthful baseball operations department. For that reason, there is probably some behind-the-scenes work going on at higher levels — perhaps between Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino and Toronto CEO Paul Beeston, who are close friends — to get a deal done.
But if not Farrell, then who?
The choice here would be Brad Ausmus. Like Valentine a Connecticut native, Ausmus is a young, smart baseball guy who would seem to fit the culture. The former major league catcher has a great demeanor and can certainly relate to the modern player, which is something Valentine had problems with.
Ausmus, a Dartmouth graduate who currently works with the San Diego Padres as a special assignment scout, turned down a chance to compete for the Houston Astros managing job, but may be more open to the Red Sox. He also owns a home on Cape Cod.
The Red Sox could reward Valentine’s bench coach, Tim Bogar, who has also worked with Joe Maddon and Terry Francona and seems to have been groomed for the job. His tenure with Valentine was rocky after the organization suggested Bogar be considered for the job as Valentine’s bench coach. But Bogar knows the players and is familiar with the way general manager Ben Cherington wants things run.
Jason Varitek is often mentioned as a possibility, but the question is whether he is ready to step back in the dugout and devote his time to a very tough job. Varitek has accepted a position as special assistant to Cherington, but the former Sox catcher wants to work out of his Georgia home so he can spend more time with his daughters.
Another name mentioned quite a bit is Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach, who has paid his dues as a minor league manager and received high marks.
Former Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills spent 2½ long years in Houston as manager and would love to return to Boston to manage the Red Sox. He is another guy familiar with the Red Sox Way and should fit in seamlessly.
DeMarlo Hale, another of Francona’s former bench coaches, has done a great job as an Orioles coach, working with Baltimore’s young players. He helped Manny Machado make the conversion to third base. Hale has a great demeanor and is respected by players.
Former Pawtucket manager Torey Lovullo, current Indians interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr., Tigers third base coach Gene Lamont, and Tampa Bay bench coach Dave Martinez are other potential candidates.
Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler, Reno (Triple A) manager Brett Butler, and Ryne Sandberg, who is managing in the Philadelphia organization, are also possible choices. It does not appear that future Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa would want to manage the Red Sox, but crazier things have happened. La Russa’s personality might be too strong for the Sox front office, which is a huge factor in the decision.
Valentine was a fish out of water from the moment he was hired to change the “beer and chicken” culture of the Red Sox clubhouse. The push for change was met with great resistance by veteran players that management did not clean out until the megadeal with the Dodgers in late August got rid of $264 million worth of bad contracts in Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett.
Those efforts by Valentine were never supported by management, starting with a remark he made in April during an interview on Channel 7. Responding to a question about Kevin Youkilis, Valentine said of the third baseman, “I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.”
The comment didn’t go over well in the Red Sox clubhouse, with Dustin Pedroia saying, “That’s not the way we do things around here.” But Pedroia eventually became a Valentine supporter.
Valentine often couldn’t contain his emotions and said things he shouldn’t have said. But that should not have been a surprise, because he has always been that way. He never deviated from who he was, as much as the Red Sox tried to suppress him.
How could the Red Sox not have done their homework on Valentine? He has always ruffled feathers, always put his foot in his mouth, yet they seemed surprised.
Valentine’s style never went over completely with fans who wanted a more politically correct manager and players who wanted one who would be more supportive and never critical — the way Francona was for eight seasons.
While Red Sox owner John Henry said the poor play of the team was not Valentine’s fault, in the end Henry reserved the right to change his mind.
Cherington, who preferred Dale Sveum and Lamont over Valentine, did not recommend Valentine be the manager, despite public comments by Lucchino that Cherington made the hiring. We never bought that one, nor did we buy that Valentine wanted all the holdover coaches that Cherington “recommended” he consider.
Valentine never trusted the holdovers and vice-versa. It was a terrible arrangement from the start. Pitching coach Bob McClure was eventually fired and Randy Niemann, one of Valentine’s coaches, was named pitching coach.
Valentine and the Red Sox had to be relieved once the decision was made. Valentine is out of a chaotic situation — a season in which 56 players were used by the Sox and 27 went on the disabled list. It certainly wasn’t worth waiting 10 years for, as Valentine did for a major league managing job after being fired by the Mets in 2002.
Valentine was unable to do a lot of things he’d done in other places. He had to adhere to instructional methods that were already in place.
While the Red Sox thought Gary Tuck’s method for teaching catching was superior, Sox catchers didn’t get appreciably better. Valentine has his own ways to teach catchers, but he wasn’t able to implement them.
“You’d think they would listen to a guy with almost 40 years in the game,” said one baseball official. “You’ve got to be open to everything. And when you hire Bobby, his whole way of doing things comes with him. If you cut his legs out from under him, what’s the point in hiring him in the first place?”
So the new manager will come into something of a hornet’s nest, because there is no telling how — or if — Cherington will rebuild to put in place the kind of competitive roster Valentine never had. Cherington will have to make prudent decisions, even though he has a history of helping to spend exorbitant amounts of money to buy players like Crawford.
If the Sox are able to obtain Farrell, the feeling is that he would be able to get through to Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz and maybe even the comebacking John Lackey. The problem is, Farrell would be the manager, not the pitching coach. In Toronto, staff ace Ricky Romero took a downward turn this season.
Another problem Farrell had was that three starting pitchers were injured.
Farrell’s strategic moves were often criticized by the local media. But during a recent Blue Jays telecast, announcer Buck Martinez asked Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos whether he was comfortable with Farrell returning for the final year of his contract, and Anthopoulos answered yes.
Anthopoulos added that he felt consistency was important to the organization. Apparently, consistency is not as important to the Red Sox.
Valentine will walk away with a $2.5 million severance package, providing he adheres to a clause in his contract that prohibits him from bad-mouthing the Red Sox. How long the clause is in effect for is not known, but Lucchino wrote the language himself and Valentine signed off on it.
While we’re sure Valentine would have a lot to say, it probably won’t be until after he collects his money.
As we pointed out in a previous column, there are no game-changers among the current managerial candidates. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Sox sign the next manager for more than the two years they gave Valentine, which is a true sign of commitment.