Now, Bobby Valentine rides his bike off into the sunset. It’s OK for him to keep spinning his wheels. It’s not OK for the Red Sox to keep spinning theirs.
The (dis)organization on Yawkey Way has put a toe tag on the manager for the second time in two seasons.
The Sox finally ended Valentine’s ill-fated, ill-conceived stint as manager on Thursday, one day after a season that was over long ago officially concluded.
Valentine presided over the worst Red Sox season since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House, a 69-93 debacle that saw the Sox lose games and their dignity in equal measure, finishing last for the first time in 20 years. His season at the helm was a Tour de Farce that was plagued by dysfunction and a near-Biblical plague of injuries — 27 players combined for 34 disabled list stints.
The bumptious Bobby V made a litany of managerial missteps, from antagonizing Kevin Youkilis to feuding with his inherited coaches to not knowing what arm Minnesota pitcher Liam Hendriks threw with to mockingly threatening to punch radio host Glenn Ordway to declaring his team had the “weakest roster we’ve ever had in September in the history of baseball.”
But the Red Sox haven’t rid themselves of their affliction, only their distraction. Valentine wasn’t the malady that did in the Sox. He was merely a symptom.
For the Sox to get well soon, they’re going to have to do more than make Valentine the managerial equivalent of one of John Calipari’s Kentucky recruits (one and done).
The symptoms of the decay — clubhouse unrest, underachievement, melodrama, miscommunication, and misevaluation — will return if they don’t treat the disease, which is a flawed decision-making process and organizational impudence.
The fact is, Valentine should have been at Fenway this season only as an ESPN analyst.
Ownership and upper management have every right to have a voice in the decision-making process, but baseball people should be hired and trusted to make baseball decisions. It was the baseball operations folks, led by general manager Ben Cherington, who vetted Valentine and determined he was not the right fit for the Red Sox.
It was team president Larry Lucchino, chairman Tom Werner, and principal owner John Henry who overrode that decision, doubled-backed, and hired Valentine with disastrous results. He was not Cherington’s choice.
Putting Valentine in the Sox’ disaffected clubhouse was like throwing C2 explosives into a Fourth of July fireworks display — unnecessary and bound to blow up in one’s face.
It was disconcerting that when Lucchino was asked how the managerial search would be different this year, since the previous approach resulted in an abject failure of a selection, that he still defended the process that led to Valentine’s appointment.
“I’m not sure that’s fair. We thought the decision was a sensible, rational one last year,” said Lucchino. “What we were looking for at the time seemed to be what Bobby Valentine presented at the time.
“But life is a motion picture, not a still photograph. Things changed along the way. The process this year is something that Ben is going to spearhead — again. One of the lessons that we will have learned is that if we can move it along more quickly, but Ben has said a couple of times today, ‘We want to get it right, rather than get it fast.’ ”
This managerial search has to be different. It can be an exhaustive search, but not an exhausting one like last year’s 62-day odyssey. Ownership can have a voice, but not the only say.
Cherington had better have more options than former Red Sox pitching coach and current Blue Jays manager John Farrell, who is apparently the Bill Belichick of pitching coaches/managers.
It would be easier to believe in the Sox’ next managerial hire if the team had been willing to admit its mistake and cut its losses quickly with Valentine. Instead, the Sox stubbornly waited for a managerial Hail Mary. They ended up going 9-27 after The Trade, losing 12 of their final 13 games and their final eight.
“There were multiple factors that contributed to the disappointing season we had,” said Lucchino. “We all deserve our full measure of accountability or blame, if you will, for that.”
If you’re a Red Sox fan, cross your fingers that the managerial search is conducted in a more logical manner than the Bobby V postmortem media access that Lucchino and Cherington held.
Instead of the traditional press conference, Lucchino and Cherington elected to meet with news outlets one at a time in small groups.
It felt like waiting for your number to be called at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Everybody but Jim Lehrer got the opportunity to question Lucchino and Cherington about a move that everyone knew was coming for months.
Everyone but the Red Sox, apparently.
“Well, again, you said seemed to be apparent,” said Lucchino, when asked why Valentine was allowed to manage 162 when he was fired at Mach 3 speed. “When did it seem to be apparent?
“In August, there was a lot of fluttering about on this issue. We thought we needed to put it aside when the team was still in the race. We wanted to create some white space, a period of quietude that would last at least until the end of the season. That was part of the motivation.”
The Sox have quietude, all right. Fenway is silent during playoff time for a third straight autumn.
Lucchino added that part of allowing Valentine to stagger to the finish line “was out of respect” for him.
True respect for Valentine would have been not allowing players to carp about him behind his back July 26 in New York.
The Red Sox can keep cycling through managers, players, and medical staffs, but unless they make changes to their operation they’re just spinning their wheels — and us.