2012 has been quite an interesting season, to say the least. Stalwart’s Kevin Youkilis and Josh Beckett, as well as major acquisitions Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez have all left town. Meanwhile, Bobby Valentine has endured one of the most trying seasons of any manager in the big leagues. His role with this team has led to widespread speculation about his job security heading into the offseason. We here at BloodySox have our opinions on the matter as well. Here’s what a few of our writer’s had to say.
If the Red Sox do decide to part ways with Bobby Valentine after just one season, there will rampant speculation regarding his successor all throughout New England. A plethora of names will be cast about from fans and prognosticators alike, some realistic, others more far-fetched. One of these potential candidates is extremely familiar among Red Sox fans, as he wore the hometown team’s uniform for more than a decade. He caught four no hitters, famously shoved his mitt in the face of Alex Rodriguez, and served as the captain of the Red Sox for seven seasons. Yes, we’re talking about the one and only Jason Varitek.
While some may believe that the idea of Varitek managing the team he played for as recently as September 2011 is a plausible one, others may not. Regardless of how Red Sox fans may feel about it, the notion has most definitely crossed their minds at one point or another. How could it not? Besides bearing the Captain’s “C” on his uniform, Varitek constantly displayed undeniable signs of leadership during his tenure in Boston. He was, by all accounts, a vocal leader in the clubhouse, a mentor to younger players, and a figure who commanded respect from every pitcher who took the mound for the Red Sox. Unlike Bobby Valentine, a man whose hiring irks almost every Red Sox player daily, Varitek could walk into the home clubhouse tomorrow and have twenty five men willing to run through a brick wall for him.
Besides the reasons already stated, there are other factors which point to Jason Varitek being the most logical hire as Boston’s next manager. First of all, there are a variety of former catchers currently managing in baseball. Example include Joe Girardi, Mike Scioscia, Mike Matheny, and Eric Wedge, among others. There is no doubting the fact that a catcher needs to be a strategist when he’s behind the plate, and must constantly be mindful of batter tendencies, defensive alignments, pitch location, etc. During his playing career, Jason Varitek was known for his knowledge of these subjects, and for his ability to call a game extremely well. A manager is supposed to put his players in the best possible position to win games; would any Red Sox fan have qualms about Varitek’s ability to do just that?
Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’d like to see Bobby V finish his contract here. I know, I know. As a lot of the other writers can attest to, I haven’t exactly been a Valentine fan this season.
However, with 26 guys on the DL, a media who is scrutinizing every little step he takes off the beaten path, and players who allegedly don’t want to play for him, Bobby has been damned from the start here. He wasn’t Ben Cherington’s pick, as Larry Lucchino overruled him, but from the beginning, it seemed to be a rocky marriage between Valentine and the organization. He kept this team around .500 most of the year, despite playing with what seemed like a Triple-A lineup half the time. For all the bonehead moves he’s made to cost us games, there’s been equally good ones to win them (such as every decision to start Pedro Ciriaco this season).
The main reason I don’t want Valentine gone is because it shows the players that they can dictate how this organization is run, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. Players report to the manager, the manager reports to the GM, and everyone reports to ownership. If Valentine gets fired, the players will have won this struggle, and the next time a manager or other coach they don’t like comes into their clubhouse, they’ll know they can run him out of town too. The Front Office needs to put their foot down on this behavior before it spirals even further.
This is an issue that I really don’t have a strong stance on. Bobby never stood a chance in Boston with the roster he was inheriting, and especially with the injuries the team endured. He was replacing a fan and clubhouse favorite in Terry Francona and represented a bit of a culture-shock that most were not receptive to. Sure, he is a lightning rod and much of that is because of his own doing, but it seemed the media, fans and players were quick to jump on him from day one. He came in and wanted to take charge – as any new manager should do – and the players, media and fans were not ready for that. The locker room was a mess and while Bobby tried to gain respect from the veteran Red Sox players, the atmosphere was too toxic for any sort of smooth transition.
Perhaps I sound like an apologist, but I never was a fan of the hire in the first place. The stories of the Red Sox clubhouse after last seasons’ collapse resonated with me and I felt that a change in philosophy was needed, but I didn’t think Valentine – who had been away from the majors for a decade – was the right option.
All of that is in the past. The question now is what should the Red Sox do going forward? Ben Cherington seems to be supportive of Valentine, however reluctantly that is, and Larry Lucchino always was the one who most wanted Valentine. It seems for now that he has the support of his bosses. The trade the past weekend signifies a change in direction, and a change that seems to be pro-Bobby Valentine. The team has weeded out many of the players that seemingly have scuffled with Valentine, like Youkilis, Shoppach, Gonzalez and Beckett. The Red Sox got rid of the players and not the manager, and usually the opposite is what actually happens. While the reasons might have been strictly because of salary purposes and perhaps completely unrelated to Valentine, it still shows that the front office has his back to some extent.
Valentine will be the first to admit that he hasn’t done a good job, but the problems with this team are not solely – or even significantly – his fault. The team now has set a new direction, and I think the team should let Valentine play out his contract. Things seem to be cooling down on the Valentine front. The fans even gave him a standing ovation last night after his ejection from the game. Maybe they are coming around too.
The Red Sox are embarking upon a new era and the last thing they need is more managerial drama this off-season. I think they should keep him entering next season with the new cast of players and go from there. There was too much resistance towards him from the 2012 Red Sox roster and he never really had a chance. I am more indifferent than anything else, but there is no harm in letting him have a second shot at a roster he actually can work with.
The reality is, Bobby Valentine was never the right man for this job. That isn’t to take away from the job he has done in Boston; under the circumstances, he has been very solid. However, his persona created a divide in the clubhouse, before he had actually stepped foot in it!
An argument can be made for retaining Valentine for the remainder of his contract. Keep in mind however, that contract only runs one more year. Ultimately, Bobby V isn’t the long term solution to the position. The new-look Red Sox need to find a manager that will grow with this team and let their personalities mesh together. If they were to retain Bobby V for 2013, I believe it would only be to secure a more favorable option in John Farrell in 2014. In essence, Valentine is a lame duck.
I wouldn’t be opposed to hitting reboot after this year either. There are plenty of young, talented options that could grow with a young, upstart team like the Red Sox figure to be. Dave Martinez, Sandy Alomar Jr., Ryne Sandberg and Mike Maddux all represent good fits. So long as the front office makes their decision early, and lets the manager actually manage this team, I think a young, new manager is the way to go. Steer clear of experienced candidates; let the young players grow under a young manager.