Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine looks on during batting practice prior to the start of the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Bobby Valentine has had a miserable first year as Red Sox manager, and it's possible he could get dumped at season's end. Should he be? If so, who should replace him?
Goodness, the Boston Red Sox are a mess. After their meltdown at the end of 2011, they hired Bobby Valentine to replace Terry Francona as manager; there was also a change in the executive suite, with a new GM, Ben Cherington.
This season has been nothing short of a disaster in Boston. They're 12 games under .500 for the first time in 15 years (even then, they made a late-season recovery to 78-84, something not likely to happen this year), and could finish in last place for the first time in 80 years.
This, just three years after a run of eight playoff seasons out of 12, with two World Series titles.
Red Sox owner John Henry and Cherington took a trip to Seattle -- purportedly "pre-planned" -- to discuss the managerial situation with Valentine. They said it wasn't to fire Valentine, and indeed, he's still employed by Boston as of Tuesday. (Interestingly, team president Larry Lucchino was not part of this trip.)
... the fact is that while Valentine appears to be safe for the remainder of the season — though neither Henry nor Cherington ever actually said that was the case — his future remains in doubt.
Cherington, in fact, said he is somewhat to blame for this bad road trip (0-7 after a 4-1 loss to the Mariners on Monday) because of the roster he left Valentine with after The Trade. But we all know that Cherington is going nowhere. And he knows it, too.
Regardless of the comments made by any of the parties involved, it doesn't seem likely that Valentine will survive past the end of this season as Red Sox manager. It appears to be one of the worst managerial fits for a team in recent years, on both the part of the team and the individual. At Yahoo, Jeff Passan sums up the situation:
The sadness in his voice and language following the finale of the $55 million Oakland A's sweeping Boston in embarrassing fashion over the weekend belonged to a man who finally understood the enormity of his miscalculation. Somehow, for months, Valentine had come to work with this truth: the vast majority of his clubhouse straight-up disliked him, and the rest of the players didn't respect him. The depth of his denial, or the power of his belief in his own ability, is in hindsight staggering. Valentine has been around long enough to understand players can coalesce around a manager they don't like. This team had done the opposite.
I'm reminded here of a quote from Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel:
The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.
In Valentine's case, it appears that pretty much everyone in the Red Sox clubhouse has already decided, and they all hate him. So who, then, should manage the Red Sox next year? Valentine is under contract for 2013, but that likely wouldn't stop Boston from making a change. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal thinks the Red Sox should bring back Terry Francona:
Cherington likely will play a greater role in the hiring of the next manager, and he probably would want his own man rather than Francona, the Sequel. Indeed, some would view the mere pursuit of Francona as a typical Red Sox PR grab, missing the point.
The exercise would be painful for ownership, almost an exercise in self-flagellation. And you know what the kicker might be? Francona, recharged after a year at ESPN, would be a top candidate for other jobs, and wouldn’t necessarily say yes.
As Rosenthal writes, Francona's more likely to take a different managing job than return to Boston. That's understandable given the drama surrounding the team and the fact that they probably have to go through a rebuilding process after the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers. Rosenthal made a couple of suggestions for possible hires, including Tony La Russa (very unlikely) and former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek (who'd be a hire along the lines of the Cardinals' Mike Matheny and the White Sox' Robin Ventura, both of whom have had fine seasons after having never before managed).
So, given the near-certainty of Valentine's dismissal after the season, who should manage the Red Sox in 2013? Vote in the poll.
Who should be the Boston Red Sox' manager in 2013?
Bobby Valentine (49 votes)
Terry Francona (50 votes)
Tony LaRussa (23 votes)
Jason Varitek (175 votes)
John Farrell (if Blue Jays let him go) (93 votes)
Someone else (leave in comments) (81 votes)
471 total votes