Boston Red Sox fans, meet Bobby V.
On Tuesday night, sources close to the Red Sox managerial search situation reported that Bobby Valentine had been offered the job as manager of the ball club, beating out Detroit Tigers’ third base coach Gene Lamont. Valentine would become Boston’s 45th manager in their history, taking over for long-time and recently resigned manager, Terry Francona.
Known widely as a fiery manager, Valentine, who managed the Texas Rangers (1985-1992), New York Mets (1996-2002), and Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines (1995, 2004-2009), hasn’t managed in Major League Baseball in nearly a decade, and hasn’t managed a club since 2009. He has served as an analyst on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight for the past two seasons.
This is not the first time that baseball fans have heard Valentine’s name thrown around for managerial consideration. Over the past few years, Valentine had been connected to the Florida Marlins, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers when the clubs were doing managerial searches. In his managerial career, Valentine is 1117-1072, a .510 career winning percentage. Valentine is no stranger to the postseason. Though his clubs have only made the playoffs twice – the 1999 and 2000 Mets – he has one World Series appearance, 2000, in which the Mets lost in the Subway Series to the New York Yankees. In his Japanese baseball career, Valentine led the Marines to their first pennant in 31 years and first Japan Series championship in 2005.
While nothing is completely official yet, sources say that Valentine is going to be introduced in a press conference on Thursday at Fenway Park, where the numbers and years for this contract will be announced. Valentine will be Boston’s manager for their 100th year at Fenway Park.
Taking over the Red Sox will be no easy task for the 61 year-old Valentine. For starters, it will be their first season without long-time manager Terry Francona, who led the team to two World Championships (2004 & 2007), two American League pennants and five postseason appearances in eight seasons. Boston, who is coming off a season in which they collapsed in September by going 7-20 and missed the playoffs on the last day of the season, is looking for a return to glory, especially after failing to live up to the expectations and hype that surrounded them going into the 2011 season. This season, they’ll have to do it without All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon, who has since departed for greener pastures in Philadelphia with the Phillies, starting pitcher John Lackey, who is out for the season with Tommy John Surgery, and possibly without designated hitter David Ortiz, who remains a free agent. The Red Sox are also going to be expecting huge comeback seasons from high-priced outfielder Carl Crawford, who completely disappointed after his first year in Boston, starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, who missed a majority of the season due to injury, and third baseman Kevin Youkilis, coming off of a career-worst .258 batting average season.
As well, this upcoming season is going to be the first season without former general manager Theo Epstein, the constructor of two World Championship Red Sox teams (2004 & 2007), who left Boston in October to join the Chicago Cubs as President of Baseball Operations. Instead, it will be their first year with rookie general manager Ben Cherington, who already seems to not have total control over the ball club. When the Red Sox managerial search began, there were five candidates: Lamont, Cleveland Indians’ bench coach Sandy Alomar Sr., Toronto Blue Jays’ first base coach Torey Lovullo, Philadelphia Phillies’ bench coach Pete Mackanin, and recently-hired Cubs’ manager and former Milwaukee Brewers’ hitting coach, Dale Sveum.
Cherington, who was publicly known to favor Sveum, and planned to offer him the job, never did such. Instead, Sveum signed with Cherington’s mentor Epstein and the Cubs. Sources say that Red Sox ownership, led by owner John Henry and CEO Larry Lucchino, intervened and pushed Cherington to hire a sexier name, a more celebrity-type manager, leading to speculation that Valentine could be a dark horse candidate. In a move that seems ownership driven, Valentine ultimately won the job.
The 2012 Boston Red Sox will be shrouded in a dark cloud of questions: Will they avenge last season’s collapse? How will Valentine fair in his first season at the helm? Can he handle the pressure? Who is truly running the club?
Even though the announcement is not official yet, and supposedly will not be until tomorrow, I do not think that Valentine was the right choice for the job. For one, the fact that he has not managed in Major League Baseball since 2002 shies me away, if I’m a Red Sox fan. Who knows if Valentine can adjust to the game, which has changed so much since his last managerial stint? As well, reports say that Red Sox players are not completely thrilled with the move, which could call for poor clubhouse chemistry. Valentine, while managing the Mets, was known to be a very wild and argumentative manager, who often found himself in altercations with umpires and players, ultimately leading to his firing in 2002. Valentine’s lack of success during the regular season also does not secure the possibility that the Red Sox will make the playoffs this season, something they haven’t been able to do since 2009.
If one thing is for certain, it is that Valentine will definitely shake things up in the Red Sox clubhouse. “Shaking things up” could be good or bad for Valentine. For one, he will demand the respect of his players, and settle for nothing less. There will be no more reports of players eating fried chicken, playing video games and drinking beer during games. However, he could create tension, something the team desperately needs to avoid following their misfortunes last season. Valentine could either build up or completely tear down the Boston Red Sox. Can he handle the pressure that even Terry Francona, who overcame the 86-year championship Â drought in 2004, could not deal with anymore?
I think the Red Sox could have definitely found a better manager than Valentine. It seems as though Valentine was only hired because of his name and celebrity-like status, not for his true managerial skills. If that is the case, then Boston will suffer the consequences. As a baseball fan, I do not see Valentine and the Red Sox making the postseason next year, especially after a season like they suffered in 2011, and I do not see the Red Sox winning a World Championship during his tenure – however long that may be. Valentine could be a cancer for the team.
As if the managerial selection is not questionable enough, there wil definitely be questions about who is truly in charge of the Boston Red Sox. The conflicting reports about ownership pushing for Valentine will not go away, and it is expected that now with Epstein out of Boston, that Lucchino will try to take on more of a larger role in the operations of the organization. When ownership clashes with the day-to-day operations of the club, it is widely recognized as certain doom. Such a case could cause more problems than just not making the playoffs again, up in Boston.
The Valentine decision will be very interesting for baseball, who been without Bobby V for so long. One thing that is certain is that the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry will be much more interesting. With two very intelligent and proven leaders at the helm, Valentine and Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi are destined to butt heads at some point during the season. Being manager of the Mets, Valentine knows from experience how to deal with the Yankees, and the pressure that forces itself upon his team to win when they face them. If anything is true about Valentine’s hiring, it is that Boston got their man who knows how to play against the Yankees.
2012 is going to be a defining year for the Boston Red Sox. With a new manager, general manager, and over-turned roster, the Red Sox will no doubt look to rid of any questions from the season prior, and achieve their yearly goal of a World Championship. It will be a very fun, exciting, and stressful season up in Bean-town. We will soon see if Bobby V can bring the Red Sox back to glory.
Â Feature image courtesy of Associated Press.