Originally published April 22nd, 2012
I’m on record. I wanted Bobby Valentine as the Seattle Mariners manager. I talked about it on The Sidetracked Podcast weeks before Eric Wedge was hired in 2010. I felt like Valentine’s enthusiasm and desire to be the center of attention of everything would be the perfect fit for a team that was largely devoid of any personality or flair. I thought his relationship with Japanese baseball would give him a credibility “in” with Ichiro, and I thought the disciplines from the Nippon League would translate to a younger team. In hindsight the Mariners made the right move in hiring Eric Wedge. (Yes, I say this after a Perfect Game by Humber.) Wedge has history working with and building a younger team like the Indians, and I think he can do the same thing here. If Valentine would have been more or less successful than Eric Wedge is anyone’s guess, but there’s one sure thing today, and that’s that he’s the wrong person for Boston.
I liked the hire when it was made for one reason: It was going to be entertaining. I figured coming in that Valentine would steal the headlines. I thought Bobby would deflect a lot of the criticism from a team that was getting older, and seems to have over-evaluated their talent. Last year’s collapse was more than Tito and it was more than clubhouse discipline. The team just isn’t very good, and it’s been crushed by injuries in the outfield both last year, and now to start 2012. I thought Valentine’s personality was going to be the right transition after an 8yr relationship with Francona that led to 2 World Series championships, but Valentine’s hasn’t been able to stay out of his way long enough to do the kind of things that made him successful in Japan and New York. Things have gone horribly off the rails.
Maybe it was not committing to a closer early in Spring Training. Maybe it was how he dealt with the players early in Spring Training by outlawing beer in the clubhouse. Was it his comments about Youk, or was it the aftermath comments by Pedroia where “maybe that kind of stuff works in Japan…”? Maybe it was the loses to the Tigers, or the Blue Jays, or the Rangers. Pretty safe it was the two losses against New York during a weekend where Boston Red Sox fans wanted to celebrate Fenway, and their history as a franchise. Bobby Valentine has lost this team, if he ever had it.
Bob Klapisch wrote two great articles about Valentine’s relationship with the franchise, players, and fans that are both worth a read. It’s hard enough when a manager loses a clubhouse, but the fanbase derides him. Valentine’s biggest strength has always been his ability to interact, connect, and win with the fans, but the start of the season, and more importantly after two consecutive losses, Valentine has been neutered. Valentine has lost his charm and his confidence. He looks lost and defeated, and the season is less than a month old.
Bobby Valentine may not make it to the All Star break. Any loss will be Valentine’s fault, and every win will be to spite him. Bobby was a luke-warm hire at best when he took over for Francona, and it’s to the point where he’s a joke to the fans and the media. I just can’t see the Red Sox allowing Valentine to stay with the team as they dive deeper into the AL East cellar. Valentine’s day could be coming soon.
I’ll be interested to see the fallout from Valentine’s departure. Firing a manger won’t get Carl Crawford or Jacoby Ellsbury off of the DL. Firing Valentine won’t improve a pitching staff that has posted a 4.20 ERA over the last two season, which placed them 9th in the American League. Bobby Valentine doesn’t swing a bat, he’s not going to fix Kevin Youkilis’ 50pt+ batting average drop from 2010 to 2011 to now. Maybe firing Bobby Valentine is just what Red Sox fans need, to see that their team just isn’t as good as they think it is.