So the Boston Red Sox have fired manager Bobby Valentine after one long horrendous season that began with an all-star caliber starting nine, and ended with a lineup that was essentially a who's who of the Red Sox farm system. Granted, the rosters expand to 40 on September 1 every year, but you're not supposed to start the guys you just called up from Pawtucket and Portland. Not if you're in the playoff race, anyway. Of course, the Red Sox certainly weren't, as their 69-93 record was the worst for the team since 1965. Valentine's firing has prompted immediate speculation as to who the next Red Sox manager might be: John Farrell, Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, DeMarlo Hale, Brad Ausmus, and a host of others.
I'm not sure how to feel about oh-so brief the Valentine era. After the popular Terry Francona was sandbagged at the end of last season by the increasingly contemptible ownership triumverate of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino, whoever succeeded him was going to have his hands full. The ineffective starting pitchers were a project in and of themselves. Last year it was revealed that during games in which they weren't pitching, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Clay Buchholz would drink beer and eat fried chicken in the clubhouse. It showed. By the end of last season, Josh Beckett had gotten comically out of shape, John Lackey's ERA stood at an eye-poppingly bad 6.41, and Buchholz couldn't stay healthy.
Then there was Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford — the team's two prized acquisitions after the 2010 season. Sitting at his locker after the last game of the 2011 season, Gonzalez had a incredible explanation for the Red Sox infamous September collapse. That meltdown culminated in a blown ninth inning lead against Baltimore on the final day of the season that cost the Red Sox a one-game playoff against Tampa, after which he said, "I'm a firm believer that God has a plan and it wasn't in his plan for us to move forward."
That is not the kind of thing you want to hear from your $154 million signing. If god's going to pick winners and losers in sports games, why bother even showing up? Crawford meanwhile, was nothing like the player he was in Tampa. After a constantly whiffing on a consistent diet of breaking pitches down, in, and out of the strike zone during the season and a half he was with the team, Crawford hit an inglorious .260.
Undoubtedly, Valentine was one of the most pompous, self-aggrandizing managers the game has ever seen. But after a series of early season injuries to key players and a clubhouse character-driven blockbuster trade with Los Angeles that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers, not even Leo Durocher could lead what was left of the roster to a respectable record. Whoever the next manager is faces an uphill climb to get the Red Sox back to the postseason for the first time since 2009.
According to reports, Toronto Blue Jays manager and former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell is at the top of the Red Sox list to replace Valentine; but the Blue Jays would have to give the Red Sox permission to speak with him about the opening. Former Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who retired after the 2011 season, has been ruled out as a candidate. Sox bench coach Tim Bogar would seem a logical choice, but ESPN cautions, "Bogar had a strained relationship with Valentine this season, which might affect his chances."
Pff. If anything, this fact should affect Bogar's chances positively. From Dustin Pedroia to Kevin Youkilis to the Boston sports media, who didn't have a strained relationship with Valentine?