Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

Tito isn’t walking through that door

We'll never replace the man but we need to fill the position, folks. (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor and used with permission)

I’m trying to corral all the thoughts I have about Bobby Valentine possibly (probably?) being the new Red Sox manager so forgive me in advance for what will most likely be rambling.

I’ll start off by saying his was the first name I (at the time) somewhat jokingly dropped when Terry Francona left because in my post-team meltdown haze I was so mad I wanted the team to have a manager who I thought would kick those guys in the behind if they needed it and not be afraid to tell them to cut the crap. In my (now) lessened haze of anger, I have no idea if that is even realistic.  How do you give grown men a kick in the pants and get them to stop acting a certain way?  Isn’t that why Tito left the team, because he couldn’t do that?  Everyone holds Tito up as the perfect manager and he (by his own admission) lost control of this team.  So why would I think someone with the abrasive personality of a Bobby Valentine would make things any better?

Here’s where I digress for a moment.

The one person I genuinely thought would be good for this team as a manager was (is?) John Farrell.  Last week, with nothing more than the tweet from David Waldstein at the New York Times, it was being reported that the Toronto Blue Jays asked the Red Sox for Clay Buchholz in exchange for Farrell.  I think from now on I will randomly post tweets that begin with “My sources tell me” and then write something and see how many people pick it up.  The majority of information that has been released since the end of September has been nothing but rumors and unsubstantiated claims and people are eating them up and going straight for the “The Red Sox are a terrible organization” and “These owners are horrible” based on nothing more than the anonymous stuff coming out.  It is making me genuinely not want to write about the Red Sox because lately the only things to write about aren’t based in fact, just rumors.  (For example, a lot of people got their underwear in a bunch last night at the idea that the Red Sox hired Bobby Valentine without telling Gene Lamont that he was out of the running.  While the ownership was being ripped new ones all over the Internet, Bobby V was on ESPN telling people that, like Gene Lamont, he hadn’t heard anything from the Red Sox.)  So instead of letting scenarios play out and then responding to what is actually going on, following the Red Sox lately puts you in a cycle of “anonymous sources” that you can’t get away from and I hate the idea of contributing to that.  It angers me to watch folks lose their minds over things that either haven’t happened yet or will never happen.  If you believe everything that’s being written right now, the Red Sox ownership is made up of monsters who don’t know anything about baseball and will stop at nothing to humiliate their employees and make decisions that will tank this team.  Man, I don’t know how we survived with such horrible people running the team for the last 10 years.  Must have been that Theo Epstein and Terry Francona were magic* and the team succeeded in spite of having such God-awful owners.   (So ends my first digression.)

But I’ll talk about Bobby Valentine anyway because, well, that’s what folks are talking about.  Yesterday, Kelly O’Connor shared a link to a Sports Illustrated story from 2007 about Bobby V that I think anyone following this story should be reading.  It gives some valuable insight into a man most people only remember from hating him on Sunday Night Baseball and sneaking back into a dugout wearing a fake moustache after he was tossed from a game.  It’s a portrait of a man who is passionate as well as intelligent about baseball who is absolutely beloved in Japan (a baseball-crazed country on par with the U.S.) and feels like he has something to prove back in his native country.  It’s a fascinating read and regardless of how you feel at the possibility of his becoming the new Red Sox manager, I think it’s an important read for all Red Sox fans right now.

There is a lot of good stuff in the piece but this passage jumped out at me:

Few in Major League Baseball deny that Bobby Valentine can manage. He is acknowledged to be one of the best minds in the game, and few managers work harder to gain an edge on an opponent. (Valentine was famous for studying video, and the cameras he had installed at Shea Stadium led to accusations that he stole signs.) “What was unique about [Valentine] was his game approach,” says San Francisco Giants’ G.M. Brian Sabean. “He was a top-step guy who watched every pitch. You didn’t see him overchecking lineup cards and rifling through matchup stats. He had a general idea what he was going to do on a given day and what personnel he was going to use. But more important, he watched the game. You have to have a feel for that. I don’t think he gets quite the credit he deserves.”

Oakland A’s designated hitter Mike Piazza, a former Valentine favorite with the Mets, also praises his old skipper, but it comes with a caveat. “He’s definitely one of the smartest managers I’ve known–but he can also be unpredictable.”

The issue in the States, in other words, was never Valentine’s skill as a manager. The issue was his personality. While some were drawn to him by his charm and confidence, others saw him as condescending, still others as arrogant. This is probably why, after winning 581 games with the Rangers, he had to go back to the minors and then Japan before getting another major league job. It’s probably also why, after being fired by the Mets, he ended up in broadcasting, then back in Japan.

It’s interesting to me that the worst thing folks will say about him is that he’s unpredictable, confident, condescending and arrogant.  Interesting because, were I choosing a mate for life these qualities would be a genuine turn-off.  But in looking for a leader, while unpredictable and condescending aren’t the most soothing words to read, I want confident and arrogant leading the team.  Heck even unpredictable could work in the team’s favor. (Questions like “Will he bunt here?” not being answered with “He never bunts” would be a nice change of  pace.)  Before Tito left the team, I would never have considered the need for someone with Valentine’s personality to lead the Red Sox.  The team had done so well with Francona’s personality leading the way, why mess with it?  But regardless of what stories are true and which ones were made up, something changed in that clubhouse this season and it was something Tito lost control of…so I’m of the mind that anything I thought about how the team should be managed (because I’m one of those people who used Tito as the example of the way things should be from a manager) can go right out the door because the team needs to be shaken up.  If Bobby Valentine is the person the team thinks can get the job done, I’m quite good with that.

Another digression:  I have no idea if Ben Cherington is sitting in some room rocking back and forth because the first decision he gets to make as the General Manager was taken away from him and made by Larry Lucchino as everyone under the sun is reporting.  I’ll just say this:  After the season the Red Sox had and how horribly it ended (including losing the manager and General Manager) it surprises me that anyone, including Cherington but ESPECIALLY the professionals who cover baseball, would think ownership would leave this decision solely to the rookie GM.  This isn’t a stain that will be on his tie forever and he will have plenty of opportunities to prove his worth.  On the other hand, since no one has reported anything of substance on this, it’s fair to guess that Cherington is on board with what’s going on and knew how the process would go when he got into this.  It’s as fair to assume that as it is to believe that Larry Lucchino is some puppet master who has stripped Cherington of the ability to work without his lead.

I will not welcome Bobby Valentine to Boston until it is announced that we will be his next destination.  And if he is destined for Fenway I will welcome him gladly because, guess what folks, the team needs a damn manager and Bobby Valentine is intelligent and talented enough to get the job done.  He surely isn’t the perfect choice but, really, who out there right now would be?  Besides, if the Red Sox hire Valentine they’ll be saving millions of baseball fans the torture of listening to him on ESPN.  That has to give the team some good karma points, right?

*I in no way mean to diminish the contributions of Terry Francona or Theo Epstein.  I am a tremendous fan of both of these men.  (I will admit to still being sad about Tito’s departure and annoyed more than anything about Theo’s.)  But some people forget that the owners are the folks who hired these men.  They don’t suddenly lose their baseball credentials because two important and effective men are gone. They’re still the same ownership that helped bring two World Series championships to this team.

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November 30, 2011 - Posted by | 2011 | , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Chin up! I think it’s an accessories-sold-separately situation, so he’ll have to leave the mustache at home.
    I think we we should concentrate on the real victory- the fact that the Red Sox, the RED SOX, made an offseason decision. They made a decision!

    Comment by Lauren | November 30, 2011 | Reply

  2. I didn’t quite realize until I saw your headline and that picture just how sad I am that he’s gone.

    Comment by Anita | November 30, 2011 | Reply

  3. I’m still in embarrassed mourning over the departures of those two breath-takingly solid, classy, utterly professional baseball men who brought us two World Series championships and playoff runs in almost every year of their tenure. But I can’t do a darn thing about any of that. I wish them both all good things. And damn it, I’m going to kick back and look forward. Bobby V knows a lot of baseball and be a hoot and a half on the after-game shows. Truck Day can’t come soon enough 😀

    Comment by Elaine Apthorp | November 30, 2011 | Reply

  4. “unpredictable, confident, condescending and arrogant” weren’t those words also used to describe the late (and revered) Steve Jobs?

    No doubt that Bobby V knows his baseball. He’s also a manager who is willing to take risks, the question is can he get the team to drink his flavor of Kool-Aid. It’s going to be a very different environment for the returning players.

    2012 will be a very different season, and I’m already looking forward to the post-game press conferences but what I really want to know is, does he play Cribbage?

    Comment by Kat | November 30, 2011 | Reply


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