After dropping 3 out of 4 to one of the few AL teams decidedly out of the playoff picture in the Minnesota Twins, the Red Sox currently sit at 54-55 on the season. All year the home town nine have hovered around the .500 mark and still have not played as well as the roster would lead you to believe it could. And now with 53 games left in the season, and the Sox stuck 4.5 games out of the second wild card spot behind three other teams, the inevitable calling for the manager’s head has hit full speed.
Bobby Valentine was hired by the Red Sox a type of clubhouse enforcer who would hold players accountable and not let the inmates run the asylum as they did in the 2nd half last year. However, Valentine has not lived up to the hype, though it’s not particularly his fault. Beginning as early as Spring Training it was clear we were not getting the outspoken and opinionated manager many had heard on ESPN. Within the first couple of weeks Valentine backed off comments made on Sunday Night Baseball last year about Beckett’s pace of play and Crawford’s batting stance. Combine that with the most recent story of someone going behind his back to upper management about a comment aimed to pick up Will Middlebrooks after a tough inning in the field and we can all see that this was not the leadership Larry Lucchino was hoping for.
So should the Red Sox just go ahead and fire Bobby Valentine and begin to try and fix this team the way they should have after last season’s collapse? I will explore several points in favor of keeping Bobby V at the helm as well as why it’s best to just part ways right now.
Why they should fire Bobby V:
- There is an outside chance that a change of manager could spark the team and maybe propel them closer to grabbing the second wild card spot. It is not an unprecedented event as Joe Morgan was appointed interim manager in a similar situation at the All-Star break in 1988. The team then won 12 straight and the AL East.
- A lot of talk over the past ten months has revolved around the unity inside the Red Sox clubhouse and whether or not they are a team that actually fights for each other. There is a chance that Bobby is so disliked by the players that just removing him from the team could unite the players more than anything else.
- As odd as it sounds, firing Valentine right now would actually gain favor towards the Red Sox ownership from the fans. All we have gotten from Henry, Lucchino, and Werner over the past few years are various sales pitches on stupid items like bricks, coffee table books and CDs. It would be a huge step forward for them to come out and admit to a mistake and finally put the focus back on winning baseball games.
- If Tim Bogar (current bench coach) is someone the Red Sox are interested in seeing as a managerial candidate, this would be a great chance to see him in action. Letting Valentine go would allow Bogar to be appointed interim manager and give the team an extended interview for the open position come November. It is very unlikely that even if Bobby V makes it through the 2012 campaign that he would still be in charge come February, so why not see what you have in Bogar now and perhaps the team will take a shine to him.
Why they should keep Bobby V:
- If the Red Sox do fire Valentine now, there would be the perception that the clubhouse wins and ultimately has more power than the manager. After last season had ended, Francona admitted himself that he has lost some players in the locker room and could not reach through to them for motivation. All season it has been clear that the players do not like Bobby and rarely (if ever) have come to his defense. Even upper management has stranded Valentine alone on an island at times. So by getting rid of Valentine, you give full power to the players to simply force out any manager they do not see fit going forward, which is a dangerous precedent to set.
- Whenever a manager is fired in the second half of a season, it is can almost be seen as a waving of the white flag for that year. Although the Sox haven’t passed the “eye test” all season, the second wild card spot is not yet entirely out of reach. As I mentioned before, there are some cases where a managerial change could light a team for a stretch run, but that is a long shot and most of the time getting rid of the skipper signals the end of a team’s season.
- Although Valentine has received a lot of the attention this season, he is still not the biggest problem this team has. Valentine should not get most of the blame for the performances of Lester and Beckett this year or Buccholz’s and Adrian Gonzalez’s first half. The team chemistry was already questionable coming into Spring Training with guys looking for the “snitches” about the fried chicken and beer story being leaked. Valentine is also not the reason for Carl Crawford’s and Andrew Bailey’s always ongoing injury sagas.
I personally believe it is best to just fire Valentine right now and see what you’ve got in Tim Bogar. Best case scenario is that the team surges a bit and makes a bid for the playoffs. Worst case they stay around .500 and begin the evaluation process in October. Either way, the Sox should clean house in the off-season and re-build the team’s coaching staff and try to find a way to part with Josh Beckett and maybe even John Lackey.