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.
“If I’m going up there and striking out every at-bat, I’m going to get benched,” “But it’s not that way with (umpires). They can go out there and make bad calls all day, and they’re not going to be held accountable for it.
“It’s tough. It’s such a tough situation. Believe me, I’ve umpired before. It’s tough. It’s hard. But at this level, I don’t know what to say. You’ve got to bear down.” – Cody Ross after being called out without one pitch being in the zone. Sox had winning run on 1st.
One English Word He Does Know
Daisuke Matsuzaka went three innings in an extended spring training game. He threw 49 pitches and topped out at 94mph (gyro ball was not featured). He seems to be making great progress on his Tommy John rehab and will most likely win Cy Young despite missing the first three months of the season.
Obviously a tough loss. The pink hats have taken to twitter and are already calling this a lost season and are shredding Bobby V’s pitching decisions. I for one thought there were a lot of positives to take away from the game.
- Jon Lester looked great. It was nice to see him match Verlander pitch for pitch after a poor spring. The 3 walks were the only blemish on the day.
- The team came back. Clutch hitting by Pedroia and Sweeney tied up the game off a pitcher who hadn’t blown a save since 2010. I loved seeing that the team has some fight.
- Bobby Valentine’s managing. I thought he made all the right pitching moves. Melancon should’ve started the 9th. That is why we traded for him. People forget this guy had over 20 saves last year for Houston. He was traded to be a set-up man and this is a situation he is going to have to thrive in if he wants to stick around. I have read a lot of criticism about his quick yank after the two hits. I think it was the absolute right call. The dude has been destroyed all spring and things were not looking any different this afternoon. I though replacing him with Aceves was the right choice. A lot of people say you don’t bring your closer in during a tied game on the road. I counter that with the fact that Aceves isn’t a closer. He could’ve finished the ninth and gone the 10th. I don’t really blame him for his rough outing either. The dude has been bounced from the rotation after a great spring to the bullpen and then was named closer 2 days ago. That is a lot to take in and to adjust to. Also Salty should’ve caught that ball that hit Santiago.
- Jenny Dell. Instant wood every time she came on the screen.
- Mark Melancon. Dude just looked awful. He was a big part of our offseason and just has not been impressive. His lack of swing and misses over the spring has to raise some eyebrows. I also didn’t like how he said he thought he was yanked a little quick. Just shut up. I’m sure he hates Bobby V after he publicly mocked him but take the high road and just keep your mouth shut.
- The offense. I’m not afraid about this teams hitting at all. Just today it sucked. This is to expected when facing the reigning CY Young and MVP winner. Expect the bats to bounce back tomorrow.
- The Bullpen in general. Bard needs to be in that pen. Padilla has no idea what he is doing out there and I wouldn’t be surprised if he tanks it on purpose. Bleacher Report had him on their list of top 10 club house cancers. I think he should be starting but I’m in the minority. Aceves is a great pitcher and his success as a closer is still TBD. I think he can make a good closer but he is a huge question mark.
How I'll Be Watching Sox
There are a lot of perks to living on the west coast, but being a Red Sox fan is not one of them. I will once again miss opening day due to its 1 pm start time. Please feel free to keep me updated.
Jon Lester made his first Grapefruit League start of the spring sunday. His two previous appearances this year were two innings in a 25-0 win over Northeastern and 2 2-3 innings in a “B’’ game against Minnesota. The big lefty walked four and struck out two. The only hit he gave up was an RBI single to ‘Sox killer Adam Jones. The four walks is a startling number, but some of that was due to the unfamiliarity between new catcher Kelly Shoppach and Lester. Lester admitted later that he was trying to get comfortable with Shoppach, and that he wasn’t getting much help from the ump who Lester said was “relearning” the strike zone.
Four other pitchers combined on a three-hitter. Aaron Cook, who signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox after 10 years with Colorado, pitched a hitless sixth and seventh innings in his first appearance of spring training. He walked two and struck out one. “It felt really good,” Cook said. “First inning I was a little amped up. Felt like a little kid.”
Offensively Dustin Pedroia went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs, while Cody Ross continued his torrid spring with a pair of hits and two runs scored. Below is the box score for Boston.
- Sunday marked the first time that Aaron Cook and Jon Lester had pitched in the same game since Game 4 of the 2007 World Series.
- Andrew Bailey will pitch in his first game of the spring Monday.
Andrew McCutcheon wasted no time showing that he is worth all of his new 5 year 51.5 million dollar contract. McCutcheon went 3-3 with two RBI doubles and a single. Clay Buchholz started for the Sox and went 3 innings in his 2nd spring start. Clay looked a little shaky again giving up 2 runs on 3 hits and striking out 1. Despite the 2 runs Bobby Valentine seemed satisfied with Buchholz’s outing, “Buchholz’s stuff looked sharper than last time, I thought,” Valentine said. “He executed some pretty good pitches. I thought his changeup was sharp. He’s not throwing a lot of those curveballs, but he threw a couple of them tonight that were midseason form.” Vicente Padilla, who is fighting for that 5th rotation spot, got rocked by the Pirates in his 2 innings of work allowing 4 runs on 5 hits. Offensively the Red Sox were helped by home runs by Darnell McDonald and David Ortiz.