Now for one last defense of Bobby Valentine.
Lord know, Bobby Valentine made mistakes. Big ones. Little ones. Silly ones. His calling out Kevin Youkilis might have been the dumbest thing a really smart manager ever did. Youkilis wasn’t universally beloved in the Red Sox clubhouse, but he was absolutely respected for his toughness and productivity. Once Valentine wondered aloud if Youkilis was mentally into the games, there might have been no saving him.
If that didn’t do it, he probably finished himself off by leaving Jon Lester in to give up 11 runs on July 25, a decision that prompted players to seek a meeting with management. There were various other times he said the wrong thing, whether it was questioning the quality of the roster or leaving the wrong impression about his own passion for the game.
He was in a tough situation. First, he was replacing a very popular manager, Terry Francona. Second, he inherited one of baseball’s toughest clubhouses. The Red Sox have a bunch of tough guys who do things a certain way and aren’t real welcoming to outsiders. To them Valentine was an outsider.
I’m not sure he understood how much the game had changed in his years away. It’s a people business more than ever. Managers have volumes of data to help them with lineups and strategy, but it’s still important for managers to establish relationships with players. There has to be a sense that the manager has their backs, that’s completely honest with them and that he has their back with the media.
All that said, that stuff is not why Valentine’s time with the Red Sox wasn’t successful. Maybe he’s not like Joe Maddon or Charlie Manuel, but if things had played out the way they were supposed to, he might still be the manager of the Red Sox. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett won 14 of their 34 starts. Clay Buchholz had a 7.19 ERA in the first two months of the season. Meanwhile, the Red Sox got little production from the back of their rotation. Offensively, the Red Sox were fine for the first half of the season, but down the stretch when pretty much everything was broken, that part of their team went south, too.
Valentine became a symbol for a lot of problems that had nothing to do with him. The Red Sox are under no illusion that getting rid of him will fix their problems. But it’s impossible to argue that he got a raw deal. In the end, managers understand they’re to be held accountable for the won-loss record.
If the players had done better, Valentine could have survived. In the end, though, he did himself no favors, and the Red Sox needed to turn the pages, substantively as well as stylistically.