By C.J. Gardner
Bobby Valentine was brought in to manage to Red Sox to provide some hope. After last years collapse, Valentine was thought to be a fresh face that would turn things around. After stories came out last year about how pitchers were drinking beers and playing video games in the clubhouse during the game, few thought Valentine would be able to mismanage his players worse than the year before, but he found a way.
After missing the playoffs the past two years, Bobby V was tasked with guiding the hunt Red (Sox) October. Valentine came into the season with high expectations from fans and pundits. The Red Sox came into the year with the third highest payroll in baseball at just north of $173 million. The Fenway faithful are a very critical group of fans and were expecting such a talented team to fight for the World Series after missing out on playoff baseball on the last day of the regular season last year.
The season was still young when the new skipper’s first controversial decision came up. After a slow start to the year, Valentine came out and said this about Boston favorite Kevin Youkilis, “I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.” This started a war of words between the two, as the consummate professional did not take too kindly to Valentine’s thoughts on him. With Will Middlebrooks having a breakout season, Youkilis saw less and less playing time. There were also reports that Valentine wanted Youkilis out back in spring training because he saw him as a liability. This started a rift that would be a media focus until Youkilis was shipped off to the White Sox. Thus was the beginning of Valentine’s mismanagement of his players.
During the embarrassing media circus, the Red Sox were not performing well on the field. They got off to a 12-19 start and were 43-43 at the All Star break. It was obvious that the players were not 100 percent behind Valentine as their coach. Team leader Dustin Pedroia was outspoken on how Valentine handled the Youkilis situation saying, “That’s not how we go about our stuff here.”
The next distraction for the Red Sox and Valentine was when team owners and brass had a meeting with some of the players. The meeting came right after it was reported Adrian Gonzalez sent a text message to the owners on behalf of the players criticizing Valentine. The players felt Valentine embarrassed Jon Lester when he left Lester in to allow 11 runs in his July 22nd start against the Blue Jays. Red Sox Owner John W. Henry said no Red Sox players called for Valentine to be fired, but media outlets reported that there were several players who said they no longer wanted to play for him.
Then on August 25th, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto were traded to the LA Dodgers for James Loney and prospects. This move demonstrated the team switching its focus to next season, as the team had no chance of a playoff birth this season.
Needless to say, this year has been a giant disappointment for the Red Sox. Does Bobby Valentine deserve all the criticism for this? No. The Sox have had a lot of injuries to deal with, but Bobby V’s constant bumbling and personnel faux pas has been a big reason for the teams poor play this season. Red Sox fans can look down in Baltimore at the manager of the year, Buck Showalter, and what he has done with half the payroll of theirs and far less talent to see what a manager can do with a team. Ownership has said Valentine will be back next season, but unless he can manage his players better, I don’t see the Red Sox players playing for him next season as they have already stopped doing it this year.