Valentine, Still the Ringleader of Red Sox Circus?
Sports talk radio host, Justin McIsaac, knows a restless fan base when he sees it, and with impending uncertainty over their team’s manager, Red Sox’ fans are buzzing.
Host of “McIsaac on Sports,” a weekly sports talk show on WTSN-AM 1270 in Dover, N.H., McIsaac said that Red Sox manager, Bobby Valentine, has been put in a no-win situation by the organization. The players have not put their best effort forward this season on the field, and Valentine has been neutered by upper-management when it came to holding the players accountable according to McIsaac.
“It’s complex, because it’s not his fault his team has played so bad, and every time he tried to exercise his authority one of his players would run upstairs to tell [general manager Ben] Cherington,” said McIsaac. “However, he has done a horrible job with what he has been given and he must go for the sake of reviving the team. ”
The Red Sox will suffer their first losing season since 1997, when they went 78-84, and members of Red Sox nation and some media members agree the failure of this team will ultimately fall on Valentine’s head.
“In Boston the manager’s job is just as important off the field as it is on the field,” said Frank Coppola, sports editor of the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald. “As far as eliminating distractions, getting the most out of his roster and dealing with the media, I think he has been a complete failure.”
After 10 years out of Major League Baseball, Valentine was brought to Boston to clean up a toxic clubhouse. Some fans and media members questioned the move as an attempt to gain publicity when the team was not spending money on new players to fix the team.
“I was really surprised when he was hired because it struck me as more of a flair move by the team,” said Michael Dumont, 43, of Derry, N.H. “He has to be fired because he had his chance this year, and he lost control of the team early.”
With a 69-90 record, the 2012 season has been a disaster. And some fans blame Valentine for disrupting any chance of the team putting last year behind them. Most of McIsaac’s callers are in agreement that Valentine was not the sole reason for the team’s failure, but they acknowledge the Red Sox need to go in a different direction.
“The general feeling is, the record isn’t his fault, but he did not solve any issues on the team,” said McIsaac. “He could come across as clueless at times.”
On the players’ end, the Red Sox’ hopes for a rebound year hinged upon pitchers Josh Beckett and Jon Lester being top-flight starters, and they fell far short. In fact, before Beckett was shipped out to the Dodgers he had compiled a 5-11 record and possessed an earned run average north of six. Lester was not much better, going 4-7 in the first half of the season with an ERA worse than Beckett’s, topping off at seven. The hitters never got in any kind of rhythm, and the team never got on track. Valentine’s supporters would argue that this was a flawed team that any manager would fail in.
“This city does not understand Bobby Valentine, and the Red Sox aren’t the team for him,” Lewis Raibley, 21, a civil engineering major at Northeastern said. “I’m from New York, and he did a good job turning the Mets around. I do not think he was the right guy for the Boston job, but if the Red Sox were going to hire him they had to let Bobby Valentine be Bobby Valentine.”
Valentine may soon find himself sharing the same fate as his predecessor in being the scapegoat for the failure of the baseball team on the field.
“He has created too many distractions,” said Coppola. “Francona did so well managing all the distractions, especially with guys like Manny Ramirez in that locker room. On the field Valentine has done fine, but in Boston you have to do more than that.”
Some think this hectic situation represents the dysfunction that permeates the organization. For example, only four players on the roster attended team icon Johnny Pesky’s funeral back in late August in Swapscott, Mass. the day after the team came home from a road-trip.
“This problem starts at the top with [Team President] Larry Lucchino. The organization leaked information about Francona’s personal life on his way out the door,” Jon Campbell, a double major in Asian studies and sports management at the University Colorado and former Red Sox tour guide, said. “[Owner] John Henry is rarely ever in Boston because he spends all his time fixing his Liverpool soccer team, and Lucchino has done more harm to the team.”
The circus surrounding the Red Sox will stay in town for a while whether or not Valentine comes back. And if there is a new manager, fans like Dumont know the Red Sox need more than a coach to reverse their course.
“I think the team will be completely different next year,” he said. “It’s an ebb and flow with all of the teams in this town and right now the Red Sox are down — and it is by their own hand.”