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Bobby Valentine is a convenient scapegoat, but he’s not what’s ailin’ the Sox

Apr 23, 2012, 8:53 AM EDT

Bobby Valentine

Well, not totally anyway. He has his share of the blame — some odd bullpen choices in the past week for one — but the “Bobby V has killed the Red Sox” stuff is probably out of hand at the moment. And, as Rob Bradford notes, the reason is pretty understandable. It’s Boston, and this is what Boston does:

So, Valentine continues to offer up fodder for those trying to suggest he is the be-all, end-all for this Red Sox start. It’s a lay-up for some, just like the beer and the chicken were in October. Symbolism. People love symbolism …   But what the reality should do is offer a reminder there are far more important issues for the Red Sox to deal with than the manager making verbal missteps.

The problems: the bullpen, obviously. It’s not been all about Valentine’s late hook, it’s been about putrid performances. Terry Francona wouldn’t have had any better options to go to during that meltdown on Saturday than Valentine did. Which is why the Sox are now gonna dabble with Daniel Bard back in the pen, at least in the short term.

The rotation has been pretty horrifying too. As have the injuries. As have Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis. As have injuries, most notably to Jacoby Ellsbury.

The team has one real structural problem — the pen — a lot of terrible early performances that are likely to improve and some injuries, which everyone goes through from time to time.  Yeah, their manager has been sub-optimal, but he’s not the whole story. And for as much fun as it is to talk about him, it’s probably time we let up on Bobby V.

  1. georgia - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    I always thought Tito kept his pitchers in too long too.

    Anyways, I definitely wouldn’t pin all of this on Valentine either no matter how much I don’t really like him. Most of the position players should not have much trouble improving, but the outfield looks horrible too in my opinion. I doubt you could find a bigger flaw than the bullpen though. Otherwise, the starters (specifically Beckett, Lester, and Buccholz) are decent enough when all of them are pitching decent or better.

  2. 18thstreet - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Bobby Valentine is a convenient scapegoat for those of us who objected to Terry Francona being blamed for last year’s collapse. It was clear to me that 2011 wasn’t his fault, and now I feel vindicated.

    I’ve often said Francona is the best manager I’ve ever seen. Now, I’m not a scholar on that issue (I’m sure there are plenty others who are better, just not on teams that I’ve followed). (And, good lord, I’ve lived with some terrible managers.) I don’t think he could have saved this team. But I REALLY objected to the idea that 2011 was HIS fault. Thus, my scorn for his replacement. Bobby Valentine is as much a symbol of a lousy Red Sox front office as he is an infuriating manager in his own right.

    • georgia - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:13 AM

      Isn’t there a good chance that Francona would be getting the same scorn as Bobby V if he was still managing the team (with or without the collapse)? So you could say that the same situation would have happened under different circumstances.

      • 18thstreet - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:21 AM

        Well, he wouldn’t be getting it from me.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:12 AM

        Possibly due to the collapse from last season, but a lot of fans have given Tito some leeway from ’04 and ’07, which I’m sure we can all agree he earned.

    • georgia - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      I love your answer. For the record, I myself don’t have any scorn for Tito or Valentine.

    • bigleagues - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:50 AM


      That is a great ‘take’ on Bobby V and Francona from you.

      Perhaps we need to start viewing Bobby V as a part of a double blind manager test.

      Personally I don’t think the boos are for Bobby V as much as they are a protest against ownership for the way they handled Francona and replaced him with someone who in ownerships view would allegedly be a law-and-order manager . . . even though anyone worth their salt in baseball know that law-and-order types don’t mix well with big market, big payroll, strong personality type teams.

      Francona remains the perfect manager for the Red Sox.

      On the other hand, Larry Lucchino is no longer the perfect President/CEO for this club.

      Unfortunately for Red Sox fans, Lucchino was granted an ownership stake as part of his compensation . . . and an insurance policy for when he has worn out his welcome.

    • wsnydes - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:06 PM

      i think this is a great instance of where managing/coaching is highly overrated. i’m not saying that it doesn’t matter, but the players are the ones that decide the games on the field/court/ice. coaches get too much credit for winning and too much blame for losing. i know its the nature of the business, but its really stupid. the manager doesn’t strike out in a crucial at bat. he doesn’t make that amazing HR robbing catch in CF. he’s on the bench. in general, they have little impact on the outcome of a game.

      • 18thstreet - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:36 PM

        A lousy manager can really harm my ability to enjoy a game, even when the team’s winning. There’s always a “how is Grady Little going to screw this up?” in the back of my head. Yes, it’s mostly about the players. And on a BAD team, the manager matters not at all. There isn’t a manager in baseball history who could turn a .450 team into a .550 team. (I don’t follow football much, but I definitely feel a like a good NFL coach can turn 8 wins into 11, which just can’t happen in baseball.)

      • petey1999 - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:12 PM

        So, 18thstreet, you’ve put your finger on the dynamic here – we fans (and especially Red Sox fans who have become entitled) project our unhappiness onto the most visible personalities. In this case (you can pick) Henry, Lucchino, Valentine. Last year it was Theo and Tito. Before that it was Harrington and Duquette. In some cases, it extends to players like Clemens and Ramirez. We hope these people fail as a way of justifying our own neuroses – “See? I was right all along.”

        It makes me wonder if it’s even possible to have a strong emotional attachment to a team and still be able to enjoy the game on its own terms.

  3. xpensivewinos - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    Here’s what’s obvious: the team is a mess for various reasons whether it’s aging players with eroding skills, overpaying in situations and it hasn’t worked out, extending guys they shouldn’t have to big money deals, blah, blah, blah…………the team simply is not very good and downright pathetic for the third highest payroll in baseball. We also know that this is still essentially Theo’s team……………it was obvious to everyone on earth (except Larry Lucchino) that Bobby Valentine was not the right fit for this already odd dynamic and lastly, we know that Red Sox ownership is definitely a unique breed (right, wrong or indifferent).

    What we don’t know yet is this: Can Cherington fix it? Guess we’ll find out. Certainly won’t happen this year, but we’ll see what he’s allowed to do. If the managerial hire is any indication, he won’t be allowed to do much, so the Red Sox could be circling the drain for the foreseeable future……

  4. urfinished - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    But according to an article you guys posted Saturday, he should be fired. I guess emotion gets to the best of us.
    He shouldnt be fired this early in the season…he’s clearly a short term answer at this point though.
    High spending teams have more egos and guys like that shouldnt be bossed around by Bobby Valentine. Boston needs the ultimate players’ manager…a virtual psychologist on the bench that keeps spirits high. All the negativity in that clubhouse is going to cost them some wins…period.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:20 AM

      Well, we tend to have some varying opinions around here. Matthew is a Sox fan so he may have stronger feelings about it than I do.

      Personally, I wouldn’t have hired Valentine, and I would not be at all shocked if he WAS fired, but as it sits here right now, I don’t think it would be fair to fire him necessarily.

      • urfinished - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:43 AM

        Yea I know that wasnt on you. And I completely agree with your assessment…great points.
        It’s dangerous to give full reign to a Sox fan hours after a collapse like that…ha. His mood wasnt improved by the Bruins losing I’m sure.
        The hiring just becomes more and more baffling.
        It would be a tough decision to fire him now. Do you just admit your mistake and move on? I dont recall that ever happening this quickly in baseball. I also dont know that you have a great alternative to finish the season. I feel like one of their bench coaches (forget the name) is really liked by the players. Maybe just lick your wounds and go that direction…but it would be the ultimate admission of guilt…just dont see Henry doing that so soon.

  5. randygnyc - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    The sox players can’t seem to take personal responsibility for their never ending, horrific failures. They’ll blame the manager, ownership, scheduling, weather, God and lady luck. Instead, they should look in the mirror and own their miserable performances. It’s no wonder their players get injured and are in no hurry to get back. They’ll be paid, regardless. Who’d really want to be part of a culture of back stabbing, piled upon losing?
    Scapegoating Valentine is easy. I’d imagine that they blame valentine when any of them suffer from chaffed labia, instead of wearing the right panties in the first place.

    • 18thstreet - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:53 AM

      The “blaming G-d” I’m pretty sure is a reference to Adrian Gonzalez’s response at the end of the year, which Shaughnessy has hammered him for. I think that’s unfair for many reasons. From what I understand, Gonzalez is a devout Christian (wikipedia says he’s born again) who stated his belief that the 2011 season was G-d will. Now, let me be clear: my own religious upbringing is diametrically opposed to this. But I don’t think Gonzalez was “blaming G-d” for the collapse. He was saying (as I understand evangelical Christianity) that everything that happens is G-d’s will, and the 2011 baseball season is part of “everything.”

      Gonzalez had a terrific season, and terrific September. I’m not sure what I would say if I were in his cleats, asked questions at the end of the year. But — despite how I feel about religious fatalism — I still feel it’s a reasonable answer and better than the honest one: our pitchers blew it.

  6. lessick - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Sometimes in a big market where everything is scrutinized, it’s easy to overlook the obvious. The Red Sox have 11 players on the disabled list.

    • 18thstreet - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:59 AM

      Beckett, Lester and Buccholz, at their best, are as good as any Big Three in baseball. We’ve seen each be brilliant. And they scored the most runs in baseball last year, having only lost Ellsbury as a key piece of what made THAT happen.

      Yes, the injuries matter. But they don’t explain everything.

      • bigharold - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:43 AM

        “Beckett, Lester and Buccholz, at their best, are as good as any Big Three in baseball. ”

        Except they are not at their best and that really isn’t the problem anyway.

        One doesn’t need to be Branch Ricky to see what’s wrong with the RS. The biggest problem is the pen, .. it was weak last year and the FO did nothing to improve the situation. They let their closer walk. You can say what you want about Papelbon but he was generally effective. They moved their set up man to the rotation, .. a more that has yet to pay off. In both cases they haven’t replaced these guys. And, as a result of injury they now have their best long relief guy closing. The BP plain stinks and that is the result of the FO failing to do their job.

        The rotation hasn’t been great but it looks like Becket will be fine. Lester has gotten off to a rough start but I’d wager he’ll return to form fairly quickly. Buckholz is an issue but I think counting on him to return to form was wishful thinking on the part of the FO. Even if he was 100% healthy he missed most of last year so expecting great things wasn’t smart. They should have had a fall back plan, .. again poor preparation by the FO.

        Defensively, SS is STILL and issue after all these years. How many runs did Aviles’ error cost them Saturday? The OF is a shambles, .. which at least two thirds of which is injury related. Crawford and Elsbury should be back,. Nevertheless, their RF platoon plan seems a bit weak for a team that has 175 mil payroll.

        I never thought that Valentine was a good option for manager. It seemed more as a reaction to a perceived weakness or lacking of his predecessor. Not a good criteria to choose a manager. He has a big mouth and a polarizing personality and he found a way to get the players against him right out of the gate. But, with all that said, this is a poorly constructed team and that lies with the FO, .. not with Valentine.

    • lardin - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:02 AM

      To a degree yes, but that is why MLB rosters have 25 names and you also have a 40 man Roster as Well. It’s called depth. And for a team with 175 million dollar payroll, you should have it. The pitching staff doesnt have any, otherwise Bard would be the closer. And then you know that Crawford will most likely miss the start of the season, and because its a wrist injury he may never be the same player again, and you have a hole if RF, and last year was the exception for Ellsbury in regard to staying healthy. So why not try to get a legit Major league OF. Currently the Sox have a bunch of 4th outfielders. The Sox lineup used to scare the crap out of everyone. Who scares you in that lineup now? There is zero right handed power. Agon does not hit good pitching. So your left with Pedroia and Papi.

      How do you build a team with 175 million dollar payroll with no depth???????????

      • 18thstreet - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:26 AM

        How did they not have someone already in the system to play the role that Nick Punto is playing for the team? That one is driving me crazy. And he’s signed to a two-year deal.

  7. deathmonkey41 - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    I wish you would stop mentioning fried chicken and beer- it alway makes me hungry.

  8. pisano - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    If Valentine would have kept his big mouth shut right from the start I don’t think he’d have drawn the hate from the fans and the media that he’s drawn. If that wasn’t bad enough he starts blasting his players, not a smart move, and of all the players, he questions Youkilis who in my opinion has more heart than any player on that team. To say he put his foot in his mouth would be an understatement. I don’t see him lasting in Boston very long, again this is by his own doing. I’ll bet John Henry wished he hadn’t let Francona go, at least the players played for him.

    • 18thstreet - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      I have many complaints with Youkilis, but the idea that he doesn’t care enough … I mean, unless he’s an entirely different person in the clubhouse than who he shows in public (and stranger things have happened), it was VERY weird to see Youk, of all people called out for not having enough heart.

  9. psousa1 - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    The starting outfield has been Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeny, Darnell McDonald/Jason Repko. Come on. They have lost Crawford and the number two vote getter in MVP a year ago in Ellsbury. They have only been receiving a top notch contribution from one starter: David Ortiz. Sweeney has done well in his role. (I should say, outside of two huge gaffes on Saturday Mike Aviles has held his own). Youkilis looks like it’s going to be a struggle on offense and defense. I hope a team looking for a first baseman will make a deal for him (he has a team friendly contract too.)and they can bring up Will Middlebrooks. This kid is murdering everything and an even better fielder. Bottom line is water seeks its level. They are pretty much right where they should be considering their everyday lineup and bullpen.

  10. yankeesfanlen - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    I like your last paragraph, Craig “sub optimal manager” That means Bobby Valentine. To abbreviate: SOBValentine.
    Can you imagine if he had made the cut in ’08- THEN the Bronx would have been burning.

  11. jeffw - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    I have very little respect for a fan base that is prone to emotionalism and outburst like 2nd grade little girls. The Sox have been a bad team going back to September of last year. If you can’t do a non-emotional analysis of your team’s issues, than you’re not worth listening to.

    • bigharold - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:07 PM

      While I agree that a rational analysis of ones team is always a good idea, .. I think you are missing the point.

    • wsnydes - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:09 PM

      you just described 90% of any given fanbase

  12. sebrad - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    screw that fool booby v. he’s the napoleon-sized fool that keeps poking and prodding the big boys. he deserves whatever beatings he gets, both on the field and in the press. i do approve of his methods in this particular case because he will have the sawx completely out of it by june, and will likely be fired by the all star break. hopefully the nippon ham fighters still have an opening….GO YANKS!!!

  13. xpensivewinos - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    I definitely agree that the hostility towards Valentine is really the fans way of telling Red Sox ownership they don’t like the way Francona was treated.

    It’s ironic that the Red Sox made such a big deal about the 100 year anniversary of Fenway Park and rolled out players whose impact on the Red Sox history is minuscule at best………….yet the one person who should arguably be revered more than any other, Francona, was fired amidst a smear campaign. Last time I checked, he managed the only two World Series Championships they could come up with in nearly 100 years and instead of building a statue of the guy, they threw him out like garbage.

    I think that says all we need to know about the owners of the Boston Red Sox. They’re scumbags, folks………..and they’re not even scumbags with good decision-making capabilities.

    P.S. Right, wrong or indifferent, I think if Francona was still the manager and the Red Sox started off 4-10, the animosity would be targeted at Theo……….cuz he signed all these guys. I’m not saying that’s fair, I’m just saying that’s what I think would happen.

    • bigharold - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:15 PM

      “… I think if Francona was still the manager and the Red Sox started off 4-10, the animosity would be targeted at Theo……….cuz he signed all these guys. I’m not saying that’s fair,…”

      It would be absolutely fair. Regardless of how Valentine has stuck his foot in his mouth this year, .. this s not a well constructed team. The pen stinks, the defense is a mess in tthe OF and SS is still an issue. The rotation has some ability but as of yet they have been doing great either as a whole.

      The FO, whichever GM past or present you want to blame, has done a poor job. Considering the resources that RS have to work with they’ve done an absolutely terrible job. And, picking Valentine certainly didn’t help.

  14. Old Gator - Apr 23, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    When you have a convenient scapegoat, it is important to use him. The life expectancy of a convenient scapegoat is short – I give you Slobbering Ozzie, for example.

  15. bozosforall - Apr 24, 2012 at 12:42 AM

    Couldnt be happening to a more “deserving” fan base.

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