Give Bobby Valentine credit.
The briefly-employed Red Sox manager has said an awful lot of stupid, insensitive, or pea-brained things in his decades in the spotlight but, as it pertains to his time in Boston in 2012, his latest comments to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo this morning take the cake.
“I’d like to think that if I came back for my second year that, given the changes and improvements, I would have been able to do the same thing,” Valentine said of new manager John Farrell’s ability to guide a new and rejuvenated group to the World Series this year.
Valentine’s Red Sox won 69 games.
Not exactly on the cusp of a playoff spot. In fact, the franchise had its worst mark in nearly 50 years.
Sure, his club endured a catastrophic number of injuries and underperformances among its anticipated key contributors, but that team’s biggest problem was an appalling lack of leadership, direction, and morale.
General manager Ben Cherington did far more than “a great job this offseason rebuilding the team,” as Valentine put it. The second-year GM and the rest of upper management identified the countless condemning issues that took a team with 100-win talent to the division-basement by dealing away some of its turbulent personalities in August and firing the kerosene-for-most-controversies immediately after the season.
“Usually a team will go after one or two free agents and hope they work out,” said Valentine, now an athletic director at Sacred Heart University. “When you’re signing seven or eight guys and they all work out and blend in together as well as they did, that’s amazing to me.”
It is amazing, and there’s certainly an element of luck involved. This year’s assembled Red Sox have led us to believe in things like the stars aligning, fate, destiny, and magic. They injected their fan base with a love that hasn’t existed since the “Idiots” of 2004, and that includes the title winners of 2007.
But could Valentine possibly believe this team would look anything like it does had he been retained?
Would veteran free agents like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes, or David Ross – all key contributors in 2013 – have elected to sign in Boston following last year’s disaster if there wasn’t new leadership and a healthy degree of optimism in place?
Sure, we’ll never know, but I’d bet most if not all five would be under contract elsewhere today.
Unlike Valentine, who had his anonymous detractors inside the Sox clubhouse at the time of his hire, Farrell was well-respected from the moment he walked through the door on account of his familiarity with much of the personnel and his reputation in the game. One guy diligently prepares as best he can for every conceivable outcome, while the other once arrived late to the ballpark because he had to pick up his adult son at the airport.
Valentine’s reputation may be as a great baseball mind, but just about every other aspect of his character has gradually been stained over time as he’s lost one job after another. There’s a reason he’s called “the village idiot.”
That being said, he was the best thing that’s happened to the Red Sox in years.
If Valentine doesn’t arrive in Boston, neither do the bearded bunch of “scrappy underdogs” that we’ve come to love so deeply.
You might argue that the Sox were spiraling toward destruction after the chicken-and-beer-tainted collapse that occurred under Terry Francona’s watch in 2011, but it took someone of Valentine’s me-first personality to take that destruction to dysfunction and devastation. Another skipper, even Dale Sveum, may have guided a group with that level of talent to a .500 record or close to it but, for mediocrity to take place, Boston needed the genius, wrap-inventing, ballroom-dancing, O.J. Simpson-caliber running back who could have been the best baseball player in the world if not for injury.
Without Valentine’s heavily critiqued arrival, the odds are that Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford all still call the Hub home and we’re complaining about the Patriots’ offense while dissecting the Bruins’ power play. No franchise-saving trade to the Dodgers, and substantially less money available for the lesser-talented, high-character, playoff-tested winners with the ability to thrive in a high-pressure, scrutiny-filled market. For years.
Valentine gave Cherington and company the opportunity to hit the reset button. To rebuild, restart, regroup, refocus … hell, resuscitate. Thanks to Larry Lucchino or whoever may wish to be commended for making the final decision. There should be a brick purchased in that person’s name.
Valentine’s right when he said, “the entire organization should be very proud of what they did. They should take a bow. It was amazing work.”
Work that couldn’t have been done without you, Bobby. Think of it as the real reason you were paid all year. Another feather for your cap.
But if Valentine truly believes his team would be playing in the World Series tomorrow night, that’s a whole new level of delusion.
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Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
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