Ivan DeJesus Jr. took a third strike from Yankees pitcher Freddy Garcia at 10:33 p.m. Wednesday, bringing an end to the worst Red Sox season in decades.
Fourteen hours and 14 minutes later, the team announced it had fired Bobby Valentine.
For the first time since Bucky Harris was let go after the 1934 season, the Sox have fired a manager after one season in the dugout.
Valentine was summoned to a morning meeting at the Brookline home of team president Larry Lucchino. Principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and general manager Ben Cherington also attended.
“I informed him that we were making a change, and then we had a rather long and candid conversation about how the year went,” Cherington said. “He offered some good, constructive advice, criticism on some areas that we’ll look at. He handled it with a lot of maturity and class.”
Valentine told the Globe that he hoped to manage again and would look at opportunities within baseball or broadcasting.
“I wasn’t run out of town,” he said. “It was quite cordial.”
A last-place finish at age 62 could make it tough for Valentine, who had one year left on his contract, to get another managerial job.
But getting fired didn’t sap his energy. Valentine embarked on his daily bicycle ride after getting the news and greeted a gaggle of reporters with a smile when he returned to his apartment in the Back Bay.
Asked if he was disappointed, he said, “No. At least now I know the answer.”
Valentine praised his players, saying that many sent text messages expressing support.
“There are a lot of great guys,” he said.
The Red Sox, according to major league sources, have focused their search on Toronto manager John Farrell and are planning to seek permission to interview him.
Farrell has a year remaining on his contract, and Blue Jays executives have said they are committed to his staying on the job. But Farrell spent four years as pitching coach of the Red Sox (2006-10) and has a strong relationship with many in the organization, particularly assistant GM Mike Hazen.
Farrell is 154-170 in two seasons as Toronto’s manager. If the Blue Jays close that door, the Sox will undertake another search.
Regardless of who the next manager is, it will be the franchise’s third in as many years, and Lucchino conceded that that disturbed him.
“Yeah, it’s a little troubling,” he said. “We, like most organizations, prefer some stability and continuity in key positions. We had a lot of stability and continuity in other key positions. But we’d like to have the manager’s role filled by someone for several years.”
Cherington would not identify any candidates or say whether bench coach Tim Bogar would be considered.
“We can’t restrict ourselves to a certain type of candidate or a certain background or résumé,” he said. “We’ve got to be open-minded about who the right fit is because this is an important hire.”
The influential Lucchino supported hiring Valentine after the team interviewed five other candidates last fall and ownership rejected the original finalist, Dale Sveum.
But the decision, Lucchino said, was a collaborative one.
“We thought the decision was a sensible, rational one last year and that what we were looking for at the time seemed to be what Bobby Valentine presented,” Lucchino said. “But life is a motion picture, not a still photograph. Things change along the way.”
The Sox went 69-93, their worst record since 1965, and finished last in the American League East for the first time since Henry and Werner became owners 11 years ago.
Valentine had a rocky tenure, losing games and the confidence of the organization after a series of controversies.
Valentine was urged to retain three of the coaches and to hire Bob McClure as the pitching coach. Before the end of spring training, Valentine was at odds with McClure, Bogar, and bullpen coach Gary Tuck.
Valentine would go days without speaking more than a few words to some of his coaches. McClure, whose hands-off style helped lead to the Red Sox having one of the worst rotations in the game, was eventually fired in August.
Valentine’s relationship with the players started to sour in April when he questioned the commitment of third baseman Kevin Youkilis by saying, “I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.”
Cherington forced Valentine to apologize to Youkilis, and second baseman Dustin Pedroia said that criticizing players wasn’t how the Red Sox went about their business.
All too often, the Red Sox appeared disorganized, if not unprepared, because of broken lines of communication. The chasm between the manager’s office and the rest of the baseball operations staff was a wide one.
In July, a group of mutinous players contacted Henry and Werner and demanded a meeting in New York during a road trip. Despite their complaints about Valentine, he stayed on the job.
“A lot of things didn’t go well, but an experienced manager is supposed to put his finger in the dike and keep the water on the other side,” Valentine said.
But injuries and poor pitching, more than anything, shattered the Sox, Valentine said. They had 27 players, 13 of them former All-Stars, go on the disabled list a franchise-record 34 times. In all, the Sox had 1,495 games missed because of injuries. Valentine never once managed a game with a full complement of the team’s best players.
Red Sox starters posted an ERA of 5.19. Bad decisions made before he was hired, including turning ace reliever Daniel Bard into a starter, worked against Valentine.
Injuries to David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks helped put the team out of contention in August. On Aug. 25, the Sox hit the reset button on their franchise with a landmark trade that sent righthander Josh Beckett, outfielder Carl Crawford, and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers.
The Sox received five players in return and $264 million in long-term payroll savings.
But Valentine was left with a roster full of minor leaguers, and the Red Sox finished 9-27, losing their last eight games.
With former general manager Theo Epstein, former manager Terry Francona, and now Valentine all having left the organization, the burden of turning the Sox back into a contender will fall on Cherington.
The Red Sox have missed the playoffs for three seasons in a row and have not won a playoff game since 2008. Eighteen teams in the majors have qualified for the postseason since the Red Sox last did.
“We all share some sense of the burden and some sense of the responsibility and some sense of the challenge,” Lucchino said. “So certainly a lot of it falls on baseball operations. That department is headed by Ben.
“We have great confidence in Ben Cherington and Ben’s ability to put together a department that will lead us back to where we want to be with some speed.”
An expedient decision on the next manager is paramount. The Red Sox went two months without a manager last season, and that backfired. There’s a lot of work to be done, and whoever takes on Boston’s most demanding job needs to get started.