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Firing Bobby Valentine won't fix the Red Sox

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  August 6, 2012 12:12 PM

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Let's say the Red Sox had decided last winter that they just weren't ready for Bobby Valentine as manager and hired Gene Lamont instead.

Do you really think they would be 10 games over .500 instead of one game under?

Because that's who the alternative was. It wasn't Tony La Russa or Joe Torre, it was Gene Lamont, who is three years older than Valentine, hasn't managed in the majors since 2000 and hasn't been offered the chance to, either.

Do you really think Gene Lamont would have figured out a way around 1,119 games missed on the disabled list? Yes, that's one thousand, one hundred and nineteen. It's a record.

Or the epically bad decision to make Daniel Bard a starter?

Or the decision not to obtain a competent starting pitcher during the winter because Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz were enough?

Or the decision not to do anything to change the chemistry of a team that flat-out quit on Terry Francona last season?

Or the organization's alarming inability to promote one decent pitcher to the big leagues (other than Felix Doubront) since 2009?

Or the run of terrible free-agent decisions made by Theo Epstein?

If you sincerely believe that Gene Lamont would have fixed all that, then by all means Valentine should be fired.

But don't fire Valentine because he doesn't get along with a bunch of assistant coaches who were hired by and remain loyal to Francona and/or the front office. Don't fire him because he was assigned a pitching coach who was fired by the Royals and was supposed to be a minor league instructor and part-time scout for the Sox.

Don't fire him because he did what had to be done and moved Kevin Youkilis off third base and put Will Middlebrooks in.

Don't fire him because the Red Sox make him cover up for players too gutless to explain things themselves.

Don't fire him because the medical staff gets to decide when a player needs a day off.

Don't fire him because he doesn't cozy up to certain media members whom Francona wisely tolerated because that was the path of least resistance.

The Red Sox have not made the playoffs since 2009. They have not won a playoff game since 2008. They are three games under .500 since the 2011 All-Star break. This is an organization with issues that go way beyond the manager. Somewhere along the way, they lost their soul and that filtered down to the clubhouse.

Make a list in your mind of players you believe really care whether the teams wins or loses on a given day. Bet you don't get deeper than seven or eight. This mess all started long before Valentine showed up.

Changing the manager is not going to change any of that. Sure, Gene Lamont, Tim Bogar or somebody else can get that title and nod their heads at everything the front office says. They'll be quite excellent at making sure not to say anything that offends the players. After all, entitled underachievers should never be challenged or offended in any way.

But know this: Valentine fixed a bullpen that was a complete mess 24 hours before the season started.

He worked around the injuries well enough to compose lineups that have somehow scored the third-most runs in baseball.

He wrung something out of guys like Mike Aviles, Andrew Miller, Daniel Nava, Vicente Padilla, Scott Atchison, Kelly Shoppach, Marlon Byrd, Scott Podsednik and Pedro Ciriaco.

He was the guy who said Franklin Morales should be starting. He decided on Alfredo Aceves as the closer. He pushed for Middlebrooks and he's pushing for Ryan Lavarnway now.

Only in Boston would you be subjected to such contrived nonsense as Valentine being called on the carpet for joking to a rookie about making a couple of bad plays in the field. Yes, certainly, Bill Belichick or Doc Rivers would never do such a thing.

Only in Boston would such secondary, meaningless issues command more attention that the fundamental fact that 15 other franchises have qualified for the postseason since the Red Sox last did. That number will surely grow this October. Your team is not good and hasn't been for a while.

The Red Sox need to significantly change their roster, not their manager. If you think getting rid of Valentine is going to change what is wrong about this team, you are fooling yourself. He's not the common denominator here no matter how hard some try and spin it. That's too easy.

The Red Sox quit on their manager last year and they fired the manager. Maybe this time they need to look at where the problem really is.

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