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Bobby Valentine is teaching young Sox how to quit

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  September 4, 2012 10:25 AM

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In the span of just five short months, Bobby Valentine has gone from controversial and energetic to sad and pathetic, a self-proclaimed winner to a helpless, hopeless soul. A few months ago, Valentine was suggesting that the Red Sox could win a championship. Now he sounds like the ultimate defeatist.

What difference does it make? Well now there is the kind of attitude we want our leaders to have. Once regarded as one of best teams in baseball, the Red Sox this Tuesday are tied with the San Diego Padres for the ninth selection in next June's amateur draft. At this rate, the Sox will end up in the top five. Boston's current seven-game losing streak is the 46th of at least seven games by any team in baseball this year, and no club has been outscored by more runs (42) during that span than the Red Sox.

Short of moving up in the draft order, there is no benefit to the Red Sox playing the way they are now, with no purpose, leadership, or pride. For a man who is supposed to be so good with young players, Valentine is now teaching them how to quit. He is acting like the lamest of lame ducks. Valentine is certainly acting like a man who knows he will be fired at the end of the year, seemingly intent on bringing down the ship he was asked to command.

“I think we knew when we made the trade, we weren’t helping our team win games the rest of this year,’’ general manager Ben Cherington told reporters over the long weekend. “But that said, it’s still been hard to watch. There’s things that we need to accomplish the rest of the year. There’s things we need to do to learn more about players and get players healthy and get guys in the best position so that we can be well-informed going into the offseason. It is harder to do that when you’re staring at a loss at the end of every day.

“It’s hard for everyone to get the work done that needs to get done. But the only choice we have is to do it — to show up the next day and make sure the work gets done. I believe that will happen.’’

There's an old saying in sports, as in life: You find out more about people during the tough times than you do the good ones. You find out who cares, who acts professionally, who has the right value system. At the moment, Cherington certainly seems like he has the right stuff. For a 30-something general manager in a rookie season that has included marriage and the birth of his first child, Cherington doesn't sound or look the least bit overwhelmed. He isn't minimizing baseball the way Josh Beckett did last season. He isn't tossing up his arms the way his manager is now.

But Bobby V? If he truly did want to come back to the Red Sox, he has recently had a very funny way of showing it. The manager is supposed to protect the interest of the team, but Valentine's ongoing spat with Alfredo Aceves certainly seems personal. Valentine simply cannot get past his personal feelings and do what he was hired to do, to lead the Red Sox through good times and bad.

Maybe Valentine's fate was sealed a long time ago. Maybe it was not. But after seeing what we all have seen in recent weeks, do any of us even need to ask whether this is the man we want leading the Red Sox into the 2013 season and, perhaps, beyond?

We've said this before and we'll say it again: The train wreck that has been the 2012 Red Sox season is not Bobby Valentine's fault and it never was. He inherited a clubhouse of overpaid, underachieving malcontents. Valentine can sit here today and claim he never had a chance, but the simple fact of the matter is that Valentine does done little or nothing to help himself along the way.

Even if we give Valentine latitude for the perceived tweak of Kevin Youkilis — the player clearly overreacted — Valentine dredged up the matter again when Youkilis returned to Boston as a member of the Chicago White Sox. He mocked the organization for its handling of Carl Crawford's injury. He tweaked pitching coach Bob McClure for going on "vacation." All in all, Valentine acted like a spoiled little boy who was told he could not have another lollipop, a petulant brat who has now decided to take his ball and go home.

In any manager's job, on the baseball field or in the business office, the ability to work with people is essential. In a Red Sox organization with more meddling than the local PTA, that is no easy task. But Valentine has seemingly sparred with everyone in the Boston organization at some point this year, from the highest levels to the lowest, and sparing no one in between.

Did the red Sox need some shaking up? Sure. Could they use some more? Absolutely. But Valentine has too often acted like he is the only man with a clue, which, of course, is how he has acted for much of his professional career.

In recent Red Sox history, finding stretches where the club has played this poorly at this time of year is challenging. September 2011 certainly sticks out. So does September 2001. In both cases, the Red Sox concluded their season by firing a manager who had lost control of his team, last fall producing the dismissal of Terry Francona, the fall of 2001 ultimately leading to the departure of Joe Kerrigan.

If Bobby Valentine has resigned himself to this fate, too, maybe it is time for the Red Sox to just grant him his wish.

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About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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