By Derek Staples
As the 2012 MLB postseason progresses, Red Sox Nation is collectively waking up from a nightmare. Boston finished 69-93, their worst record since 1965. The season ended with the firing of Sox first-year manager Bobby Valentine after much speculation throughout the year that he might be replaced earlier. Though it would be unfair to place the entirety of the blame for the abysmal season on Valentine, as the players on the field ultimately determine the outcome of games, there was a striking lack of managerial stability in the Red Sox clubhouse this past season.
The Bobby V experiment was doomed from the start: Valentine was not given the opportunity to hire his own coaching staff. Many of the coaches who were brought in during the tenure of the previous manger, Terry Francona, were still employed by the Red Sox after Francona’s firing following a monumental September collapse in 2011. Valentine inherited a problematic situation in which every coach had a different philosophy, strategy, and personality. The culmination of these conflicts resulted in the firing of pitching coach Bob McClure on August 20th. The relationship between McClure and Valentine was strained, with reports coming out mid-season that McClure refused to even speak with Valentine directly. Several other coaches on the staff also had issues working with Valentine, though not quite as excessive. Nearly every manager in baseball has a “right hand man” who they constantly bounce ideas off. Valentine never had this relationship with another coach on the Red Sox. The lack of communication was obvious during Red Sox television broadcasts, where Valentine was frequently seen sitting in solitude in the dugout. To make matters worse, Valentine’s well-known outspoken manner quickly became a detriment to the team. In April, he commented that long-time fan favorite Kevin Youkilis didn’t seem to give his all on the field. Youkilis reacted negatively and ended up being traded in late June after a lackluster start. Whether the trade or the comments were justified, Valentine drew a line in the clubhouse that every player could see. While there were many factors, a combination of Valentine’s insufferable personality and his inability to gain the respect of the players and coaches on the staff certainly contributed to the demise of the Red Sox season.
The replacement for Bobby Valentine is still being discussed by the members of the Red Sox front office. Currently, the front runners for landing the position are New England native and former MLB catcher Brad Ausmus, New York Yankees bench coach Tony Pena, Baltimore Orioles third-base coach Demarlo Hale, Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach, and Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell. All of these candidates have considerable experience managing in the major leagues with the exception of Ausmus, who managed Israel in the World Baseball Classic. John Farrell seems to be the most fitting candidate for the position because he was the pitching coach for the Red Sox from 2007 to 2010 and is still respected in Boston. However, the Blue Jays organization could opt to refuse the Red Sox the opportunity to speak with Farrell, as he is still under contract with Toronto and Farrell himself has said that he is happy to be the Blue Jays’ manager. Currently, though, the Red Sox are in talks with Toronto about what it would take to get Farrell in Boston. With the Red Sox managerial situation still very much in the air, the Red Sox executives in charge of making this decision are under pressure to do so in a timely and effective manner. For Red Sox Nation, the only reassuring part of the current situation is that the next manager would be hard-pressed to do any worse than Bobby Valentine.