After the longest year, Valentine fired
Boston - The Boston Red Sox thought Bobby Valentine would restore order to a coddled clubhouse that disintegrated during the 2011 pennant race.
Instead, he only caused more problems.
The brash and supremely confident manager was fired on Thursday, the day after the finale of a season beset with internal sniping and far too many losses. Valentine went 69-93 in his only year in Boston, the ballclub's worst in almost 50 years.
"I understand this decision," Valentine said in a statement released by the team. "This year in Boston has been an incredible experience for me, but I am as disappointed in the results as are ownership and the great fans of Red Sox Nation. ... I'm sure next year will be a turnaround year."
A baseball savant who won the NL pennant with the New York Mets and won it all in Japan, Valentine was brought in after two-time World Series champion Terry Francona lost control of the clubhouse during an unprecedented September collapse.
But the players who took advantage of Francona's hands-off approach to gorge on fried chicken and beer during games bristled at Valentine's abrasive style.
More importantly, they didn't win for him, either.
"We felt it was the right decision for that team at that time," general manager Ben Cherington said on Thursday in an interview at Fenway Park. "It hasn't worked out, because the season has been a great disappointment. That's not on Bobby Valentine; that's on all of us. We felt that in order to move forward and have a fresh start, we need to start anew in the manager's office."
Under Valentine, the Red Sox started 4-10 and didn't break .500 until after Memorial Day. By August, when the contenders were setting their playoff roster, the Red Sox knew they would not be among them and traded several of their best players - and biggest salaries - to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Without Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, the Red Sox will save $250 million in future salaries and have a chance to rebuild over the winter.
But that will be too late for Valentine.
"We have gratitude for him, respect for him and affection for him, and we're not going to get into what his inabilities were, what his issues were," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. "I just don't think it's fair."
Cherington, who replaced Theo Epstein last offseason, will lead the search for a new manager. The team's top target is current Toronto manager and former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, who has a year left on his deal with the Blue Jays.
Cherington said he has thought about potential successors but declined to comment on specific individuals. He said he is looking for someone "who can establish a culture in the clubhouse that allows players to perform, and sets a standard."
"And we need to find a person that can bring some stability to that office," Cherington said. "When we hired Bobby, the roster was fairly mature and we felt, mistakenly, in retrospect, that we had a chance to win and the team was ready to win. We're now at a different point. We're trying to build the next good Red Sox team, so it's a little bit different."
A year after a 7-20 September cost the Red Sox a chance at the postseason, the club went 7-22 in September and October to close its worst season since 1965. Boston lost its last eight games, failing even in its role of spoiler as it was swept down the stretch by playoff contenders Tampa Bay, Baltimore and the rival New York Yankees.
That left the Red Sox in last place - 26 games out - for the first time since 1992 and out of the playoffs for the third year in a row.
"This year's won-loss record reflects a season of agony. It begs for changes," Lucchino said. "We are determined to fix that which is broken and return the Red Sox to the level of success we have experienced over the past decade."
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