Communication lacking for Red Sox
Pitching coach McClure fired
This story is from BostonGlobe.com, the only place for complete digital access to the Globe.
Team president Larry Lucchino has said Valentine will not be fired before the end of the season. But Lucchino has left open the idea of change, and if Valentine survives this season, the coaching staff will be molded more to his liking.
“There are a lot of issues we need to examine,” Lucchino said. “The staff has to be able to work together.”
When Valentine was hired last November, he was strongly urged by the front office to retain Bogar, Tuck, and hitting coach Dave Magadan, who were still under contract and highly regarded by Cherington.
Valentine was allowed to bring in third base coach Jerry Royster, a former teammate in the Dodgers organization. Valentine also hired Randy Niemann, once his bullpen coach with the Mets, as the assistant pitching coach. Niemann was named to succeed McClure on Monday.
The sides agreed on first base coach Alex Ochoa, a rising coaching star in the organization who played two seasons under Valentine in New York.
The pitching coach became a sticking point. Several candidates were considered before the Red Sox promoted McClure, who had been hired only weeks earlier as a minor league instructor and scout.
Valentine, in his previous stops as a manager, relied heavily on his pitching coach. But he and McClure were at odds even during spring training over how best to prepare the pitchers, what roles they should take on the staff, and even their pitching mechanics.
Valentine, for example, believed righthander Daniel Bard would be more effective pitching from the stretch position than the windup, something McClure dismissed by saying Valentine never pitched.
“That’s probably harder on him because he’s the manager and he wants things done a certain way,” McClure said. “Some of the coaches he ended up with, he might have had someone else in mind. It was probably harder on him than it needed to be. I needed to take that into account.’’
Said Valentine: “I can’t go ask 12 players how they feel that day. That’s why you have the pitching coach. It’s about getting information, and for a while, I wasn’t getting information.”
Earlier this month, when the Red Sox were using six starting pitchers instead of the usual five, righthander Aaron Cook complained directly to Cherington about not knowing what day he would pitch instead of asking Valentine.
He was encouraged to go over the manager’s head by several other veteran pitchers, according to a team source.
Such incidents, while minor, have become commonplace and speak to the fractured nature of the team.
Cherington believes his relationship with Valentine is productive, saying the two speak frequently and have generally worked in concert regarding roster moves. Valentine has publicly agreed.
Valentine has gotten along well with Cherington when compared to the clashes he had with team officials in New York and during his six seasons in Japan.
“I think Ben has done a fabulous job, I really do,” Valentine said.
But there is an underlying tension that goes back to last fall ,when Valentine emerged as a candidate to replace Francona only after Cherington’s first choice, Dale Sveum, was rejected by ownership.
The Sox strive to be unified, but often come off as anything but. Last month, when left fielder Carl Crawford was given a day off, Valentine said it was part of a program mandated by the trainers. Crawford denied any knowledge of it and Cherington said it was up to Valentine to pick the day off.
The cloudiness has become exasperating for all involved.
“What you want is when the players hit the field, for there to be as little distraction as possible and for expectations to be as clear as possible. The expectation part is communicated mostly by the staff,” Cherington said.
“When the staff is working together well, there’s a better chance of that happening.”
Instead, the Red Sox are on pace to finish with a losing record for the first time since 1997. Cherington, who replaced Theo Epstein 10 months ago, said the communication has to improve for the results to follow.
“We need to be better. We need to collectively be better,” Cherington said. “You can’t keep staring at the same thing and hoping it gets better. It needs to get better and it’s our job to make it better.
“Change doesn’t necessarily mean personnel change. But we need to look at how we’re doing things and find a better way.”