Bobby Valentine, who presided over one of the worst seasons in Red Sox history, was fired Thursday.
The Red Sox moved swiftly after ending their season Wednesday night, telling Valentine that he would not return for the second year of his contract to manage the team.
The team announced the move in a press release.
“Our 2012 season was disappointing for many reasons,” general manager Ben Cherington said in the team’s announcement. “No single issue is the reason, and no single individual is to blame. We’ve been making personnel changes since August, and we will continue to do so as we build a contending club. With an historic number of injuries, Bobby was dealt a difficult hand. He did the best he could under seriously adverse circumstances, and I am thankful to him.”
The Sox finished 69-93, their worst record since 1965, and finished in last place in the American League East for the first time since John Henry and Tom Werner became owners 11 years ago.
“I’m disappointed, yeah,” Valentine said in an impromptu meeting with reporters after he first eluded them as he started a bike ride Thursday afternoon. “This is not the press conference that I was expecting at the end of the season.”
Not since 1934 had the Red Sox fired a manager after only one season. But the 62-year-old Valentine was a controversial choice to replace Terry Francona, and his tenure proved rocky.
“A lot of things didn’t go well, but an experienced manager is supposed to put his finger in the dike and keep the water on the other side,” he said.
Valentine was not the choice of first-year general manager Ben Cherington. Team president/CEO Larry Lucchino engineered the deal after the Red Sox interviewed five other candidates, believing Valentine would restore order to a team that tuned out Francona and collapsed down the stretch in 2011.
“I understand this decision,” Valentine said in the team press release. “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. It was a privilege to be part of the 100 year anniversary of Fenway Park and an honor to be in uniform with such great players and coaches. My best to the organization. I’m sure next year will be a turnaround year.”
But the situation grew worse. Valentine had almost no allies within the organization beyond Lucchino and a handful of players.
“This year’s won-loss record reflects a season of agony,” Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said. “It begs for changes, some of which have already transpired. More will come. 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. Difficult as it is to judge a manager amid a season that had an epidemic of injuries, we feel we need to make changes. Bobby leaves the Red Sox’ manager’s office with our respect, gratitude, and affection. I have no doubt that he will continue to contribute to the game he loves so much and knows so well.”
Valentine was urged to retain three of the assistant coaches and to hire Bob McClure as the pitching coach. Before the end of spring training, Valentine was at odds with McClure, bench coach Tim Bogar, and bullpen coach Gary Tuck.
Within a few months, Valentine would go days without speaking more than a few words to some of his coaches. McClure, whose hands-off style helped lead to the Red Sox having one of the worst rotations in the game, was eventually fired in August.
Valentine’s relationship with the players started to sour in April when he questioned the commitment of third baseman Kevin Youkilis by saying, “I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.”
Cherington forced Valentine to apologize to Youkilis, and second baseman Dustin Pedroia dismissively said that criticizing players wasn’t how the Red Sox went about their business.
As injuries mounted and the team became progressively worse, Valentine’s relationship with the players became more distant. It was a clash of styles more than personalities.
Valentine favored the idea of having an open-door policy. If a player had a problem, he should come talk to him. The players had become accustomed to Francona coming to them.
Francona also used his coaches as conduits to the clubhouse, something Valentine was unable to do because of their loyalty to the front office.
All too often, the Red Sox appeared disorganized, if not unprepared. The chasm between the manager’s office and the rest of the baseball operations staff was a wide one.Continued...