ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Once this season ends, the Red Sox need to make a quick decision on whether to keep or fire Bobby Valentine, and if the answer is that he’s gone, they need to make an equally quick decision on who replaces him.
The team can ill afford a second straight offseason of wading through a bunch of mediocre, uninspiring candidates and then not hiring someone until December. Nor can it afford to have a long, drawn-out negotiation with the Blue Jays over compensation to obtain John Farrell.
If the decision is to replace Valentine, the easiest choice is Tim Bogar, who was interviewed by the Astros at an undisclosed location Wednesday.
The Sox have taken great pains to keep Bogar in the organization. He was hired in November 2008 by Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington — not Terry Francona — to be part of Francona’s staff.
And despite Cherington’s assertion that Valentine approved all of his coaches, it was “suggested” that Valentine consider Bogar to be his bench coach. And when the boss “suggests” something, what do you do?
Bogar certainly understands the Sox personnel. The future manager will have to be able to get along with the players, who likely will regain their power. The manager also will have to conform to Cherington’s rules, which Bogar would do.
There’s also the outside-the-box theory that Jason Varitek could be considered.
Of course, it’s not a done deal that Valentine is gone. He is owed $2.5 million on his second year, and that’s not an easy sum to swallow. Not to mention the fairness factor. Who gets only one year to prove himself, with a team that has had the most injuries in baseball since 1987?
So who makes the call? If it’s Cherington, Valentine is gone. Their relationship reminds me of the Dan Duquette-Kevin Kennedy showdown, which I witnessed first-hand. This one is very similar: a GM and a manager on completely different planets.
Duquette-Kennedy got so bad that CEO John Harrington had to intervene and send the two to counseling in an effort to resolve their differences. The counseling didn’t seem to work, though, and Kennedy was gone after the 1996 season.
It will be an interesting offseason, and the manager’s status will be the first thing on tap.
Ownership has pretty much stated how it feels about the organization the past few months.
The Sox parted ways with Francona, a lot of medical and conditioning staff, and some players who were examples of poor judgment by the baseball operations department. While Epstein was blamed for those decisions, his accomplices — such as Cherington — who played major roles in them were kept in place and even promoted.
So if ownership feels that strongly about baseball ops, then it should let that department make the call on the manager. Shouldn’t it?
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With 42 scouts at Tropicana Field for the Sox-Rays series, the things you hear about most are 1. Boston’s deep relief corps, and 2. the speed factor of Pedro Ciriaco, Jose Iglesias, and Jacoby Ellsbury that has scouts covetous.
“Ciriaco makes things happen,” said an American League scout. “He’s an interesting kid. A lot of scouts will tell you that they always saw something in him, but he could never show he could hit.
“Now he’s hitting. Now he’s developed into everything people thought he could be. He makes for an exciting super-utility guy, but he creates things.”
In the first inning Wednesday, Ciriaco singled, stole second, and scored on Ellsbury’s bloop single.
Another said of Iglesias, “He’s special. He really is. I felt this way at the start of the year and I feel the same way now: I think the Red Sox wasted a year with him. He should have been in the big leagues all along getting used to major league pitching, because he’s a magician with the glove.
“He does things out there that are highlight shows. He a lot faster and quicker than you think also.”
Hard to imagine where Ciriaco fits in here. Will Middlebrooks appears to be the third baseman of the future, unless the Sox move him across the diamond to first and allow Ciriaco to stay at third.
The Sox need to commit to Iglesias, which also leaves them trying to figure out a role for Mike Aviles, who could become trade bait this offseason. Aviles has been a good soldier and had a very good year, proving, as Cherington assessed, that he could handle playing shortstop every day and would be a suitable replacement for Marco Scutaro, who keeps on trucking with the Giants.
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Alfredo Aceves spent all of Tuesday’s game at the end of the Red Sox dugout. He never went to the bullpen, even though Clayton Mortensen got up three times.
Valentine had designated Aceves the long man Wednesday night and had to use him when Daisuke Matsuzaka was knocked out in the fourth inning, Aceves pitched two innings and allowed three hits and four runs.
Aceves needs four more appearances to earn a $25,000 incentive. Chances of him getting it?
Aceves already has gotten a three-game suspension for taking off his jersey in the bullpen after being bypassed for Andrew Bailey in a late August game, and then last Wednesday, he showed up Valentine when he flipped the ball to Jarrod Saltalamacchia instead of giving it to Valentine and then circled away from the manager when he was taken out of a game.
Most recently, Aceves lost his passport in Toronto, and raised some eyebrows as he was the last Red Sox player to board their flight to St. Petersburg Sunday.
What started out so well — Aceves’s work as the closer — quickly turned into a train wreck.
Aceves thought there was an understanding that he would be a starter this season, but the Sox went with Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront. When Bailey got hurt, Valentine, who felt Aceves was his best pitcher coming out of training camp, gave him the important job of closer. But that didn’t seem to satisfy him.
So the Sox are left with trying to get Aceves’s head straight and put up with his disturbances, trade him this offseason, or non-tender him.