October 5, 2012

Red Sox 'need to start anew'

Bobby Valentine's tumultuous one-year reign ends after the team's worst record in almost 50 years.

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Bobby Valentine, whose tenure as the Red Sox manager came to a stop Thursday, was still smiling while drawing media attention on a Boston street.

The Associated Press

"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."

What was supposed to be a season of celebration for Fenway Park's 100th anniversary was instead the worst under the current management, which bought the team in 2002. And though injuries probably doomed the Red Sox anyway -- they used a franchise-record 56 players -- Valentine's clumsy handling of his players forced him into frequent apologies that undermined his authority.

"There's no single reason why we had this dismal of a season," Lucchino said. "But certainly the epidemic of injuries and the injuries to key players were major factors. Do I think there's an element of unfairness, given the shortness of his duration, given the injury problems. I think there is."

The Red Sox had the AL's best record and a nine-game lead in the wild-card race on Sept. 1, 2011, before missing out on a playoff berth on the final day of the season. Francona, who led the Red Sox to Series titles in 2004 and again in 2007, was let go after admitting he lost his touch in the clubhouse.

To replace him, the Red Sox picked Valentine, who hadn't managed in the majors in 10 years. The move was an intentional and abrupt attempt to change a culture that enabled pitchers to drink beer and eat fried chicken in the clubhouse during games on their off-nights.

On that, Valentine delivered immediately: He banned beer from the clubhouse and didn't hesitate to criticize his own players publicly, something Francona took pains to avoid.

But even before the season began, injuries began tearing the roster apart.

Crawford missed much of the season, joining pitchers John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list before opening day. Potential closers Andrew Bailey and Bobby Jenks had offseason surgery; Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Beckett and Youkilis also spent time on the DL.

And many of those who remained resented the new accountability.

Kevin Youkilis lashed back after Valentine said he wasn't as "into the game" as before, and Pedroia came to his teammate's defense, saying, "That's not the way we go about our stuff around here."

"He'll figure that out. The whole team is behind Youk. We have each other's backs here," Pedroia said. "Maybe that works in Japan."

In August, management gave up on 2012 and unloaded several of the team's most burdensome salaries on the Dodgers.

Los Angeles also missed the playoffs.

Although Cherington openly conceded the season, Valentine refused to do so. Asked during his weekly radio show if he had "checked out," Valentine jokingly said he should punch the host in the nose. (He showed up for their next interview with boxing gloves.)

In mid-September, with Boston's Triple-A team in the playoffs and reinforcements scarce, Valentine called the Red Sox "the weakest roster we've ever had in September in the history of baseball."

Again, he was forced to backtrack.

(But again, he was probably right.)

Ultimately, Valentine will be judged on his record.

And it was dreadful.

"I don't know how it could be more challenging than this season," Valentine said after saying goodbye to his players following Wednesday night's season-ending loss to the Yankees.

"As I told them, they're not defined as people by their record or the season. They're defined by who they are, not what they are. They were part of a really lousy season, but they gave a hell of an effort every day."

THE RED SOX acquired right-hander Rubby De La Rosa and first baseman-outfielder Jerry Sands from the Los Angeles Dodgers to complete the teams' Aug. 25 blockbuster trade.

The deal sent right-hander Josh Beckett, outfielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and infielder Nick Punto to the Dodgers in exchange for first baseman James Loney, infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. and right-handed pitcher Allen Webster. The deal saved the Red Sox more than $250 million in future payroll.

De La Rosa and Sands had been widely reported as players to be named.

To make room on the Boston 40-man roster, catcher Guillermo Quiroz was designated for assignment.

 

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