|Bobby V out in Boston, Tito takes helm in Cleveland||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on October 23, 2012
It seemed like Bobby Valentine’s fiery attitude was exactly what the Red Sox needed to move past the “fried chicken and beer” clubhouse atmosphere, which led to one of the worst collapses in baseball history.
However, from the beginning, Valentine was too fiery, which led to him calling out the team’s star players, coaches and front office. Boston unloaded many of its personalities, but the team underachieved to the point of a last place finish in the AL East.
The Valentine era in Boston lasted just one season as the organization parted ways with Bobby V immediately after the season. While he seemed like the right candidate at the time, nothing worked out according to planned.
Meanwhile, the scapegoat of Boston’s 2011 collapse, Terry Francona, recently accepted the managerial job of the Cleveland Indians. Tito played for the Indians in 1988, and his father, the real “Tito,” played for the team from 1959-1964.
Photo by Keith Allison, used under creative commons license.
In looking at this whole mish-mosh of a situation, Francona is still the best candidate to manage the Red Sox. However, that is the Opening Day 2012 Red Sox and not the final-day-of-the-season Sox.
When the Red Sox blew their September 2011 lead and word of lackadaisical behavior in the clubhouse leaked, the front office had to act to make a change. The star players involved with incident – John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz – were all under contract, so the closest party to blame naturally was the manager.
Francona announced that he resigned as Red Sox manager, but most likely he was asked to leave and given the choice to announce his resignation rather than be fired outright. He did bring two World Series championships to Boston, so the organization at least gave him the decency to avoid being “fired.”
The thing is, that group of Red Sox players needed a hands-off type manager like Francona. Between David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia, the leadership figures were already present, so basically all the manager had to do was fill out the lineup card each day.
But when Valentine too over, he immediately started questioning the work ethic of his top players. This led to even less clubhouse unity than the 2011 collapse. One by one, Valentine began to lose players in the clubhouse, which translated into poor performances on the field.
Even after firing Valentine and before Francona took the job in Cleveland, the Red Sox would have never asked Tito to return as manager in Boston. That would mean that the organization is admitting they were wrong in letting him go just because they needed to blame the collapse on someone.
The 2011 collapse was a full-team effort, manager included. But it also was partially a fluke. The Red Sox got no help from the Rays down the stretch, and it came down to a miraculous late-inning Rays’ comeback against the Yankees to secure the AL wild card.
Francona took the bulk of the blame, but in the end, the Red Sox organization suffered more, as Tito is back to managing and Boston’s roster is in shambles.
It may take a few years for Francona to lead a winning product in Cleveland. But don’t be surprised if the Indians put up just as many wins during Tito’s tenure as whoever is the manager in Boston.