Talkin Sox with Dan

Where baseball fans gather for commonsensical, opinionated Red Sox banter.

No Voice, Just Noise

“You’re right that some of his [Josh Hamilton] at-bats aren’t very impressive from the standpoint that he doesn’t work deep into the count. He’s swinging at a lot of bad pitches. He just doesn’t seem to be locked in at all. So what you’re hoping is that his approach will change, and he’ll start giving quality at-bats because there’s a lot of those at-bats that he just gives away.” – Nolan Ryan, President of the Texas Rangers

The Boston Red Sox do not have a voice. John Henry, despite the mass-email that he sent to various media outlets and beat reporters on Monday, is not the backbone of the organization. Larry Lucchino may, according to Henry, run the Red Sox, but when he speaks (or writes), it’s hard to not feel like you’re being sold something. Ben Cherington can be refreshingly honest, but he does not possess the autonomy necessary for a GM to be completely successful. Lucchino lurks. Castration occurred early for Bobby Valentine. He is a hard-nosed manager being forced to toe the company line. Because of that, fans are much more apt to roll their eyes when he speaks, not listen.

From ownership, to baseball operations, to the on-field leaders, the Red Sox have proven to be exceptionally good at organizationally undercutting one another.

Let’s examine.

Dale Sveum, Cherington’s first choice as the next Red Sox manager, is pushed aside by Lucchino in favor of Valentine, a sexier name who brings a reputation that runs perpendicular with Terry Francona’s style. Before Valentine is done unpacking, a combination of Dustin Pedroia and Cherington scold him for being himself, something he was seemingly brought to Boston to do. Would I publicly criticize a veteran player like Kevin Youkilis? No. But I’m also not Valentine, and when you make a hire like the former glasses and mustache-wearing Mets manager, that type of incident should be expected.

Roughly two months ago, Valentine makes a comment to rookie third baseman, Will Middlebrooks, as he comes off of the field follow an inning where he apparently made a couple defensive miscues: “Nice inning, kid” — or something of the like. It was a completely innocuous comment, designed loosen up what was likely a white-hot Middlebrooks. A player in the dugout witnesses the exchange and deems it necessary to mention it to a member of the Red Sox front office. Valentine is later approached by ownership, discouraging him from making comments similar to the one he made towards Middlebrooks.

It has been dysfunction at its finest.

Worst of all, there is not a figure like Nolan Ryan or Cam Neely to set an organizational tone for the Red Sox. Both Ryan and Neely, although experiencing success in two different sports as players, serve as presidents of their respective franchises and command the respect that is often needed to bridge the gap between ownership and on-field employees. Do you think Henry, Lucchino, or Cherington could get away with criticizing David Ortiz‘ approach at the plate the way Ryan (see above) dissected Josh Hamilton’s two weeks ago? Me neither.

The Red Sox advocate the idea of everyone contributing before a decision is made. Everyone gets a seat at the table, sort of thing. But that is likely the root of the problem.

No one in that organization just goes to work and does the job assigned to him. The players know that ownership will listen when they complain. Sometimes they’re even rewarded for their gripes. Cherington is promoted to be the GM and oversee baseball operations, but Lucchino pauses his perpetual Red Sox sales pitch to choose the manager, subverting his new GM’s authority. Henry has deep pockets but seems disinterested with the product he owns.

Ideally, players would stick to hitting, fielding, and pitching. They would respect their manager enough not to go to ownership about an exchange in the dugout they witnessed–and if they did, they would not be heard. Ownership would back their manager, simultaneously fostering a sense of respect for him within the walls of the clubhouse.

Ideally, Cherington would be allowed to do the job he was assigned to do by his bosses. He is the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox because somebody believes strongly in his skills as a decision-maker when it comes to baseball operations. In turn, if Cherington believes Sveum puts his team in the best situation to succeed on the field, he should be the manager, not Valentine, not Joe Torre, not Casey Stengel.

Ideally, Henry would identify that his ball club is in complete disarray. He would care enough not to let it continue. He would be vocal. Lucchino may “run the Red Sox”, but Henry owns them. He can do what he wants–that includes firing Lucchino.

From the players on the field, to the coaches in the dugout, to the executives watching from above, there is a tangible lack of respect that permeates throughout the organization. Everyone steps on each others toes and thinks that it is perfectly fine because no one says that it’s not. When things go awry, nobody in the Red Sox organization steps up to right the ship because they’re too busy bumping into each other.

Until a sense of respect is injected back into this organization, it would be silly to expect anything but mediocrity out of the Red Sox. With or without Valentine at the helm or whether Josh Beckett is on this team or not, the Red Sox will be .500 on the field because they’re .500 everywhere else.

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4 thoughts on “No Voice, Just Noise

  1. Agreed 100%, Corrado. Well Put.

  2. Overall, I agree with you, except where you make it sound as if Bobby Valentine is an innocent bystander in this fiasco. I admit, on the list of those I blame for where the Red Sox are right now, Valentine is pretty low down the list. But he’s supposed to be a smart guy. He’s been around the league a long time. He should have realized the situation he was stepping into. He should have insisted he get assurances about his authority in the clubhouse and the dugout. He should have insisted on having the ability to hire his own bench coach. And, if he didn’t get those assurances, he should have said, no thanks. He didn’t. He has no business complaining. But you’re absolutely right about this: If they didn’t want Bobby Valentine to be Bobby Valentine, why on earth did they hire him in the first place? That is an almost inexplicable decision. Makes me think they kind of had the idea that the 2012 Sox were not going to be that good given the injuries and payroll inflexibility, so Lucchino convinced everyone they needed a guy like Valentine for his media-attraction to keep their idiotic sell-out streak alive.

  3. Joe, thanks for the comment. Thanks for reading. Steve, same to you. Good comment. Did you think the 2012 Red Sox were going to play .500 baseball? If you did, that’s impressive–because I did not. I saw a team that was going to be in the thick of contention throughout the season, especially with the addition of the second Wild Card.

    As for BV, at roughly 62 years old, I don’t think he was going to make every demand in the world before he took the job. Teams across baseball weren’t exactly lining up at his door to recruit him to manage their ball club. Is Valentine the long-term solution here? No. But the problems with this organization, in my opinion, go significantly deeper than Valentine, Beckett, Lackey and other scapegoats.

  4. hawkny on said:

    Cherington’s criticism of Valentine for speaking honestly, in response to a member of the media’s question about Youkilis’ lax performance in 2012, was the key to this 2012 Red Sox season. Ben chose to side publically with the oft injured Youkilis, his agent, the under performing Pedroia and streaky Gonzalez against team manager, Valentine. This, even though Kevin wasn’t hitting his weight at the time. Two camps came into being over night once Cherington spoke out. Doing so let the ball players know his door was open, whenever they had complaints or gripes or reason to snitch about something the manager said or did. A classic case of stage setting for season long sniping and front office backstabbing if I ever saw it.

    Valentine is an experienced, talented and successful manager. He has the record to prove it. He has been hemmed in by Cherington at every opportunity. Cherington, conversely, has no track record as a general manager, other than having the privilege of sitting slightly behind and to the right of Theo Epstein for 9 years, as an assistant. All the while, Epstein, ran the show in the Red Sox front office. By numerous indicators, Benjamin didn’t learn very much during his almost decade long apprenticeship. He has been making questionable, untimely personnel, moves and, by all indications comes up short when it comes to the personal moxie, straightforwardness and sophistication that Theo displayed from day one. Cherington, is in way over his head. Hopefully, the Sox can entice a Cashman, or Beane or someone of their caliber, to come in in 2013 to sort this mess out. That is, if it can ever be straightened out. I for one, have doubts.

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