If you thought that after the Sox cleaned house, got a new GM and finally (FINALLY!) hired a new manager, that everyone would be optimistic and ready to start 2012 with a clean slate, you are very very wrong.
ESPN's Buster Olney is reporting that some Sox players aren't too keen on their new manager. Let's dive right in:
As Valentine emerged as a managerial candidate, some Red Sox players have been upset; they've been grumbling to each other, through texts and phone calls.. And the fact is they had no power to do anything about it, because the September collapse completely undercut the credibility of the Red Sox players. If one of them had called the front office to register concerns about Valentine, they might've heard laughter on the other end of the line. The Boston players had complete control of the clubhouse in 2011, and we know what happened.
First off, boo-hoo-hoo for those Sox players that aren't happy with the hiring. They had the ideal manager, and they didn't just take advantage of him, they steam rolled him. Whether it was due to a few bad eggs, millionaire egos or any other reason, the team clearly couldn't thrive under that form of leadership. They left the Sox no choice but to get someone with a different style.
The fact that they're getting pissy over his hiring actually has me a bit giddy. It's like when you got assigned to the "mean" math teacher in high school. The one that asked you questions when you weren't paying attention, gave you detention if you didn't do your homework and just generally made your life hell for two semesters. School wasn't nearly as fun with that teacher, but you probably learned more algebraic equations than you would have otherwise.
There's a very good chance that this could blow up in the Sox faces, if players start acting out, and both the players and Bobby take their gripes public. That's the underlying timebomb with Bobby Valentine. Also, how sad is it that we have to treat this Sox team as if they're a group of unruly 13 year olds? They have no one to blame but themselves.
It's not all negative, though. Buster also has some encouraging words to the disgruntled Sox:
Well, the players should forget about that history, about their preconceived notions of Valentine, and focus on this: Bobby Valentine really cares about baseball; he really wants to win. He will be into every pitch of every inning of every game of every week of every month of the season. He will see everything.
He'll protect relievers from overuse, he'll rest tired position players, he'll use his bench guys. He'll talk, he'll explain, he'll listen.
Let me fix that for you, Buster: "He'll protect relievers from overuse" until he realizes he only has 1 1/2 useful arms in the bullpen. Then it's the Bard show again (unless he's named the closer, of course).
Olney makes some very valid points. This is Bobby's last go-round in the majors. Sure, he's going to run things his way, but he's not going to submarine the team simply to watch it drown. He's taking this job because he wants to win. No one can question his baseball knowledge and experience. The players may not be happy with the methods, but no one is really saying that Bobby V can't win. There's just the potential for a lot of drama along with all of those 'W's.
Buster throws on last cautionary message into his article. And it's an important one:
Cherington must be part of the chain of command. Lucchino has been Valentine's patron saint in this process and is the person most responsible for Valentine getting this opportunity, and now Lucchino must withdraw from the room. He must allow the relationship between Cherington and Valentine to form and to build and to strengthen. Lucchino cannot create a situation in which Cherington is diminished, in which Lucchino becomes the person Valentine reaches out to solve problems and make decisions.
Lucchino is the Joker to... um, OK, I have no idea who Batman is in this situation. I just really wanted to call him the Joker. But that's exactly who he is. The Joker (that's what I'll be referring to him as, from here on out) is the guy that could derail this thing. Not Valentine. Not a group of unhappy players. The Joker.
Unless he wants to name himself the GM and be done with it, it's time for him to saunter back into the shadows from whence he came. He got his guy the gig, now be gone! Just as Buster said, Cherington and Valentine have to form their own bond. And it has to be a legit GM-Manager relationship.
We can't have Valentine knocking on the Joker's door every time he's unhappy with something.
But I'm excited for the Bobby Valentine era. It won't be smooth sailing all the time, but it will be different. I don't need to rehash why that's so important. I'm still firmly entrenched on Team Francona, but my gut tells me that Bobby is the right guy to take over. And the players being upset about his hiring? Well, that just helps confirm it.