Bobby Valentine's future uncertain
NEW YORK -- Despite a widely held assumption that the Boston Red Sox intend to fire Bobby Valentine after the team's second last-place finish in the last 80 years, general manager Ben Cherington insisted before the team's final game that decision has yet to be made.
"Bobby's the manager in 2012," Cherington said while meeting with reporters in the visitors' dugout at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. "We've got a game tonight. We'll start those conversations after the season is over, but there's nothing planned."
Valentine said he has not been informed whether he will return for the second year of his two-year contract, one that pays him a reported $2.5 million annually.
"I'm waiting to hear," Valentine said. "It's bothered me the last six weeks that I've been asked that question without [having] an answer."
Valentine was scheduled to travel back with the team Wednesday night and will be in Boston on Thursday morning. He'll meet with Cherington and ownership at some point in the next day or two. "My plans right now are to wake up and have a long bike ride," Valentine said after the Red Sox's 14-2 loss ended their 69-93 season.
Cherington offered no substantiation to Valentine's contention, made during a radio interview Wednesday afternoon with Boston station WEEI, that some of his coaches had not been loyal and he had felt undermined by them.
"He expressed his feeling and that's his feeling," Cherington said. "If he feels that way, I'm sorry he feels that way. I don't want to comment on it because I don't know any examples of what would lead to that kind of feeling, but that's his feeling.
"I'm not in his office all the time. I'm not in the clubhouse all the time, so I don't know what exactly he was referring to. But he has a right to his opinion and he expressed it. If he feels that way, then I feel bad because I don't want any manager feeling that way."
Asked if anyone had ever expressed that concern to him, Cherington replied, "No."
Valentine, though he acknowledged he had input in the hiring of all of his coaches, clearly had issues with some of the holdovers retained from Terry Francona's staff, most notably bullpen coach Gary Tuck and bench coach Tim Bogar. Also, pitching coach Bob McClure, who had been hired by the Sox before Valentine, was fired in August and replaced by Randy Niemann, whom Valentine had brought on as a coaching assistant.
ESPNBoston.com reported in July that some coaches communicated only sporadically with Valentine. Tuck, regarded as the pre-eminent catching instructor in the game, rarely conversed with Valentine, and McClure admitted that during a three-week leave of absence to tend to his ailing toddler, he did not have contact with the manager.
Cherington acknowledged conversations he had with Valentine about the coaches.
I had just a feeling, I don't have any facts, just a feeling once in a while that we weren't all on the same page.” -- Bobby Valentine on his coaching staff
"We talked a lot all year about the coaching staff," Cherington said. "As you guys know, we did have to work through some issues. We talked a lot about the coaches, but that particular sentiment was not expressed to me."
"Typical," one coach, who asked to remain anonymous, said of Valentine's complaint, adding that Valentine resented that the players were more comfortable communicating with the coaches than the manager.
"I am me," Tuck said. "I do my job. I work with the catchers, I run the bullpen. That's what I do. That's what I was hired to do, and that's what I do for a living."
Tuck said he was not surprised to hear of Valentine's comments, but said, "That's between them."
Valentine, in Wednesday's pregame media session, attempted to downplay the significance of his comments on WEEI, in which he answered "No" when asked if he felt his coaches had been loyal and "Yes" when asked if he'd felt undermined.
"I had just a feeling, I don't have any facts, just a feeling once in a while that we weren't all on the same page," he said.
How much of a factor was that in the team's performance?
"Very little," he said. "I don't think it had anything to do with anything."
Pressed to name specific coaches, Valentine declined.
"It's not [taking] sides or not. There's situations during the year I didn't think it was all for one or one for all."
He did say on WEEI that if he came back, he'd like to make some changes on his staff.
"I had to work through it all," Valentine said. "Just another thing that's part and parcel with the job. Work through it and try to make it better. That's my job to make it all better, make it all functional."
Valentine said he had two regrets about his first season as manager of the Red Sox. First, he lamented making a comment early in the season that Kevin Youkilis seemingly wasn't as "physically or emotionally into the game" as he had been in the past.
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Youkilis was agitated by that comment and it prompted Dustin Pedroia to tell reporters "that's not how we go about our stuff here."
"I thought people would be," Valentine said Wednesday, before pausing. "I didn't expect that reaction."
His second regret, he said, was he "would have been more prepared for the bullpen situation at the beginning of the season." The Sox lost their closer, Andrew Bailey, on the eve of the season with a freak thumb injury, and Valentine struggled to find correct roles for relievers in the aftermath, though the bullpen eventually improved.
Asked to assess Valentine's ability to communicate with players, Cherington left little doubt he believed there was an issue there.
"I don't know if I can add anything to that than what we've already talked about," he said. "We are who we are. When the results are this on the final day of the year, we'd better all look at the mirror and try to figure out what went wrong and what our contribution to that was.
"I think Bobby said there were things he wished he could have done better. As a manager, his job is to deliver results. As a GM, my job is to deliver results and develop a roster that wins games. Together we didn't get it done."