Commentary

Bobby V's longest year will end soon

After leading the last-place Red Sox, Valentine's days as manager are numbered

Updated: October 4, 2012, 10:34 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

NEW YORK -- Three-hundred seven days have passed since Bobby Valentine was hired as manager of the Boston Red Sox.

Fifty-eight days shy of a year, according to the calendar.

The longest Red Sox season in nearly a half-century, according to the barometer that offers the most accurate measure of these things, wins and losses.

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Valentine's plans for Day 308?

"My plan right now is wake up and have a long bike ride," he said Wednesday night to someone who asked. "Want to have lunch or something?"

In the past 80 years, only two men have managed a last-place Red Sox team. One is Butch Hobson. The other, Bobby Valentine. In the past 80 years, only one Red Sox manager has had a team lose more games on his watch than Valentine's Sox did on his. Billy Herman's 1965 Sox lost 100 games. Valentine's 2012 Sox lost 93, including their last eight, a streak that climaxed Wednesday night with a 14-2 loss to the New York Yankees on a night the Red Sox finally hit that bottom Valentine alluded to after another wretched loss to the Bombers back in April.

On one side, the Yankees celebrated winning the American League East by hitting four home runs, giving them 43 against the Red Sox this season, the most they've ever hit against a Boston team. On the other, the Sox went through seven pitchers and ended the game with Ivan DeJesus Jr. striking out with Guillermo Quiroz -- one Sox at-bat this season -- on deck.

Valentine took one final look at the conga line of celebrating Bombers, then quickly turned and walked down the dugout steps. Just moments before the last pitch, he had allowed his gaze to shift away from the field and surveyed the scene behind him, like a man taking it all in for the last time. Before the game, he had taken the lineup card to home plate, a task usually entrusted to a coach, again the act of someone trying to catalog lasting memories.

Billy Herman is not in the Red Sox Hall of Fame. Bobby Valentine won't make that cut, either.

[+] EnlargeBobby Valentine
Brad Penner/US PresswireOf a season in which his team finished in last place with 93 losses, Bobby Valentine said, "I had every opportunity to succeed and I didn't."

"I had every opportunity to succeed," Valentine said Wednesday afternoon before the game, "and didn't."

From Sept. 1 on, the Red Sox went 7-22, trumping the 7-20 collapse that got Terry Francona fired last fall.

On Friday, Francona is scheduled to be interviewed by the Cleveland Indians, who are in the market for a new manager. It will defy all expectations if Valentine is still manager of the Red Sox beyond sunset that day. The termination notice could come as soon as Thursday.

"My life will be fine," Valentine said.

His career as a baseball manager? At 62, it almost certainly is over. The coda was supposed to be sweet music, the kind that comes with adding a World Series title to a portfolio lacking only that. Instead, it quickly became a cacophony of sour notes, each one more jarring than the one that preceded it.

A snapshot from the first day of spring training: Valentine, long after the workout ended, fielding softballs being hit by the kids of Tim Bogar, his bench coach.

On Wednesday, Valentine went on the radio and accused some of his coaches of undermining him. He didn't name names, but clearly Bogar was on his list of disloyalists.

The accusation held no water with Ben Cherington, the general manager whom Valentine claimed had his back. Cherington said there had been issues with the coaching staff, but if Valentine was expecting support on this one, it wasn't forthcoming.

The Red Sox owners have been essentially silent since John W. Henry parachuted into Seattle last month on what he termed a fact-finding mission, scotching rumors that he was putting the manager out of his misery. Henry has consistently exonerated Valentine for blame for this fiasco, focusing instead on the team's wave of injuries.

"Ownership has been incredible," Valentine said. "When it seemed like things were getting worse, one of them always seemed to be there to say, 'Hang in there.'"

And Valentine did, while fielding a team these last weeks that would have made a Triple-A manager blush. But now it is over, a risky experiment turned into an epic failure. To the end, Valentine was tone deaf to his own mistakes.

He regretted, he said, making what was widely interpreted as a disparaging comment about Kevin Youkilis when he said Youkilis wasn't as "physically or emotionally into the game" as he had been in the past. Whatever hope he had of gaining the clubhouse's trust evaporated for good in that moment.

"I thought people would be," Valentine said Wednesday, before pausing. "I didn't expect that reaction."

Most of his attention-grabbing comments, he insisted, were innocuous. But again, it was Cherington who wasn't buying it. Asked whether Valentine had succeeded in communicating effectively with his players, Cherington 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."

The "together" ended Wednesday night. Ben Cherington and the Red Sox will move on. Bobby Valentine will go, after what he agreed was the toughest year of his more than 40 in baseball, even if it lasted just 307 days.

"It was trying," he said. "I don't know if it could be more challenging."

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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