Commentary

Will Red Sox players have say?

Given disconnect with Bobby Valentine, their input should matter in next hire

Updated: October 5, 2012, 8:45 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Almost exactly a year ago, some veteran players of the Boston Red Sox were told by management that the organization would not hire "Bobby Valentine or someone like him" after the decision was made to fire manager Terry Francona.

Ultimately, the Red Sox did hire Valentine and the 2012 season was a disaster on numerous levels. It ended when ownership and general manager Ben Cherington informed Valentine on Thursday morning that his services would not be retained for 2013.

The search for the 46th manager in Red Sox history has officially begun.

Because there was such a major disconnect between Valentine and the players this season, it would seem like good business to seek the input of the players as to the type of manager that would be best suited for the position. Red Sox management will speak with the players. But ownership and Cherington stressed they will make the final decision.

"We're always willing to listen, but there will be no referendum with the players on the manager," Cherington said. "It's a decision that we'll make."

Cherington said he called a few key players on Thursday to inform them of the organization's decision to fire Valentine, but the conversations ended there.

The Red Sox value their players' input on many matters, but as president/CEO Larry Lucchino explained, a decision of this magnitude falls on ownership and management.

"It's not a vote of our players," Lucchino said. "We put a lot of value on player input in many areas in direct player communication, but in the hiring of a field manager, they can comment and offer us concepts, ideas, values, but we don't think it's something that should be put to a vote -- formally or informally -- of our players."

[+] EnlargeJason Varitek
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images The opinion of Jason Varitek, recently hired as special assistant to the GM, will be sought in the hiring process.

Prior to the team's season finale against the Yankees on Wednesday night in New York, Valentine explained that he had a few regrets this season, including a comment he made in a television interview about former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis in April.

When Valentine said Youkilis was not as "physically or emotionally into the game" as he had been in the past, the comments did not sit well with the veteran's teammates. Valentine admitted he did not think his words would send such a bad message to the other players.

They did.

But there were examples of players not happy with Valentine during spring training as well. Players did not like the manager's tone from the start. It carried over into the season and really never got better.

While Cherington & Co. won't fully ask for the players' input, the GM has already asked newly appointed special assistant Jason Varitek for advice.

"I do want his input," Cherington said. "One of the reasons we wanted to bring Tek back in was I wanted someone who played and has been in a big league clubhouse and played recently, particularly somebody in Boston to bounce things off of and be a set of eyes and ears. So I think it's important to get his input on this."

After the Red Sox hired Valentine last winter, there was a sense that he was not Cherington's choice and that ownership, specifically Lucchino, pushed for Bobby V. All sides involved insisted that it was a collaborative decision.

Lucchino said on Thursday that will be the process again this time around.

"I think that's the way it's been for most of the large hirings and personnel and policy issues since the day we got here," Lucchino said. "For the first decade, it got us some substantial success, over 92 wins a season we averaged for those first 10 years. That's just the way we choose to operate our franchise, combining the abilities and the experiences of the people because none of us are new to baseball."

After the 2012 season officially ended with a 14-2 loss in the Bronx, the players did not have any negative comments to make about Valentine even though it was all but certain he would be fired the next day.

"Bobby had a tough go," outfielder Cody Ross said. "He had a lot of weight brought down on him and he was just like us, he was in the fight the whole time and kept battling. He was great. He was great to me personally, he's just a great man. He had a tough time just like we all did."

With the search on for the next manager, it's understandable why the Red Sox would want to hire current Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell, which has been widely speculated, especially since the Sox attempted to hire Farrell last year. At the time, the Blue Jays' asking price in player compensation was too high for the Red Sox and they moved on.

Even though Cherington and Lucchino would not say whether Farrell was on the short list this time around, the Red Sox surely already have a list of possible candidates ready to go.

"Where we are in the importance of finding the right person moving forward, we should not restrict ourselves in any way in our search," Cherington said. "The canvas should be open. "There's no particular type that we're looking for. It's just the right person and the right person for us in 2013 may not be the right person for someone else or may not have been the right person for us two years ago. We need to find the right person for us moving forward."

It's also safe to say the next manager of the Red Sox will have the complete support of the players in 2013.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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