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Opinion: Jason Varitek would be wrong choice to replace Bobby Valentine

08.18.12 at 10:00 am ET
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Jason Varitek was a three-time All-Star with the Sox.

Jason Varitek was a three-time All-Star with the Sox.

Is there any chance Bobby Valentine is back next season as manager of the Red Sox?

Don’t focus on whether or not he deserves to be back, or if he was given a fair shot, or which players despise him and tried to get him fired at that meeting in New York and just ask yourself this: Can you envision a scenario — short of a miracle run to the playoffs, which really isn’t going to happen — which has Bobby Valentine in Fort Myers next February ready to begin his second year with the Sox?

Impossible. It’s not going to happen. One and done. Too much baggage and not nearly enough success. It’s a shame that these mutinous, underachieving and enabled players will get what they want, but that’s life in professional sports in 2012.

And, ultimately, Valentine was toast when he criticized Kevin Youkilis in April. Dustin Pedroia ripped him and Ben Cherington (think he’ll get to pick the next guy?) backed the player, not his manager. And instead of being the Bobby Valentine we were being sold by Larry Lucchino when he was hired — the anti-Francona, not afraid to make comfortable guys uncomfortable — he apologized, surrendered without a fight. From that point on it was over, he was managerially castrated. That was his chance to show that this was his team and he blew it.

So now the obvious question is beginning to kick around — who’s next? Who will be the third Sox manager in three seasons?

Well, Joel Sherman of the New York Post weighed in on the topic Friday and made the case for Jason Varitek (as have others in recent days):

“We can say the Red Sox players need to look in the mirror and not the manager’s office for the problem,” Sherman writes. “But the reality is this core is coming back again next season and, if that is the case, the Red Sox are going to need to find someone who commands instant respect and who can begin to re-establish sanctity and sanity within what has become a Wild West baseball setting. Varitek should have that immediately with this group because it is so familiar with his preparation, professionalism and sturdiness as a teammate. … Varitek fits the mold of someone you believe could blend leadership, seriousness of purpose and the ability to communicate with today’s players. He also has institutional memory of when the Red Sox were a model franchise and not a group ready to turn each manager into “Shark Week” chum.”

Makes some sense, right? Varitek absolutely has “future manager” written all over him, should he decide to pursue that position in the future. Don’t know if he’ll be any good at it, impossible to predict, but it wouldn’t shock me at all if he’s the manager of the Red Sox one day.

But it would make no sense — none — for that to be in 2013.

The climate needs to change. We all agree on this. An outsider — the right outsider, not one brought in because he’s cheap and will create a buzz — is a must. And one season removed does not make Jason Varitek an outsider. He’s the ultimate insider, tied into this team as much as any figure over the last decade. Varitek debuted with the Sox in September of 1997 and played his last game on September 25, 2011. He’s part of the culture of this team, good and bad.In fact, it’s not hard to argue that Varitek created part of this culture.

Clearly, Varitek was a terrific leader for most of his career. But let’s be fair, there are often things edited when the former captain is lavished with praise. It seems to me that people — Sherman included — forget that Varitek was in the clubhouse all of September last year. The collapse — and all that was happening behind the scenes — was going on under his captaincy, under his watch.

And the idea that all is wrong with Beckett and Lester and Lackey will suddenly be cured if Varitek takes over Valentine’s office is absurd, of course. Beckett had lousy seasons (and good ones, to be fair) with Varitek on the roster. John Lackey was the worst pitcher in baseball last year, and Varitek caught some of those hideous starts. The solution isn’t that simple.

Plus there’s this: It’s just too soon. You want to put him on the staff, make him a bench coach, get his post-playing career started? Sure. I get that. But  Sherman brings up the success of Robin Ventura and Mike Matheny, first-year managers in cities where they played, when advocating a possible Varitek hire, which doesn’t work. Ventura retired in 2004 and last played for the White Sox in 1998 and Matheny played his last game for the Cardinals in 2004. If Varitek managed the Sox in 2018 — when almost all of these guys will be gone — that could work. But almost every player in that current locker room would look at Varitek as a teammate, not a manager. And Varitek has made his affection for Beckett and Lester and Lackey plenty clear.

He’s lousy casting as the guy to come in fix things, if only because he was around and did nothing when it started to go wrong.

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