|Ben Cherington, Larry Lucchino discuss Bobby Valentine’s dismissal||10.04.12 at 5:56 pm ET|
The message was delivered swiftly. A little more than 12 hours after a horrific 69-93 season had come to its conclusion, Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner, CEO/president Larry Lucchino and GM Ben Cherington met with Bobby Valentine late on Thursday morning, around 11:30 a.m. Cherington informed Valentine that he would not be returning as Red Sox manager in 2013.
The team had remained steadfast during the year that it would not make any decisions on Valentine’s future until after the season was done. Cherington said that the team never came close to making an in-season change. But, as the season came to its crashing halt, there was little time needed to reach an inevitable conclusion.
“I told him we were going to make a change. Then we had a frank, candid conversation about how things had gone and the team in general,” said Cherington. “He handled it with a great deal of maturity, class and perspective. He handled it well.”
“There was plenty of discussion, constructive discussion,” said Lucchino.
After all, the topics of discussion with the Red Sox extend far beyond the question of who will manage the team in 2013. A 93-loss season represents a failure that stretches well beyond any one individual. Still, the Sox acknowledged that with a very different task confronting them as they attempt to rebuild this offseason — as opposed to last winter, when the team seemingly needed only modest tweaks to thrust itself into excellent position for the postseason — Valentine was not the right fit for the job going forward. The team offered few specifics, instead speaking more broadly about the need to press a “reset button.”
“Look at the final record and our place in the standings. That speaks for itself. Beyond that, we’re not going to get into this issue or that issue, this grievance or that grievance. We don’t necessarily feel that’s necessary or appropriate to do any of that. As Ben said, we pressed a reset button,” said Lucchino. “We’re not going to get into what he did right and what he did wrong. We’re not going to go into that dissection of the year. We felt change was a better way to go forward and lead us where we want to be as a franchise.”
“The season has not gone well by any measure. As I said yesterday, that’s on all of us. I put myself right in the middle of that. There were a lot of things that were contributing factors to our team disappointment,” said Cherington. “It’s really about moving forward as we started to look at next year and the process of rebuilding the Red Sox next year and beyond, we also have to look at the manager’s role in that. We came to a point where we felt in order to really have a reset and move forward and have a fresh start, that required a change in manager. There will be other changes, too. That required a change in the manager’s spot. Bobby was put in a difficult spot this year, some things working against him. Dealt with adversity pretty much from the start. By no means is this decision in any way trying to assign responsibility on him for what we all admit was an organizational failure. We need to move forward and start to rebuild a team and a culture and a clubhouse. We felt a change in manager was a necessary part of that.”
That, in turn, offers indisputable evidence of the failure of last winter’s managerial search. Still, Lucchino suggested that the flaws in that process were not at the top of the list of shortcomings of the 2012 Red Sox.
“If you’re going to look at factors that contributed to the dismal season of the Boston Red Sox in 2012, the nature of the managerial search in November of 2011 is pretty far down the list if it’s even on the list at all,” said Lucchino.
Still, the search for the next Red Sox manager will have different operating principles, or perhaps assign different weight to different values (such as experience), as the one that concluded with Valentine, whose tenure was of the one-and-done variety.
“The circumstances of the team are different,” said Cherington. “We’re in a different position now than we were last fall. The roster looks different. As we rebuild that roster, we need to find someone who can help us build a culture that’s necessary to allow players to flourish, and for us ultimately to win games. It may be that by virtue of us being in a different spot from a roster standpoint that we could consider different types of candidates. We haven’t gotten into that yet. We’re not prepared to discuss candidates. We’ll spend the next several days doing that.”
Cherington said that the team has not yet established its list of candidates, and that no organizations have been contacted regarding permission to talk with members of their staffs. Lucchino did caution that the forthcoming search process might require time, as did the two previous undertakings.
“The one thing we’ve learned is that the last two times we’ve done managerial searches, we’ve hired Terry Francona in the first week of December and hired Bobby Valentine in the first week of December,” said Lucchino. “We’re not prepared to put any deadline or timetable to it. We certainly hope to get it done sooner than that.”
Of course, the team is preaching patience not just with its forthcoming managerial search, but also with its efforts to re-establish itself as a contender. After a decade in which the team’s mission was defined in no uncertain terms by the ability to reach the playoffs, Lucchino echoed Cherington’s comments of Thursday that the team was not in position to say what its competitive status would be in 2013.
“Things have broken and we’re going to fix them. It’s nearly impossible to put a precise timetable on that,” said Lucchino. “There’s too many factors and too many variables and too many uncertainties. We know that the team needs to be better next year, pointed in the right direction, doing the right things. We think it will. That’s as far as I will go to kind of hazard a timeline. This is not some 10-year rebuilding process, as Fenway Park was, but we can answer that question better after a winter of reconstruction.”
The first step (second, if one adds the blockbuster, roster-transforming trade with the Dodgers) has now been taken. Now, perhaps the more complicated steps — filling the many roster holes and finding the right replacement for Valentine, with a different search process than the one undertaken last year — lie ahead.
“I’m not sure the list [of traits being sought] is any longer. It might be a little different, again, because the team is in a little different position,” said Cherington. “We’ll start that work more in earnest now.”
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