Bobby Valentine said his return as a Major League Baseball manager after a nine-year hiatus has been a challenging one and that the Boston Red Sox only have room for improvement after their latest loss.
At 4-10 less than three weeks into Valentine’s tenure, the Red Sox are in last place in their division and have the second-worst record in the American League. The team’s current skid hit five games after it blew a 9-0 lead in a 15-9 loss to the archrival New York Yankees two days ago.
“I think we’ve hit bottom,” Valentine told reporters after the game. “If this isn’t the bottom, then we’ll find some new ends to the earth or something.”
The Red Sox had last night’s series finale against the Yankees at Fenway Park rained out and today are scheduled to begin a seven-game road trip with the first of three games in Minnesota. They’ll then travel to Chicago for a four-game series against the White Sox.
While Boston’s relief pitchers have combined for an MLB-worst 8.44 earned run average so far and the Red Sox are without outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and closer Andrew Bailey due to injury, Valentine has taken the brunt of criticism from fans and the Boston media for the team’s poor start.
The Red Sox haven’t won since he publicly questioned the commitment of third baseman Kevin Youkilis and was booed by fans at Fenway Park as he repeatedly went to the mound for pitching changes in the April 21 collapse against the Yankees. Six Red Sox relievers combined to allow 13 runs over the final three innings. It was the first time since June 26, 1987, that Boston blew a 9-0 lead against its division rival.
“I’ve been booed in a couple countries, a few different stadiums,” said the 61-year-old Valentine, who is the only manager to have teams reach championship rounds in the U.S. and Japan. “I don’t want to be booed. I want the good decisions, this just didn’t work out.”
Valentine said he understood the passion of Red Sox fans and “the rich tradition of baseball in this city” when he was hired in November to succeed Terry Francona, who left in September after the team blew a nine-game wild-card lead in the final month and missed the postseason for the second straight year. Dating back to last season’s late collapse, the Red Sox have lost 30 of their past 41 games.
Valentine, who led the New York Mets to an appearance in the 2000 World Series, signed a two-year contract with the Red Sox after spending the past two years working as a major-league analyst for Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN. His last managerial job had been with Chiba Lotte Marines from 2003 to 2009, having gone to Japan after being fired by the Mets.
Valentine said his return as a major-league manager has been a difficult one and the tough transition has been compounded by injuries.
Bailey, acquired by the Red Sox in December to close out games, had reconstructive surgery on his right thumb and may not return until after the All-Star break.
Ellsbury went on the disabled list with a partially dislocated shoulder following a season in which he finished second in the AL Most Valuable Player voting after hitting .321 with 32 home runs, 105 runs batted in and 39 stolen bases.
‘Got to be Tough’
“This is a psychological situation,” Valentine said. “Last September had a toll. Losing Ellsbury had a toll. You’ve got to be tough. I think we’re a tough team. We’ll find out.”
The Red Sox have had 14 straight winning seasons, including 10 years with 90 or more victories, and have won the World Series twice in that span. First-year General Manager Ben Cherington said the organization is “very satisfied” with Valentine and is confident he’ll get the team turned around.
“The players will always influence wins and losses more than anybody else, and that’s no different here,” Cherington told MLB.com. “He’s doing the best he can with the roster he has. It’ll get better -- he knows that and I know that and, along the way, if changes need to be made on the roster, that’s my responsibility.”
The Red Sox also started 4-10 last year under Francona and then won 26 of their next 38 games. Boston was as many as 31 games over .500 -- at 83-52 on Aug. 31 -- before losing 20 of its final 27 games. Valentine said rebuilding a winning mentality is part of the task ahead.
“This is all a challenge, this is my job,” Valentine said. “If they said it was only going to be for the good days, I probably wouldn’t have come. Challenges are great.”