The Boston Red Sox fired first-year manager Bobby Valentine after “a season of agony” yielded the team’s worst record since 1965.
Valentine, 62, was let go yesterday one day after the team completed its first losing season since 1997. Boston’s record of 69-93 was its worst since a 62-100 mark 47 years ago.
“This year’s won-loss record reflects a season of agony,” Larry Lucchino, the team’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement announcing the firing. “It begs for changes, some of which have already transpired. More will come. We are determined to fix that which is broken and return the Red Sox to the level of success we have experienced over the past decade.”
Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington will lead the search for the team’s next manager. Among the candidates to fill the vacancy are Toronto Blue Jays manager and former Boston pitching coach John Farrell, Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar, Cleveland Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. and San Diego Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus, according to the Boston Globe.
“Our 2012 season was disappointing for many reasons,” Cherington said in the statement. “No single issue is the reason, and no single individual is to blame. We’ve been making personnel changes since August, and we will continue to do so as we build a contending club.”
Valentine, who is 1,186-1,165 as a Major League Baseball manager, said in the statement: “I understand this decision.”
“This year in Boston has been an incredible experience for me, but I am as disappointed in the results as are ownership and the great fans of Red Sox Nation,” he said. “It was a privilege to be part of the 100-year anniversary of Fenway Park and an honor to be in uniform with such great players and coaches. My best to the organization. I’m sure next year will be a turnaround year.”
Valentine signed a two-year contract on Nov. 30 to succeed Terry Francona after the 2011 Red Sox collapsed in September, blowing a nine-game wild-card lead to miss the playoffs for the second straight year.
Early in the season, he alienated third baseman Kevin Youkilis by telling Boston’s 7NEWS: “I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.”
Youkilis, who helped the Red Sox win World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, was traded to the Chicago White Sox in June.
A group of players, including All-Stars Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez, met with Red Sox ownership in July to complain about Valentine, with some saying they no longer wanted to play for him, according to Yahoo! Sports. Gonzalez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July.
The Red Sox yesterday acquired right-handed pitcher Rubby De La Rosa and outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands from the Dodgers to complete the nine-player trade that sent Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett, outfielder Carl Crawford and infielder Nick Punto to the Dodgers.
Even on the final day of the season, which ended with the Red Sox losing their eighth straight game, off-field trouble swirled around Valentine when he was asked in an interview with WEEI radio if his coaches had been loyal during the season.
“No,” he responded. “You asked me what I feel; that’s how I feel.”
Boston started the season 4-10, in one game blowing a 9-0 lead in a 15-9 defeat by the New York Yankees. Valentine said on April 23 that the team had “hit bottom.”
A six-game winning streak evened Boston’s record at 10-10 and the Red Sox eventually got to five games over .500. After being at 42-37 following a July 1 win, the team went 27-56 to finish the season, losing 12 of its final 13 games, including a 14-2 loss to the Yankees in the season finale. The Yankees celebrated in front of their biggest rivals after winning the AL East division and posting the league’s best record.
Plagued by injuries, the 56 players the Red Sox used this season were the most in franchise history, the team said.
Valentine “lost the clubhouse” with his comments about Youkilis and never was able to overcome the stream of injuries, said Kevin Millar, a member of the 2004 World Series-winning team and now a commentator with the MLB Network.
“He had to try to get it back, but it never went in that direction because losing doesn’t help,” Millar said on the network. “The city deserves better than that. Ultimately, it is one of those seasons you have to cross off of the board and hope they do better in 2013.”
John Henry, the Red Sox’s owner, said yesterday the team’s commitment to improvement is “unwavering.”
“Ultimately, we as owners are responsible for arming our organization with the resources -- intellectual, physical and financial -- to return to the levels of competitiveness to which we aspire and to which our fans are accustomed,” Henry said in a statement.
Valentine managed the Texas Rangers from 1985 to 1992, then led the New York Mets from 1996 to 2002, winning the National League pennant in 2000. The team fell to the Yankees in a five-game World Series.
He was fired two years later and then managed Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines from 2004-2009, becoming the only manager to have teams reach championship rounds in the U.S. and Japan.