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Last night, it was reported by multiple sources that the Red Sox were ready to announce Bobby Valentine would be their 44th manager in club history. The news seemed inevitable when ESPN's Karl Ravech reported that Gene Lamont, Valentine's only remaining competition, had been dropped from consideration for the position. This is a move that has many Red Sox fans upset. I too was not overjoyed with the decision, but I am here to talk everyone off the ledge.
The first thing to remember is to not put much stock into the stupidity that came out of Valentine's mouth every Sunday Night during ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, in which he was one of the color-commentators. He needed to say outrageous things from time to time in order to attract viewers, as is the ESPN way. (Although the time he said Carl Crawford may struggle against lefty Jon Lester was indefensible). The things that Valentine could provide over Gene Lamont were star power, casual baseball fans are far more likely to know the name Bobby Valentine rather than Gene Lamont, and nearly double the experience, eight years as manager for Lamont versus 15 for Valentine. The new skipper in town also has had 10 winnings seasons and won a pennant with the Mets in 2000. The downside to Valentine is that he has been out of Major League Baseball since 2002, although he managed over seas in Japan for some time after.
Although this may shock people, as it shocked me when I first heard, Valentine is actually a proponent of sabermetric analysis. He may seem like an old-school guy, but he should at least be willing to look over some advanced statistics and make some of his managerial decisions based on that. Over his career, he has been a guy who has not been about an average proponent on bunting, which hopefully the front office will be able to control. Bunting will just be giving away outs when everybody in this lineup is capable of the extra base hit. As for his base stealing tendencies, they are not ideal. Looking at his time with the Mets, his stolen base totals have been typically below league average. However, that doesn't mean guys weren't running, because his caught stealing numbers were pretty much always around or above league average. The stolen base is something that I am not a huge proponent on, and I am hoping Valentine will be able to resist when guys not named Ellsbury and Crawford are on the base paths.
The thing to keep in mind is, unless Valentine is a colossal disaster, which I don't anticipate, he should have a minimal effect on the team's place in the standings. Even the best manager will only add a handful of wins at the end of the year. With a team that is holding as much talent as the Red Sox are, they should really be in postseason contention whoever is managing the team. Also, as far as the concerns that this move indicates Larry Lucchino and company having a firmer grasp on the day-to-day operations than Ben Cherington, no one truly knows how this search went down. It was publicized that Dale Sveum, hired by the Cubs, was Cherington's first choice. While that may be true, it doesn't mean ownership completely took over the reins of the search just because they never offered him a contract. It could have easily been that Cherington wasn't convinced that Sveum was the right guy and decided he wasn't ready to offer the type of contract given by Theo and the Cubs. The point is, since I was not in the room where decisions were being made, it would be impossible, and irresponsible, for me to report any power struggle that may or may not exist between ownership and the front office.
In the end, I think we should all be glad that the search is over, and move our focus onto which player moves are on the horizon. The Winter Meetings start up next Monday, and the Hot Stove season will truly be upon us. Now that Cherington's first job, finding a manager, is complete, he can focus his attention to retooling this team to be a bona fide World Series contender.