Bobby Valentine is one-and-done in Boston

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Bobby Valentine is one-and-done in Boston

From Comcast SportsNetBOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox thought Bobby Valentine would restore order to a coddled clubhouse that disintegrated during the 2011 pennant race.Instead, he only caused more problems.The brash and supremely confident manager was fired on Thursday, the day after the finale of a season beset with internal sniping and far too many losses. Valentine went 69-93 in his only year in Boston, the ballclub's worst in almost 50 years."I understand this decision," Valentine said in a statement released by the team. "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. ... I'm sure next year will be a turnaround year."A baseball savant who won the NL pennant with the New York Mets and won it all in Japan, Valentine was brought in after two-time World Series champion Terry Francona lost control of the clubhouse during an unprecedented September collapse.But the players who took advantage of Francona's hands-off approach to gorge on fried chicken and beer during games bristled at Valentine's abrasive style.More importantly, they didn't win for him, either."We felt it was the right decision for that team at that time," general manager Ben Cherington said on Thursday in an interview at Fenway Park. "It hasn't worked out, because the season has been a great disappointment. That's not on Bobby Valentine; that's on all of us. We felt that in order to move forward and have a fresh start, we need to start anew in the manager's office."Under Valentine, the Red Sox started 4-10 and didn't break .500 until after Memorial Day. By August, when the contenders were setting their playoff roster, the Red Sox knew they would not be among them and traded several of their best players -- and biggest salaries -- to the Los Angeles Dodgers.Without Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, the Red Sox will save 250 million in future salaries and have a chance to rebuild over the winter.But that will be too late for Valentine."We have gratitude for him, respect for him and affection for him, and we're not going to get into what his inabilities were, what his issues were," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. "I just don't think it's fair."Cherington, who replaced Theo Epstein last offseason, will lead the search for a new manager. The team's top target is current Toronto manager and former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, who has a year left on his deal with the Blue Jays.Cherington said he has thought about potential successors but declined to comment on specific individuals. He said he is looking for someone "who can establish a culture in the clubhouse that allows players to perform, and sets a standard.""And we need to find a person that can bring some stability to that office," Cherington said. "When we hired Bobby, the roster was fairly mature and we felt, mistakenly, in retrospect, that we had a chance to win and the team was ready to win. We're now at a different point. We're trying to build the next good Red Sox team, so it's a little bit different."A year after a 7-20 September cost the Red Sox a chance at the postseason, the club went 7-22 in September and October to close its worst season since 1965. Boston lost its last eight games, failing even in its role of spoiler as it was swept down the stretch by playoff contenders Tampa Bay, Baltimore and the rival New York Yankees.That left the Red Sox in last place -- 26 games out -- for the first time since 1992 and out of the playoffs for the third year in a row."This year's won-loss record reflects a season of agony. It begs for changes," Lucchino said. "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."What was supposed to be a season of celebration for Fenway's 100th anniversary was instead the worst under the current management, which bought the team in 2002. And though injuries probably doomed the Red Sox anyway -- they used a franchise record 56 players -- Valentine's clumsy handling of his players forced him into frequent apologies that undermined his authority in the clubhouse."There's no single reason why we had this dismal of a season," Lucchino said. "But certainly the epidemic of injuries and the injuries to key players were major factors. ... Do I think there's an element of unfairness, given the shortness of his duration, given the injury problems. ... I think there is."The Red Sox had the AL's best record and a nine-game lead in the wild-card race on Sept. 1, 2011, before missing out on a playoff berth on the final day of the season. Francona, who led the Red Sox to Series titles in 2004 and again in 2007, was let go after admitting that he had lost his touch in the clubhouse.To replace him, the Red Sox picked Valentine, who took the New York Mets to the 2000 World Series and won a championship in Japan but hadn't managed in the majors in 10 years. The move was an intentional and abrupt attempt to change a culture that enabled pitchers to drink beer and eat fried chicken in the clubhouse during games on their off-nights.On that, Valentine delivered immediately: He banned beer from the clubhouse, and didn't hesitate to criticize his own players publicly -- something Francona took pains to avoid.But even before the season began, injuries began tearing the roster apart.Crawford missed much of the season, joining pitchers John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list before opening day. Potential closers Andrew Bailey and Bobby Jenks had offseason surgery; Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Beckett and Youkilis also spent time on the DL.And many of those who remained resented the new accountability.Kevin Youkilis lashed back after Valentine said he wasn't as "into the game" as before, and Pedroia came to his teammate's defense, saying, "That's not the way we go about our stuff around here.""He'll figure that out. The whole team is behind Youk. We have each other's backs here," Pedroia said. "Maybe that works in Japan."In August, management gave up on 2012 and unloaded several of the team's most burdensome salaries on the Dodgers. Los Angeles also missed the playoffs.Although Cherington openly conceded the season, Valentine refused to do so. Asked during his weekly radio show if he had "checked out," Valentine jokingly said he should punch the host in the nose. (He showed up for their next interview with boxing gloves.)In mid-September, with Boston's Triple-A team in the playoffs and reinforcements scarce, Valentine called the Red Sox "the weakest roster we've ever had in September in the history of baseball."Again, he was forced to backtrack.(But, again, he was probably right.)Ultimately, Valentine will be judged on his record.And it was dreadful."I don't know how it could be more challenging than this season," Valentine said after saying goodbye to his players following Wednesday night's season-ending loss to the Yankees."As I told them, they're not defined as people by their record or the season. They're defined by who they are, not what they are. They were part of a really lousy season, but they gave a hell of an effort every day."

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Orioles look to rebound after losing 8 of last 11

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USA Today Sports

Orioles look to rebound after losing 8 of last 11

BALTIMORE  -- Dylan Bundy will try to rebound on Tuesday after his first non-quality start of the season. It will not be an easy task for the Baltimore Orioles right-hander.

Bundy (5-2, 2.97 ERA) will face Minnesota Twins ace Ervin Santana (6-2, 2.07) in the middle game of a three-game series at Camden Yards. Bundy has lasted at least six innings of each of his nine starts, but he did not give up more than three runs until his last outing.

The Detroit Tigers touched him up for six runs in six innings on Thursday in a 6-5 victory over the Orioles. Still, he made it through the sixth, which gave a tired Baltimore bullpen a break.

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Bundy has pitched just once against Minnesota, throwing a scoreless inning last year. The Orioles will need his help after the Twins scored 12 consecutive runs and rallied from an early five-run deficit to post a 14-7 victory in the series opener Monday.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter wants his team to shake off the loss.

"If you're tough mentally. I don't think guys dwell on it," Showalter said. "But as long as they feel like there's a silver lining there, something that's coming that's going to get better, (that's good)."

Santana also is trying to rebound from a defeat. He gave up five runs on six hits in seven innings on Thursday, taking the loss against the Colorado Rockies.

Still, that was the fifth time in nine starts that Santana went at least seven innings. The 34-year old right-hander certainly has earned the respect of manager Paul Molitor.

"He's a poised pitcher who's not intimidated," Molitor said. "Since he's been here, he's pitched good baseball for Minnesota. In a very bleak season (last year), he was one of our lone bright spots. He's a guy who attacks with his fastball."

Santana, who is 4-5 with a 4.87 career ERA against the Orioles, ranks first in the majors in lowest opponents' batting average this year (.144).

The Orioles still are battling a number of injury issues. Manager Buck Showalter said before the game Monday that Ryan Flaherty, on the disabled list due to a strained shoulder, was getting a plasma-rich platelet injection before going out to do rehab work in Florida.

Manny Machado played on Monday after X-rays on his left hand were fine, and he went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI double. He was hit in the hand by a pitch on Sunday, and Showalter said the hand still was not perfect a day later.

The Orioles also recalled right-hander Tyler Wilson for some bullpen help on Monday after optioning right-hander Miguel Castro back to Double-A Bowie following the Sunday game. Wilson allowed six runs (four earned) on five hits in 1 1/3 innings Monday and took the loss.

Baltimore also reinstated right-hander Gabriel Ynoa (right hamstring strain) from the disabled list Monday and immediately optioned him back to Triple-A Norfolk.

The Twins, meanwhile, recalled right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-4) to start the series opener, and he allowed six runs in five innings but still got the win. He snapped a nine-start winless streak.

Thanks to a four-run fifth inning and six-run sixth, Minnesota improved its road record to 12-5.

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What's next for the Caps? There's no real consensus among players or coaches

What's next for the Caps? There's no real consensus among players or coaches

After another early playoff exit, the Capitals find themselves at a bit of a crossroads. With multiple expiring contracts and an aging core that has yet to carry this team past the second round, what direction is this team headed? Do the Caps need to make drastic changes to fix what ails them or makes just a few tweaks to finally get them over the hump?

It’s not an easy question to answer and there was no real consensus from the players at team’s breakdown day.

“I don't know if minor cosmetic changes are going to change anything really,” Matt Niskanen said.” It's pretty clear that this group didn't get it done so what changes and how many or what level of changes, I don't know what the answer is. Talent wise and our potential was clearly there. That's all fluff now. We need results.”

“I think any time you underachieve at what you're trying to do, you know there's going to be changes,” Brooks Orpik said. “That's just part of the business that we're in.”

“Obviously it's not working,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “I'm sure the organization will figure that out and try again.”

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Given this team’s history, especially in the Ovechkin era, it seems hard to argue that something significant needs to change because the formula there does not seem to be working. But not everyone agrees.

“I still think there's a window next year,” Lars Eller said. “I think there will be enough of the core intact that you could still make a play. First thing is you have to get into the playoffs, once you're in the playoffs you have a chance to win.”

“We’re going to be good again,” Tom Wilson said. “There's a lot of great pieces that are here that are core guys that have long contracts still that instill the right things in the group.”

“I think we're in the right position for sure and I think we will be stronger next year for sure,” Evgeny Kuznetsov said.

Then there are the guys who just don’t know, the guys who think the team will try to win but that the team’s chance of winning the Cup may now be in the rearview mirror.

“The nice thing is that we all know the organization does what it takes to put a good product on the ice and try to win," Karl Alzner said. "Whether there's a lot of changes and new faces next year, it's still going to be a team that is trying to win and that's a nice thing. … But yeah, this is a pretty good window that we had here and unfortunately, it's not there anymore.”

For his part, you can put head coach Barry Trotz down as someone who wants to see the team make only minor changes and try again next season.

“I know people talk about the window closing, the window doesn't close, it just changes a little bit because the window of all those pieces that have been here for six, seven years or whatever, they're going to change doesn't mean that you can't add pieces that may even be better. You see that all the time.”

Sure, you could file this down as a “What is he supposed to say?” comment. Major changes can often mean a coaching change so it’s not surprising to see him advocate against rebuilding. But Trotz was also adamant that the team was close to reaching its championship goal and cautioned that now was not the time to turn over the roster.

“This league is so unpredictable and sometimes so random that it's hard to grasp sometimes even as an organization or fans or media, to grasp how close you are from winning and how close you are from losing. You talk about inches, it might be millimeters. That's how close it is. Changes in momentum, a big save here, a fortunate goal here or a timely goal changes a series or momentum swing.”

“We're disappointed that we didn't reach our goal,” Trotz added, “It doesn't mean that we're not going to keep striving for our goal.”

But even if general manager Brian MacLellan agrees, there are going to be several players who will not be returning to Washington next season. Even after advocating minor tweaks, Trotz also acknowledged, “Group's going to change. That's just the financial part of it.”

With 11 free agents on the active roster heading into the offseason, as well as 14 more among their prospects and minor league players, and not enough cap space to pay them all, MacLellan is going to have to make some tough decisions regarding who to bring back and who to let go. Whether he agrees with those advocating for major changes or those who believe only minor tweaks are necessary will determine how he approaches the team’s free agents.

As much disagreement as there is within the team, there seems to be one thing everyone can agree on: The Caps are going to look like a very different team next season.

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