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WEEI Red Sox reporter Alex Speier reported Wednesday that Bobby Valentine’s hiring as the new manager flies in the face of an administrative promise made earlier in the off-season that the team would not go after a disciplinarian. While the report did not state who made the promise or to which player, a similar report by ESPNBoston.com’s Joe McDonald suggests Speier is (as usual) right on the money.
If that’s the case, management’s decision to go with Valentine is yet another botched play from Ben Cherington and this suddenly bumbling ownership group.
GMs and owners shouldn’t have to consult with players on the majority of baseball operations. In many cases, what front-office guys do is either too complicated or too unrelated to be worth bothering players with.
But on the other hand, management should never straight-up lie to players, either. And that’s exactly what appears to have happened: Management told at least one player Valentine specifically would not be the next Red Sox manager, then they went ahead and hired him anyway.
They knew the Red Sox feared the arrival of a disciplinarian like Valentine after seven years of “player’s manager” Terry Francona. But instead of listening to the players and working with them to assuage their concerns, Cherington’s staff decided the best course of action was to ignore the players and sell them a line, then let Cherington unilaterally do whatever he wanted.
It was a cowardly, dishonest decision that does nothing to fix the widely held belief by fans that this new era is nothing but a pale shadow of the Francona-Theo Epstein era.
Valentine’s management style might very well fix the disciplinary problems in the clubhouse. Though players like John Lackey and Josh Beckett might be too set in their ways to be brought in line, it can’t possibly already be too late for Jon Lester.
Lester’s behavior may have most destabilized the clubhouse. Seeing the man who beat cancer and then won the World Series let himself go by drinking beer and eating fried chicken must’ve been so demoralizing for the rest of the team that everyone stopped trying. After all, if Lester wasn’t strong enough to fight through the September malaise, who on earth was?
If Valentine can get Lester back from the dark side, it could go a long way towards restoring team morale. The only problem: because of how management handled all of this, Valentine now arrives with the deck stacked against him.
Valentine could have been seen as a fresh perspective on a clear problem within the team. Instead, because management basically went behind players’ backs to hire him, Valentine could easily be seen as the guy management hired because they didn’t trust the team to fix themselves.
Lying to someone invariably sends the message, “I didn’t trust you enough to tell you the truth.” That’s the unavoidable byproduct of lying, and it’s the reason people often react so angrily when they find out they’ve been lied to.
By lying to his team, management effectively said, “we don’t trust you.” That would be fine if it stopped there, but unfortunately Valentine will likely become the recipient of the anger his team will really be feeling towards Valentine’s bosses.
Hiring Valentine may or may not be a mistake – we won’t know until the season starts. But by stating emphatically that Valentine would not be hired and then doing the opposite, management may have permanently damaged its credibility among the players.
Barely a month into his tenure as GM, Cherington is already on shaky ground.