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Valentine-Management Power Struggle Already Defining Red Sox Season

Red Sox Ownership: Werner, Henry, Lucchino (J. Meric/Getty Images)

In the middle of November, hopeful managerial candidate Dale Sveum met with Ben Cherington in Milwaukee. He was joined in the meeting by owners John Henry, Tom Werner, and President of Baseball Operations Larry Lucchino. Cherington had already met with Sveum once, and the second meeting undoubtedly served as a way for Cherington to present his choice candidate to his three most visible superiors.

Sveum was set to succeed Terry Francona as the manager of the Boston Red Sox.

On November 30th, the Red Sox announced that Bobby Valentine would succeed Terry Francona as the manager of the Boston Red Sox.

While Red Sox nation began to connect the dots, it become more and more apparent that Henry, Werner, and Lucchino were not impressed with Sveum. Connect the dots a little bit more, and it became more and more apparent that upper management had decided not to hire Sveum before that meeting in mid-November even took place.

In the process of allowing their newly appointed general manager to conduct a managerial search, the Red Sox front office had ultimately stripped Cherington of all the credibility he had as a young disciple of the decorated Theo Epstein. The Red Sox front office was clearly looking to make a bigger splash than Dale Sveum. Sveum isn’t sexy, isn’t intriguing and didn’t invent the wrap (or a sub, a grinder, or club sandwich, for that matter).

Valentine, however, was all those things.

Fast forward to just a few weeks ago, and news surfaces that Valentine wants to use Daniel Bard in the bullpen, and not as a starter as previously thought. Valentine criticized Bard’s spring training performance as a starter, and was poised to use him again in the same capacity as last year: late inning relief. As it turns out, Bard will most likely be the team’s fifth starter to begin the season. Whose decision was that?

Just a week or so ago, Valentine made comments about shortstop Jose Iglesias. He said, in short, that Iglesias could hit, field, and play like a major leaguer. Inglesias has been touted as a defensive wizard for the ages, but as a less-than-impressive offensive player.  Well, one might think the best offense in the major leagues could carry a sub-par shortstop in their lineup (they’ve been doing it for almost a decade).  Valentine would probably agree, yet we found out that Iglesias will begin the year in Pawtucket, as we heard Valentine backtrack over his original comments, and giving a much dimmer review of the young prospect’s performance. Who made that decision?

A few months ago, principle owner John Henry made waves when he made an impromptu visit to 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger and Mazz show. During his hour long discussion with the sports radio personalities, Henry vehemently explained: “Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox.” Well, we knew that Henry was the President and CEO of the team, so of course he runs the Red Sox. But, dig deeper into Henry’s comments: “Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox.”

Does he make baseball decisions? Is he going to tell Bobby Valentine who to bat lead-off? Is he going to tell Ben Cherington which players to pursue at the trade deadline? Or does he just sell merchandise and run the business of Fenway Park and the Red Sox? “Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox.”

Read into it what you will, but it would appear that the upper management of the Red Sox have, in a matter of four months, disenfranchised their general manager and taken on-the-field decisions away from their new manager. Why hire Valentine if you’re not going to let him manage? Why promote Cherington if you’re not going to let him be what we all assumed he would: the next Theo Epstein?

“Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox.” Is it possible that the front office decided Valentine would be a good hire not for the team – but for the business? Is it possible that the front office decided to promote Cherington so that he could be a theoretical puppet for their business agenda?

“Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox.” At its core, and per Lucchino’s job description, that statement is completely accurate. Lucchino does run the business that is the Boston Red Sox. But there was a time when the business and the game were two separate entities that existed to compliment each other.

Now, the lines have been blurred so badly that watching a Red Sox game might as well be like watching a reality show: you’re not really sure that it’s real, but it’s just believable enough to keep you watching.


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