No Beer Make Red Sox Something Something

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The Red Sox have banned alcoholic beverages—including their precious beer—in the clubhouse and for the final flight on road trips for the coming season.

Read the story here—Sporting News link.

This is in response to the reports from last season of starting pitchers who weren’t working that day hanging around the clubhouse and drinking during games rather than being on the bench supporting their teammates.

There are some who say that camaraderie is enhanced by players hanging out together and having a beer, but one of the main reasons the Red Sox were said to have come apart was the disinterest on the part of those who were supposedly in the clubhouse drinking.

They’re adults, but they’re also there to work. There’s no reason for them to be drinking beer at their workplace, athletes or not.

Former manager Terry Francona was given something of a pass for the way the team collapsed. Supposedly it was a byproduct of veteran behaviors about which he could do nothing.

It’s a flimsy excuse.

Francona got the credit for the wins, he gets the blame for the losses and whether the wins stem from front office intelligence and star power and the losses from disciplinary issues and lack of fundamentals is irrelevant. He was in charge, everything stops with him.

Now Bobby Valentine is in charge and, with support and likely prodding from the front office, has banned beer.

Does it matter?

If the Red Sox are playing well and as a cohesive unit, the banning of beer will be seen as a significant flashpoint in Valentine’s taking of the reins from Francona and consciously deciding that he wasn’t going to make the same mistakes as his predecessor. If they’re not playing well, the tightness of the rules and treatment of the players like naughty children will be cited as the problem.

In reality, the Red Sox success or failure will be determined on the field. The beer drinking in the clubhouse didn’t start during their slide; they were probably doing it all along and got away with it because they were winning and that Francona was too laid back. It became an excuse and if Francona saw what was going on and failed to stop it, it’s a blot on him as well as the Red Sox players who partook in it.

The bully in the room, Josh Beckett, is the one that has to be watched. Already he’s deflecting responsibility for what happened and, as is his nature, is going to test Valentine every chance he gets to try and gain control of the relationship. How that manifests itself and how Valentine responds will be the twin indicators of the Valentine tenure. Maybe Beckett will buy in; maybe he’ll build a still in the trainer’s room like Hawkeye in M*A*S*H.

Contrary to popular belief, the beer drinking wasn’t the cause of the Red Sox stumble and its banishment won’t be the impetus of a comeback.

They have to pitch and play better. Had they done that, Valentine wouldn’t be their manager; Francona wouldn’t be in an ESPN booth; Theo Epstein wouldn’t be running the Cubs; and this whole story wouldn’t be a running joke that the Red Sox are bad boys who had their beer confiscated.

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Bobby V and the Red Sox

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After the misplaced implication and speculation concerning Dale Sveum‘s failure to get a second interview with the Cubs, I’m not going to make any predictions regarding Bobby Valentine‘s chances at being the next manager of the Red Sox.

Sveum didn’t get a second interview with the Cubs…he got the job.

Valentine has spoken to the Red Sox.

Are they performing due diligence before hiring one of the remaining candidates from the early interviews—Sandy Alomar Jr., Gene Lamont, Torey Lovullo?

Are they looking for a name manager to try and straighten out what ailed the clubhouse under Terry Francona?

Is there already a fissure between ownership and new GM Ben Cherington?

Who knows?

Such random and half-informed handicapping is generally fruitless and is based on the last thing read or heard.

But a Valentine hiring would not signal an about-face in the way the Red Sox do business. The situations between the firing of Grady Little, the hiring of Francona and possibly a Valentine tenure are entirely different.

Francona was hired because he wasn’t Little; was willing to take short money for the job; was agreeable to Curt Schilling; and would follow strategic edicts formulated with the stat people in the front office.

Basically, he’d do what he was told, was likable to the media and salable to the players.

Valentine would not be walking into the same circumstances that Francona was. There are contracts that the Red Sox can’t move like Carl Crawford; envelope-pushers Josh Beckett and Kevin Youkilis; and decisions to be made on a still-productive veteran David Ortiz.

If the Red Sox are keeping the same core of the club together without drastic changes to the construction and culture of the clubhouse apart from getting rid of Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek, then perhaps Valentine would be a preferable choice to a rookie manager Alomar or Lovullo or a veteran retread Gene Lamont.

The players would automatically know that Valentine is in charge and he wouldn’t tolerate the nonsense that went on as they undermined Francona.

I’m not a fan of this supposed “quiz of game situations” that’s come en vogue in an interview process. Sitting in an interview and giving the answers that the GM wants to hear is not managing nor is it an indicator of what’s more important than giving the right answers: having the nerve to implement.

A manager has to be able to shield himself from the fear of criticism. Is he making a certain move because he’s afraid to be ripped in the media? Or is he doing it because he thinks it’s the right thing? Casual baseball conversation is a better window into what a prospective candidate really believes; his tone will provide a gauge to his passion and fearlessness.

Valentine is a rare individual who does care how he’s perceived, but will still do what he thinks is right independent of what people are going to say about it. He’s well-versed in stats and was one of the first Bill James advocates in baseball—if he were just beginning his managerial career, he’d be viewed as a great choice; but because he’s the loud, polarizing and explosive “Bobby V”, that the Red Sox are even talking to him is big news.

It’ll be bigger news if they hire him.

But that would be a good thing.

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