Stretching the Field: Red Sox top list of disappointments

Fame, an acclaimed baseball background and moxie. Bobby Valentine has all that and then some.

By the way, he also has the Boston Red Sox out of the playoffs for the third straight season and will soon wrap up what could be his final days as manager of one of the most beloved franchises in sports.

What seemed as a perfect fit back in December is now more of a square peg haphazardly lodged in a round hole.

It's a shame Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington couldn't see this coming when Valentine was hired, even after all of the interpretation before the move became official.

"We are thrilled to welcome Bobby as the manager of the Red Sox, and I'm eager to begin working closely with him in our preparations for the 2012 season," Cherington said at the time. "He is one of the brightest baseball minds I have encountered, with a wealth of experience in the game, an unmatched passion for winning and a proven track record of success in demanding environments. In Bobby, we have the right man to lead the Red Sox."

It's true Valentine has a treasure chest of baseball knowledge to share. He is treated as an all-knowing supernatural icon in Japan, and displayed his baseball prowess as a television analyst, which is why he tends to get defensive in interviews when certain questions are directed his way.

In what Cherington called "demanding environments," Valentine strolled into a situation he most likely was never used to. Fried chicken, beer, video games and a casual disposition under then-manager Terry Francona forced the Boston brass to make a few changes. And, of course, it started at the top when Francona was informed he would not be returning for the 2012 season.

Well, Valentine's no-nonsense approach wasn't welcomed with open arms and the players turned a cold shoulder on the 1970 MVP of the Pacific Coast League. A team meeting was held back in New York over the summer, according to second baseman and 2008 AL MVP Dustin Pedroia.

"We had a meeting," Pedroia said. "I'll be honest with everybody. We had a meeting in New York. The coaches had a meeting. Bobby had a meeting. We all had a meeting. Basically, when I spoke, I said we all need to do better. That includes owners, Bobby, coaches, especially the players."

Pedroia denied any intention for a managerial change, saying he didn't feel that Valentine should be fired and the team was playing poorly.

"I'm not going to blame anything on Bobby. It's on the players."

Most players have run-ins with their manager or coaches. It's baseball; not everyone is going to see eye-to-eye. Valentine and Kevin Youkilis had their drama, former staff ace Josh Beckett was traded along with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford -- three vital pieces to any baseball puzzle -- and it has been speculated Valentine's reign will be over at season's end.

Cherington left plenty for the imagination during a radio interview with WEEI in Boston on Thursday.

"I'd always rather get the decision right than rush it," Cherington said on selecting a skipper. "But what we need to do is hit the ground running this offseason. One of the things that, as I look back on last offseason, that didn't go so perfectly was simply the amount of time we spent on the manager search and what that did to the rest of the offseason and I would like to spend less time on it this offseason, that's for sure."

Cherington cleaned up his words on and responded by saying, "In my mind, it was nothing to do with Bobby or a decision about him, but I guess people are taking it the wrong way and if I need to clarify it, I'll clarify it."

It would be a wise decision to part ways with Valentine, and somewhere former Red Sox executive Theo Epstein is chuckling. But Epstein is doing no better with the Chicago Cubs. Valentine, however, seemed confident he would return for another year on Boston's bench.

"When I come back next year, I think I'm prepared to handle them," Valentine said of the issues he faced. "Hopefully we'll have better results."

In Valentine's defense, Youkilis didn't produce early on and both David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury battled with injuries. Starting pitchers Jon Lester and Beckett failed to perform up to expectations and the bullpen had seen better days. Plus, the Red Sox were a paltry 34-47 at Fenway Park -- the worst finish since an identical mark back in 1965. The last time Boston finished under. 500 in the historic confines was back in 1997 (39-42).

Valentine and the Red Sox will close out the season with a six-game road trip at Baltimore and New York. A resting place for some of baseball's greatest souls, the Bronx could be where Valentine has his final managerial stand.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES - The writing was on the wall when Roy Halladay was shut down for a bit with a fatigued arm. Cliff Lee wasn't the Cliff Lee Phillies fans grew to love, too. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were both coming back from injuries and never got into the swing of things, but a full offseason of training should get them in gear for another run in 2013. The bullpen was brutal most of the season as well.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS - Although they're still mathematically alive in the wild card race, Don Mattingly's club was disappointing this season. Had Matt Kemp stayed healthy and consistent for a full season and Clayton Kershaw reverted back to his previous Cy Young Award-winning campaign, the Dodgers may have won the NL West. Even the blockbuster deal that landed Beckett, Gonzalez and Crawford never panned out.

LA ANGELS OF ANAHEIM - Still within striking distance of a postseason berth, it shouldn't have been this way for the Angels. Dishing out tons of cash for Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, and trading for Zack Greinke, Anaheim just couldn't move past Texas and Oakland. Regardless if the Halos fail to reach the playoffs, manager Mike Scioscia and GM Jerry Dipoto will be back.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX - Chris Sale stole the show with his breakout season on the mound, but the White Sox have been sputtering down the stretch and lost the lead in the AL Central. Perhaps President Barack Obama put a curse on his favorite team when he said the Pale Hose would meet the Washington Nationals in the World Series. That could still happen, but the Detroit Tigers would have to endure a similar stumble at season's end.

MIAMI MARLINS - The Marlins changed their uniforms, opened a state-of-the-art stadium, signed a handful of players and named Ozzie Guillen manager. Recipe for success, right? Wrong. The Marlins are dead last in the NL East and Guillen could be on his way out for disparaging comments made regarding owner Jeffrey Loria. With or without Guillen, the Marlins have a talented roster led by young outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. It's a simple case of dusting off and trying again for the Marlins in 2013.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS - One year removed from winning the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks are on the verge of missing the postseason for the fourth time in five years. Ian Kennedy didn't duplicate his 2011 campaign, when he won 21 games, Daniel Hudson was shut down after undergoing right elbow surgery and sluggers Justin Upton and Chris Young underachieved. Luckily for Kirk Gibson's Diamondbacks, Jason Kubel, Aaron Hill and Paul Goldschmidt showed up.