Haggerty: Sox not helping cause with Valentine vote of confidence

Haggerty: Sox not helping cause with Valentine vote of confidence
August 7, 2012, 12:04 am
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BOSTON The Boston Red Sox management and ownership are starting to take on the look and sound of FrankDrebinfrom the Naked Gun movies.

You know the one.Drebinyelling into a bull horn and exclaims to a curious group of bystanders to Move along. Theres nothing to see here. Please disperse while a warehouse is lighting up like the Fourth of July behind him.

Despite a 175 million-plus payroll team glumly sputtering along playing .500 baseball and a well-chronicled system of dysfunction between players, management and ownership, there are no changes that need to be made. Thats what John Henry and Ben Cherington are saying to the entirety of Red Sox Nation by giving the dreaded vote of confidence to Bobby Valentine on Monday afternoon.

It was done in a closed door meeting with Valentine shortly after 4 p.m. Monday afternoon when Cherington, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner met with the Sox skipper in his office.

Bobby is our manager and were not considering anybody else, said Cherington. Hes as committed to managing the team as he ever has been, and were committed to supporting him every way that we can to make this work. When the performance isnt what you want and its not and we acknowledge that winning and losing always has more to do with the players than anything else. I dont question the effort of our players. I think our players have fought and battled, and worked hard and played hard. Theyve fought out of tough things.

Its not a question of effort. But at some level the players are a reflection of me and the front office. If players win or lose more than anything else I need to be accountable for that, and I am accountable for that. In the meantime whatever puts us in the best position to win were going to continue to work on those things.

Thats got to make Valentine especially excited because the dreaded vote of confidence is usually followed by a pink slip not too long afterward.

The Sox front office and ownership are telling their fans that theres nothing to see here while an underachieving organization continues to flounder like a dying fish on a kitchen counter behind them.

Everybody knows the players are the individuals most responsible for an uninspiring 54-55 record nearly 100 games into the regular season. But Sox management made their decision to keep the Island of Misfit Baseball Players together during the July 31 trade deadline, so theres little that can be done to alter a group of grousing, underperforming ballplayers.

That relative inaction at the trade deadline was something Cherington almost sounded remorseful about while reserving judgment until after the season when asked whether the team needs a shake to jolt them awake.

Usually when that question is asked it relates to a player move, and at the deadline we were in a little bit of unfamiliar territory, said Cherington. Part of the conversation was about justifying a middle ground approach based on where we are, but would be there be some benefit in something bold to give the team a bit of a shakeup.

Ultimately we decided that we believe in our core of players and our best chance was to mostly keep them together given the opportunities we have. We werent going to make a shakeup move and get worse in the process. Well see. Time will tell moving forward if those decisions were the right ones. I dont think necessarily that is what needed. The biggest shakeup would be to collectively perform better and that starts with me.

News flash to Cherington: waiting until after the season to determine whether a team needs a shakeup is way, way too late.

Something is rotten along Yawkey Way, and its not last nights half-eaten hamburgers from RemDogs.

The team is badly in need of a spark or a shake-up after dropping three out of four to the lowly Minnesota Twins in their latest achievement in mediocrity. Its part of the general managers job description to determine when an underperforming team needs a swift kick in the backside.

A Red Sox team 10 games back in the division, five games back in the wild card and one game under .500 in mid-August most definitely qualifies for a punitive approach.

But Cherington, Henry, Lucchino and Co. seem to expect the Sox to suddenly find some inspiration and reel off 20 wins in 24 games without any outside impetus.

Sometimes its unfair to turf the manager in professional sports, but more often than not a team responds to that kind of personnel change regardless of whether hes the person most responsible for lackluster performance.

Valentine has done some good things. He recognized the talent of Franklin Morales as a starting pitcher, and has found a diamond in the rough in infielder Pedro Ciriaco. He appears to have a keen eye for talent when it comes to evaluating players at the big league level.

But hes suffered from a fractious relationship with the bulk of the Sox nucleus from the very beginning, and he offers very little explanation for his managerial moves after the fact. He appears to have a very tenuous hold on the status of his injured players, and is routinely looking around for help from the PR staff when going over any number of players rehab progressions.

For a baseball market that demands precision, accountability and unwavering confidence in their skipper, Valentine inspires none of these things. NESN replays in the dugout following Joe Mauers heart-breaking ninth inning home run uncovered Valentine as a lip-licking, fidgeting bundle of nerves that appeared ready for a nervous baseball breakdown.

Thats not the kind of leader of men the Red Sox need when things are going bad, and its not the kind of manager thats going to inspire confidence that the moth-ridden Red Sox are about to climb out of their year-long funk.

Valentine might not be the biggest problem as Henry surmised in an email hours before Mondays big game against the Texas Rangers.

But he sure as hell is not a part of any solution that will ultimately get Boston out of their baseball morass, and that should make the decision to jettison Valentine a relatively easy one.

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