BOSTON After one season that ranged from uncomfortable to disastrous, the Red Sox fired manager Bobby Valentine Thursday afternoon. The axing came less than 24 hours after the Sox were pummeled, 14-2, in the season finale at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night. The loss completed their 69-93 season, finishing in last place in the American League East for the first time since 1992, when they had four more wins and there were seven teams in the division.It was the most losses the team suffered since losing 96 of 155 games in 1928. At .426, it was their lowest winning percentage since .423 in 1933. It was their fewest wins since the 1954 team also lost 69 (youd have to go back to 1943 for a team with fewer, 68).Now, after being one of the most successful franchises of the previous decade, the Red Sox will hire their third manager in as many years.Valentine, the 45th manager in team history, lasted less than a year, hired on Dec. 1, 2011. But he had not managed since 2002 when the Red Sox enticed him from the ESPN broadcasting booth. His tenure, though, was marked by many missteps along the way, from targeting players for reprimand during drills in spring training, drawing the consternation of other players, to saying the teams recent roster was the "weakest roster we've ever had in September in the history of baseball,'' drawing the ire of the front office.But Valentine is not the only one responsible for the failed season. Injuries, poor performances, thin rosters, a team coming of an historic collapse in September 2011, plagued by a clubhouse culture of entitlement and arrogance, and other issues all played a part.Red Sox presidentCEO Larry Lucchino and general manager Ben Cherington met with reporters Thursday afternoon and evening in a series of small interviews.The decision crystallized in the last few days, Lucchino said. We all knew that there was a right-after-the-season deadline that we had committed to ourselves and publicly. And so we went a good bit of time without a lot of internal discussion and debate. Occasionally, wed have it, but not a lot because we all valued the respite, frankly, from the intensity of the chatter. In late July or early August we made clear that we were going to deal with it at the end of the season.Valentine was told at a breakfast meeting Thursday morning at Lucchinos home, at which principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and Cherington were also present.Looking back, it is easy to say that Valentine was not the right hire. But he had 15 years of prior managerial experience and came with a resume and a reputation. He was viewed as a very different type of person and manager than Terry Francona, whom he replaced. Given the right set of circumstances, perhaps it could have been successful, but it became clear the 2012 season was far from having the right set of circumstances.I think we felt it was the right hire, the right man, at the right time given the analysis we made of the historic September collapse, Lucchino said. And none of us is afraid of doing things that is out of the ordinary or out of the box. I think baseball in general has a history of relatively conservative practices. The preservation of Fenway Park was a bit out of the box given the attitudes that were prevailing at the time. So we are not uncomfortable with doing things out of the box. But we didnt do it for that reason. We did it because we thought his experience, intelligence, energy, drive was what we needed for the team at the end of last year.Was it a mistake?Oh, its easy to look back with hindsight and say that. I wont put it that way, Lucchino said. I think we made a rational decision collectively with the perspective of several people who participated in it. I was certainly a major supporter of Bobby, but just didnt work out. And all you have to do is look at the scoreboard out there that has us in last place. This is a results-oriented business and we didnt get the result we wanted.After Valentine was given the news, Lucchino said the group stayed for another 90 minutes to two hours to talk about the team, what Lucchino called in a very, I thought, by my likes, in a very constructive, candid conversation about those issues affecting the team going forward.Valentine handled it with a great deal of maturity, Cherington said. The news first and then we did have a conversation and he gave some, he offered some constructive feedback, which I had heard before because Id been talking to him all year about things that he saw that he thought could help us get better moving forward.Some were somewhat structural about how to deal with the various responsibilities of the job, Lucchino said. Some were evaluative regarding his views of certain players and their ceilings.Asked if the conversation included the culture of the team, Cherington replied:I wouldnt want to comment on the nitty-gritty details of the conversation. But when you lose the way we did this year, no matter where that happens or when it happens, the culture is not going to feel as good or look as good. It needs to improve and winning will help it improve more than anything else. But it is something that we need to improve moving forward and there are different ways to do that.The Red Sox will now be looking for their third manager in as many seasons. While Valentine may not have been the right person for the job, it is now a situation in which no team wants to be. Is there anything either Cherington or Lucchino could have done to prevent it?I cant identify specific action that we might have taken or not taken, Lucchino said. I suppose I could if I sat down and thought about it at some length. But I will tell you that there is certainly some sense of accountability or responsibility that we all feel. This is not to suggest the dismal performance of this club is not the sole responsibility of Bobby Valentine. We all have a role to play and have our full share of responsibility with things that we didnt do right, judgments that we didnt make in a timely and appropriate manner. So we, speaking for John, Tom, myself, and Ben has a part of this.We spent a lot of time in the last several weeks looking critically at ourselves, how we got to this point, how we can get out of it, said Cherington. Ive done that with myself. Part of that is player personnel-related decisions, part of it's other stuff. So I can't pick out one thing I could have done differently or we could have done differently to avoid this. We got here. There are a lot of different reasons why we got here and therell be more than one thing that gets us out of it. But thats our focus on it. We felt like this was something we needed to do to provide part of the catalyst for us to move forward.That will begin Friday with the search for a new manager, Cherington said. Neither he nor Lucchino have been in contact with any other teams to get permission to talk to their personnel. Jason Varitek, who joined the Sox last week as a special assistant to Cherington, will be part of the search committee, along with Allard Baird, vice president of player personnel and assistant GMs Mike Hazen and Brian OHalloran.I want to get Jason Varitek involved, and solicit his advice, Cherington said. I think thats important. It was important to me to add someone to the group that has been in a big league clubhouse recently, played a central role for the Red Sox, and he certainly did. So his voice will be heard. And then, as importantly -- most importantly -- collaborate with John, Tom, and Larry throughout the process because the next manager in Boston, any manager, but the next one needs to have all of our support.
When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.
During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.
But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.
In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.
On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.
Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.
The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.
None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.
"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).
"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''
Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.
"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''
He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''
But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.
Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.
Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.
"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''
The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.
"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''