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The Bobby Valentine’s Day Massacre: Red Sox lose 14-2 to Yanks Finish Last in AL East Inglorious Season to End With Bobby V’s Firing

My summation of the Red Sox season. A disaster, wrapped in a enema surrounded by an enigma… 

Last year the Boston Red Sox were knocked out of the playoffs on the last day of the season by the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles finished the 2011 season with a record of 69 wins and 93 losses. The stunned Orioles who led the division at the beginning of September failed in an epic collapse losing 5 of 7 games to the Orioles in the last 10 games of the season. The failure cost Tony Francona his job and let to a bloodletting of veteran players, many who had helped lead the BoSox to two World Series titles.

There was much blame cast around the Red Sox organization. GM Theo Epstein left to join the Cubs and it was revealed that players were drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games during the collapse. The organization did not recover.

Searching for a remedy the Red Sox opted to hire Bobby Valentine who had last managed the Mets’ before going to Japan where he became a legend in the Japanese Major Leagues. Valentine was known as a strict disciplinarian and with a two year deal in hand he wasted no time in laying down the rules to the rambunctious Red Sox clubhouse. In doing so he alienated himself from key players. The Red Sox lost players in the off season and suffered injuries. By mid-season it became apparent that the Red Sox were a lost cause.

Tonight after having lost 9 of their last 10 and the previous six games the Sox were swept by the Yankees losing by a score of 14-2. The Sox finished the season in last place in the AL East with a record of 69-92. Only the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins had worse records in the American League. It was the first time since 1965 that the Sox lost over 90 games in a season.

It was a humiliating sequel to the worst collapse in league history. The word is that Valentine is done in Boston and if he is fired nobody will be surprised. Valentine had been openly feuding with clubhouse leaders like Justin Pedrioa and had sent fan favorite Kevin Youkilis packing after accusing Youkilis of not giving his all. Valentine told Boston radio station WEEI Wednesday that “some of his coaches were not loyal to him and had undermined him.

To me it seemed that the Red Sox management hired the wrong man for the club.It was a bad fit from the beginning made worse by Valentine’s refusal to listen to people that were familiar with the Red Sox clubhouse. In firing the popular Francona who had a bad two week stretch in September 2011 the Red Sox opened a Pandora’s Box of . It was an overreaction that ended up in disaster and the organization has payed for it. It is in complete disarray and I expect that it will take a lot for the Red Sox to get back to anything close to what they were during the Francona years.

Valentine may be gone as early as today according to CBS Sports. Rumors swirl about ownership wanted to sell at least part of the team. Players are disgruntled and unless something remarkable happens they could lose even more of their leaders to free agency.

There are a few months before the winter meetings and Spring Training but no matter who the Sox hire as manager the job to rebuild this team will be monumental. It can be done but my guess is that the Sox have another year or tow of humiliation in them before all the bloodletting is done.

Tonight’s entry since it is already today will be  Padre Steve’s Playoff Predictions for 2012. I’ve done pretty well the past couple of years so we’ll see what happens this year.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Year in Review and Predictions for 2012: The Best Jibber-Jabber on the Web

Once again it is that time of the year when I look back at the events of the last 12 months and say “that was some year.” And what a year it was.  So many things happened at home and around the world that it makes one’s head do the Linda Blair 360.  Yes the year was crammed full of events too numerous to mention and full of the jibber-jabber of “expert” analysis of news commentators, pundits, politicians and preachers.

Every major news agency and many writers publish what they believe to be the major stories of the year about this time and sometimes prognosticate about the coming year. Mostly these articles are so much jibber jabber and I don’t claim this to be inclusive of everything that happened but these are what I think are some of the highlights of the events that occurred in 2011.  Call it my end of year jibber-jabber.

The Environment: Yes there is an environment and whether one wants to assign credit or blame to God, the Devil, Mother Nature or the theory that “shit happens” it has been a year full of natural disasters.  We begin with the 9.1 earthquake and Tsunami in Japan which triggered a nuclear disaster when the Fukishima nuclear plant melted down. There was Hurricane Irene which though only a category one storm was so big and slow moving that it that caused massive damage to the East Coast, especially North Carolina. I got to experience Irene.  Even more frightening was the massive F5 Tornado that pretty much wiped the city of Joplin Missouri off the map. There was a series of wildfires in Texas that burned nearly 4 million acres of land and one fire around Bastrop Texas that destroyed over 1600 homes.  Over in Asia there was flooding that put Bangkok underwater for an extended period of time.

Prediction for 2012: Cable News networks will continue to rake in the bucks covering human misery in all parts of the nation and the world as natural disasters occur.  I predict that there will be major earthquakes, fires, famine and flood, hurricanes  and that many will be really bad.  Sure that’s rather generic but I can be surge that I am not wrong in making this prediction.

World Events: Overseas there was the Arab Spring revolts that brought about the fall of dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and quite probably Yemen. Syria appears to be on the brink of civil war and Bahrain with the help of Saudi Arabia put down its own Arab Spring revolt.  Jordan and other Arab states are quite nervous and the situation in Egypt which began with so much hope has deteriorated as the military faces off against demonstrators as Islamic parties make headway in elections.

Who would have thought that in 2011 that Moammar Ghadaffi would be overthrow and killed by his own people, that Osama Bin Laden would meet his end at the hands of US Navy SEALS and that Kim Jong Il, the nutty leader of North Korea would die.  The European Union looks like its days could well be numbered as the contagion of economic crisis which began in Greece has spread to much of the EU.  The United States withdrew its forces from Iraq just in time for the Iraqis to start to undo everything that their soldiers and ours had fought to achieve since 2005, Iran continues to build nukes and attempt to provoke the United States, Western Europe and Israel while the Israelis prepare to whack Iran. The war in Afghanistan grinds on and Pakistan is more of a pain in the ass than it ever has been.

Padre Steve’s Prediction: You thought things were bad in 2011… they will really be sporty in 2012.

United States Domestic Politics: The United States has had its own political and economic problems as the government seems pretty much to have become a parody of itself.  The President has had an approval rating below 50% for almost the whole year and the Congress God bless them has an approval rating of just 11% a new record which will undoubtedly be broken in 2012.  President Obama is unchallenged in the Democratic primaries and the Republican candidates seem to be doing all that they can to ensure that whoever wins the nomination will lose the general election next year as each takes his or her turn to give their followers hope and then implode.  I mean really, despite all of our economic problems the United States would, if our politicians could get their collective shit together have a bright future compared to the EU and the “new” economies in China, India and Brazil which despite all their success are dependent on us to buy their stuff.

Meanwhile the Tea Party movement has become the kingmaker in conservative politics and the Occupy Wall Street movement gathered steam before going into winter hibernation.

Padre Steve’s Predictions: Expect that both the Tea Party and OWS movements despite being on opposite sides of the political spectrum to continue to influence both major political parties. In 2012 the Congress will sink to even lower lows and for President, Congress and Presidential candidates to do even more stupid things to get just enough of the vote to be elected in November. You thought that 2011 was bad…well it was just the warm up for 2012.

Sports: The sporting world produced its share of excitement and agony as great team and individual accomplishments were overshadowed by scandals. Baseball had a most amazing end to its season in which the St Louis Cardinals defied all odds in winning the World Series after being written off as dead in late August. The Red Sox went from the sure thing to win the World Series to greatest regular season collapse ever seen which resulted in manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein leaving the team.  A potential scandal has come up with the alleged positive test for some kind of performance enhancing drug by National League MVP Ryan Braun. The Los Angeles Dodgers filed for Bankruptcy amid the McCourt family feud and Albert Pujols collected his halo as well as about 260 million dollars for the next 10 years from the Angels.

The NFL endured a strike and player lockout by the owners which threatened the beginning of the season but the NFL’s stupidity was totally blown away by the actions of NBA players and owners in their strike and lockout. There were scandals in college sports outside the SEC the most notable being the sexual abuse scandal that shook the nation at Penn State University which brought about the inglorious end to the career of the legendary coach Joe Paterno. The BCS Bowl system appears to have gone from controversial to nearly pathetic in the selection of teams for the BCS bowls.

Padre Steve’s Prediction: The Chicago Cubs will not win the World Series and thereby prove that those that believe that the world will end in 2012 wrong. So as bad as everything seems it could be worse.

So with all that said there was so much more that I could mention but I have to stop somewhere.  I won’t go into the lives and scandals of celebrities because frankly though sometimes titillating they really don’t matter a hill of beans, unless it is your hill and they are your beans.  Likewise the year isn’t over yet and who knows maybe something will happen that will cause me to have to revise this article.

Until then and until tomorrow…

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Baseball News: Awards, CBA, Player and Manager Moves…Why the Off Season Matters

“You win pennants in the off season when you build your teams with trades and free agents.” Earl Weaver

The World Series is in the past but the baseball world is abuzz with awards, trades, free agent offers and the possibility of a reorganization of the Major Leagues and even a new five year Collective Bargaining Agreement deal between the players union and the league.  Baseball it seems has become the model of stability and sensibility in the American sporting world.  Even as I write the Owners and GMs are meeting in Milwaukee and the Winter meetings are just over the horizon.  This is where teams are built and where the seeds of future pennants are planted.

One has to admit that the 2012 baseball season was something to behold. The record comebacks of the Rays and Cardinals and epic collapses of the Braves and Red Sox in the final month of the season that led to one of the most if not the most memorable regular season endings in baseball history.  The storybook season of the Arizona Diamondbacks going from worst to first in the NL West was another amazing story.

Awards for outstanding achievement are being given out; Tigers Pitcher Justin Verlander won the American League Cy Young Award on a unanimous ballot.  Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson won the National League Manager of the Year award for leading his team to a Division Championship and Rays Manager Joe Maddon who brought his team back from the abyss to reach the playoffs on the last day of the regular season won the American League Manager of the Year.  The National League Rookie of the Year award went to the Atlanta Braves reliever Craig Kimbrel and Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson took the American League award.  The National League Cy Young still remains as well as the Most Valuable Player awards.

The Cubs and Red Sox are still shopping for managers while the Cardinals chose former catcher Mike Matheny to fill the shoes left by Tony LaRussa who retired after the miraculous finish that led to a Word Series Championship.  Pitching Coach Dave Duncan, LaRussa’s long time right hand man remains as does Hitting Coach Mark McGwire.  Former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona announced today that he will not manage in 2012 something that most baseball experts agree is a good choice.   I agree considering how exhausted Francona appeared after the end of the season and his firing.  The Orioles have a new General Manager, Dan Duquette who replaced Andy McPhail and Red So GM Theo Epstein went to the Cubs in the hopes of reversing the curse.  There are reports tonight that the Cubs will sign Dale Sveum as their new Manager.

It looks as if the sale of the Houston Astros will go through and with it the team’s move to the American League. This will balance the leagues at 15 teams each and allow for year round inter-league play and is part of the new CBA which reportedly could be signed as early as Friday.  The CBA is actually remarkable considering the great consternation caused by the NFL lockout and the probable loss of an entire NBA season due to failures to resolve collective bargaining agreements.  The baseball negotiation process has been fireworks free and negotiators from the owners and player’s union seem to remember the damage caused by the 1994 strike and what happened in the NFL and NBA seems to have learned the lessons of history.

Some of the big free agents look like they could be on the move and one, Red Sox Closer Jonathan Papelbon signed a contract with the Phillies while the Miami Marlins are making serious bids for St Louis First Baseman Albert Pujols and Met’s Shortstop Jose Reyes.  Brewers First Baseman Cecil Fielder is on the market and the Yankees appear to be looking for pitching support to complement their ace C C Sabathia who the re-signed. Plenty of other big name free agents remain to be signed and it will be interesting to see where they all land.

Even though there are no games being played in the Major Leagues baseball is making news and in the process showing how important the off season is to the regular season.  This is going to be an exciting off season for baseball and bodes well for the upcoming regular season.  What a great game.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Night of the Long Knives comes to Red Sox Nation: Terry Francona Out as BoSox Manager

Terry Francona driving out of Fenway before returning for the announcement of his Departure

The Boston Globe has reported that the owner of the Red Sox John Henry has decided that Manager Terry Francona, the best thing to happen to baseball in Boston since the day that Babe Ruth signed with the New York Yankees will not exercise Francona’s contract option to return to the Red Sox next year.  On Thursday GM Theo Epstein sat next to Francona and said “Collectively it was a failure, I’m the general manager so I take more responsibility than anybody. I don’t think we believe in — I know we don’t believe in scapegoats. In particular, no one blames Tito for what happened in September. Look, we all failed collectively. We kind of failed collectively in this one and we have to live with that.” On Friday there were multiple reports that the player friendly Francona was out.

The reports were accurate but Epstein sent out a press release today which said “John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, Ben Cherington and I met with Terry Francona this morning at Fenway Park to exchange thoughts and information on the 2011 season and discuss areas for improvement going forward. We all plan on taking some time to process the thoughts expressed in the meeting. There are no immediate plans for an announcement.”

The Red Sox had 10 days from the end of the season to make the decision to retain or release Francona but around5:30 PMa joint announcement was made that the team was not picking up its option on Francona’s contract and that he would not be back in 2012. Epstein released another statement in the evening saying:

“Nobody at the Red Sox blames Tito for what happened at the end of this season; we own that as an organization. This year was certainly a difficult and draining one for him and for us. Ultimately, he decided that there were certain things that needed to be done that he couldn’t do after eight years here, and that this team would benefit from hearing a new voice. While this may be true, his next team will benefit more than it knows from hearing Tito’s voice. I will miss seeing Tito every day in the manager’s office, and I wish him and his family nothing but the best in their next chapter.

The Red Sox front office also released a statement which praised Francona:

“We have enormous respect, admiration and appreciation for Tito and the job that he did for eight years, including two World Series championship seasons and five playoff appearances,” the statement read. “His poise during the 2004 postseason was a key factor in the greatest comeback in baseball history, and his place in Red Sox history will never be forgotten. We wish him only the best going forward.”

Francona commented:

“We met this morning to look back on the 2011 season and to consider the future of the Boston Red Sox, including my involvement with the club. I passed along my frustrations at my inability to effectively reach the players. After many conversations and much consideration, I ultimately felt that, out of respect to this team, it was time for me to move on.  I’ve always maintained that it is not only the right, but the obligation, of ownership to have the right person doing this job. I told them that out of my enormous respect for this organization and the people in it, they may need to find a different voice to lead the team.”

Francona who managed a Red Sox team that had not won a World Series since 1918 brought not one but two World Series titles to Beantown and led the Sox to the playoffs 5 times in his 8 years as the team’s manager.  He won with a loose and player friendly approach and when the team won the Red Sox Nation cheered his “idiots.”  Now it appears that the Red Sox ownership is ready to let Francona go and many of the younger members of the Red Sox Nation are looking to blame someone.

Yes the Red Sox collapse was epic, the worst ever in the history of Major League Baseball.   They had a nine game lead in the Wild Card Race and went 7-20 in September. The collapse was made even worse by how they lost the final game of the season to the suddenly hot last place Baltimore Orioles.  They had the Orioles down to their last strike in the bottom of the 9th inning and lost with their ace closer Jonathan Papelbon on the hill.  It was an unthinkable and humiliating blow.

However to simply assign Francona the blame is to take the easy way out.  Many factors contributed the most important was how the Red Sox went from playing “Money Ball” with a lot more money than Billy Beane aver had in Oakland to trying to screw what made them successful and try to spend money on “talent” to compete with the Yankees now. But the talent that they purchased was overpriced and underperforming. John Lackey and Carl Crawford, both solid players in their own right failed to live up to the expectations set before them and the money that the organization paid them.  The Red Sox set the price for both with exorbitant contracts to ensure that neither went to their hated arch rival Yankees.

But there were other factors on and off the field especially regarding the pitching staff which collapsed and that some pitchers routinely drank in the clubhouse on their off days.

David Ortiz seemed to indicate that there were problems in the dugout saying “I worry about playing baseball more than anything else, I know we have some players that (the organization thought were) worried about some other s— and sometimes there were certain things that no one in the clubhouse can control. I was trying and I have no issues.”

Jackie MacMullan wrote an article today that really laid out a case for how everyone had a part in this epic collapse.  But one thing that she pointed out was something that almost any observer could tell.  The Red Sox had become unlikable, arrogant and complacent.

“While the Rays were young, hungry and edgy, the Red Sox were arrogant, complacent and, worst of all, entitled. They took their baseball gifts for granted, and when those gifts abandoned them, as they almost always do during a long baseball season, they were either too lazy or too cocksure to recognize what was required of them to maintain the consistency that is so vital in baseball. So they complained about the absence of the designated hitter in inter-league play, bemoaned injuries that robbed them of key players, even suggested their schedule was too grueling because they played too many televised night games (Adrian Gonzalez can lay claim to that gem). Back in the good old days, the Red Sox famously dubbed the Yankees “the Evil Empire” because they were arrogant, complacent and, yes, entitled. When New York failed, it merely outspent everyone else to pluck the best players from free agency and rejigger its lineup. Somewhere along the way, the Red Sox became what they once abhorred.”

Players defended Francona. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez said “It’s not Tito’s fault he’s not on the field playing. You can’t blame the manager who has kept an even keel the whole time. That’s what he’s supposed to do. You want him to show panic and put pressure on us? No. He did his job and us as players just didn’t get it done.”

Venerable Red Sox Captain Jason Varitek who played a part time role on the team in 2011 said “I don’t think right now there’s a reason to point any fingers, we as players didn’t get our job done.”

However Francona has to bear some of the blame.  Yet his part in the collapse compared to decisions made by Theo Epstein, Red Sox ownership and failure of players to perform his place in the blame game is in my mind smaller.  But he is the on-field manager and like the Captain of a ship he gets blamed for the actions of his subordinates as well as those above him.  That is the nature of the game.

Personally I like Francona’s leadership style.  I have a similar one.  However, as Francona found out it can reach back and bite you in the ass if you are not careful.  I personally believe that he was let down by his team which since 2008 has not performed in the playoff and finished 3rd in the AL East twice.  Likewise the GM and ownership have a large amount of blame to bear for this debacle.

Francona is the best manager the Red Sox have ever had. The Red Sox went 744-552 under Francona, and 8-0 in World Series games under him. I do not know who could replace him.  The fact is that what happened to the Red Sox this season will not be easy to fix. Many changes will have to be made and it could take the team years to recover.  The hardest thing to recover will be what they lost along the way; the Red Sox need to rediscover their soul.  For the rest of the American League East it could mean that the road to challenge the Yankees will have one less obstacle in the way.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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