The 2012 Red Sox season is one we will never forget. Yes, it may be a campaign that we would in fact love to forget. However, with all that went down in Fenway Park’s 100th year, it makes the 2013 championship that much more special. After a heartbreaking collapse that saw the Red Sox blow a 9 game lead in September to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox decided to clean up and pick some new leaders. They let Theo Epstein and Terry Francona go, thus starting a new era in Red Sox Nation. Ben Cherington took over for Epstein, and his first move proved to be an ugly one.
Right when Bobby Valentine arrived in Fort Myers in 2012, he sought to change the entire culture of the Red Sox. He banned alcohol in the clubhouse and basically set some strict rules for the team after the disaster in 2011. The players did not seem to respond in a positive manner and it became evident that the relationships within the clubhouse were distant. The coaches did not get along with other coaches and more importantly; the players did not seem to get along with each other and the coaches. Early in the season, Valentine made a mistake while speaking to the media. Fan-favorite Kevin Youkilis was thrown under the bus by his manager when Valentine said that he did not see the same fire or passion that Youkilis had shown in the past. Other players were not happy with the way he handled this. Most notably, Dustin Pedroia famously stated “that’s not the way we do things around here.” Youkilis was then traded a few weeks later to the Chicago White Sox. As the season progressed, it became more and more clear that the players were not happy at all with the way Bobby Valentine was running things. It was said that a group of players including Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez furiously went to ownership to express their feelings on their manager in late July. The Red Sox kept on losing and it eventually led to one of the biggest trades in the history of baseball. On August 25, Ben Cherington sent
Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto (obviously the center-piece of the deal) to the Dodgers in exchange for James Loney, Allen Webster, Ivan De Jesus, Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands. In doing this, Cherington was able to dump over $250 million.
The Red Sox would go on to lose 93 games and finish in last place, 26 games behind the Yankees. The Dodgers would not make the postseason either, but 2013 told us exactly why this trade was made.
Knowing all of this, it is not surprising that the Red Sox fired Bobby Valentine right after the 2012 season. Cherington now had a second chance to make the right choice in picking
the manager of the Boston Red Sox. Sure enough, his decision could not have been more perfect with John Farrell. On the other side of things, the trade opened the door for Cherington to make an abundance of tremendous signings. Koji Uehara, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, David Ross, Ryan Dempster, Stephen Drew and Jonny Gomes were all added for a lower price than Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett combined. At the trade deadline,
Cherington also made a move for veteran and former Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy. All these new players went along with a core of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury. John Lackey bounced back with a tremendous year and all the questions were answered with him. They got surprisingly good performances out of guys like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Daniel Nava and Felix Doubront. The only thing that
would stop this team was health issues and fortunately, those were extremely limited. The Red Sox saw Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Baily and Andrew Miller go down with season ending
injuries. However, the depth of the bullpen proved to be of utmost importance. Guys like Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Brandon Workman went along well with Uehara and really solidified the bullpen. The Red Sox were able to finish tied for baseball’s best record with 97 wins, and ultimately won the World Series after a magical postseason run.
Now I will lay out a few interesting scenarios as to why the Red Sox may not have had a 2013 of this magnitude without the Bobby Valentine hiring in 2011. The Red Sox were also
looking at managerial candidates such as Pete MacKanin, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Tory Lovullo. With a manager other than Valentine at the helm during the 2012 season, I do not believe there would have been as many issues. Bobby seemed to be a “do it my way” kind of guy instead of being a player’s manager. This style turned many guys against him and this could have been avoided. Let’s say manager X was hired instead of Valentine. Manager X probably never would have made the Youkilis comments and who
knows, maybe he doesn’t get traded. Also, I highly doubt the players would have been so furious with manager X that they would have felt the need to go talk to ownership in the middle of the season. Boston finished out the year with a 7-22 record in September and October. In my opinion, without all of the chaos within the clubhouse that Ben Cherington would not have been as motivated to make such a big trade in August. The trade proved to the Red Sox and their fans that they were giving up on 2012 and essentially giving up on Bobby Valentine because they were clearly planning to start fresh in 2013. Keeping Crawford, Gonzalez and Beckett may have won the Red Sox a few more ballgames down the stretch. This could have potentially got them to a fourth place finish and a record closer to .500, which would not have made the season seem as bad. Also, if the Red Sox ended up keeping those players, they would never have signed everybody that they did in the offseason of 2012-2013. There would not have been as much panic with manager X, and Cherington and ownership would not have been so quick to make the trade.
My final point includes the big name and experience that came along with Valentine. He had already had a lot of managerial experience and was unlikely to change his style based on one bad season. Had Cherington gone with a first year manager (like many of the other candidates were), I do not believe he would have been so quick to completely revamp the roster and manager again. He would have stayed with his guy for another year and I think he would have kept the three he traded to the Dodgers in order to try and build around them. Things got so ugly with Valentine that they realized he was not the guy that was going to lead this team. I also believe Crawford, Gonzalez and Beckett were so unhappy with the Red Sox and Valentine that they wanted no part of being there and were happy to
be sent off away from the mess. And knowing that, the Red Sox were willing to dump those three and completely restart. They restarted indeed and of course it led to one of the greatest Red Sox teams in history. After 2012, there were plenty of reasons to worry and panic about the Red Sox, but as time went on, Red Sox Nation learned not to worry, because every little thing turned out alright.
By: Nick Rabasco