On Monday, the articles saying it was time to fire Bobby Valentine began to appear, as did the defenses of him. Alex Speier has added his thoughts to the mix, and as you'd expect, they're well-reasoned and backed up.
Owner John Henry said that there will be no change in the manager. General manager Ben Cherington pointed out, without saying that Valentine is blameless, that there have been plenty of other factors that are causing the Red Sox to perform under expectations. That's where Speier focuses, even saying that, "in a vacuum, his future as a Red Sox manager is meaningless. The Red Sox can keep him. They can fire him." Essentially, the other issues aren't going to fix themselves simply because a manager has been replaced.
Cherington believes it's on everyone -- as it should be -- but that it's the players who need to play. And he's right. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett haven't pitched as well as they need to, and because of it, the Red Sox aren't leading the wild card. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia have all missed extended time, and except for Ortiz (and maybe Crawford, who has a 115 OPS+ since his return), they aren't performing at their expected levels. Adrian Gonzalez is coming around, but for the season, is only at .307/.351/.456 with less than two months to go to bring that closer to where it should be. The relative struggles of this bunch isn't all news, either: this particular drum is one old friend Patrick Sullivan has been beating on Twitter for months now.
"Winning and losing always has more to do with players than anything else. I don't question the effort of the players. I think our players have fought and battled, worked hard, played hard, fought out of tough things. It's not a question of effort. At some level, the players on the team, it's a reflection of me, it's a reflection of the front office. So, if players win or lose more than anything else, then I need to be accountable for that. We need to be better day to day and put ourselves in the best position to win tonight, tomorrow, the next day, and we'll continue to work on those things behind closed doors. We expect what follows to improve. It needs to."
If even half of those players did what they were expected to do, this would be an entirely different team, story line, and season. There's still time to fix it, with more games like Monday's against Texas, but the Sox are running out of time to put together a sustained and successful run that gets them out of their endless spiral of mediocrity.
Is Valentine to blame for some of the lackluster player performances? The jury is out on that, and it's not something we can prove one way or the other, anyway, since much of the complaints are backroom, he said this, oh but he did this kind of stuff. As Speier reminds us, there are 52 games left to change the entire tone of the 2012 season, but it's on the players to do so and make us forget that there was ever a time where this was all up for debate.