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The REAL Red Sox MVP?

Updated: October 31, 2013

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Photo from sportsblogs.star-telegram.com

OK, with tongue firmly planted in cheek Bobby Valentine gets the nod as Sox MVP…fact is the Red Sox don’t have a marvelous turnaround capped with a Series title without Bobby V being the catalyst for change in the whole Sox dynamic.

The festering problem for years in Boston was an organization not on the same page…in particular underhanded meddling of the ownership group into baseball operations in the form of CEO Larry Lucchino. It seems that while Theo Epstein was hailed as the wunderkind architect of the Sox’ 2004 Championship, Lucchino was envious of his former protege. He wanted the credit. Lucchino resented Theo and proceeded to undermine him internally and externally.

Larry Lucchino from sportsreelboston.com

Lucchino is your nightmare boss, we’ve all had ‘em…micromanager, takes credit for your wins, points fingers at failure, goes around you to your staff, has snitches, the whole thing. By October 2005 Theo had had enough and resigned. A few months later the Sox, realizing they were lost, hired Theo back. Lucchino never got over the obvious conclusion that Theo was the man.

When the Sox collapsed at the end of 2011 the Boston Globe’s explosive post-mortem report highlighted a loss of dedication, the beer-and-chicken fiasco, and questions of whether an alleged pill-popping Manager Terry Francona had lost clubhouse control. Apparently there was at least one snitch in the locker room feeding dirt to management. The reporter’s sources were anonymous. Having had enough Red Sox drama Epstein resigned…of course more anonymous sources reported that Theo had been the leaker. Fat chance. If nothing else he was a big supporter of Francona. Classic Red Sox move to badmouth someone they’ve run out of town…Nomar Garciaparra, Johnny Damon, even Ted Williams. No smoking gun but Lucchino was generally considered to be up to his dirty tricks.

With  GM Epstein and Mgr. Francona gone, longtime Ass’t GM Ben Cherington was promoted to GM. After Cherington’s managerial search turned up Dale Sveum, Lucchino overruled him and forced in Bobby Valentine. Lucchino overtly undermined his new GM; more importantly he completely owned the Bobby V hire.

Lucchino subsequently had the nerve to suggest at the beginning of 2012 (post Theo) to blame anything bad that happens with the club on Theo and credit any success to Lucchino. Brilliant stuff, right out of Leadership 101.

Ben Cherington photo by Timspastimes

The rest is history…Bobby V was Bobby V, had to be the biggest show in town, immediately alienated his players, and had an historically foul Red Sox season with a 69-93 record. The utter failure of the team gave Ben Cherington a late-season opening to dump every bad contract he could. He found a willing partner in the LA Dodgers’ new owners looking to make a splash, thus he was able to move Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. Gonzalez was never happy in Boston and Beckett known to be a poor clubhouse influence.

The revelation in all this was that the failure of the 2012 season and Bobby V was Larry Lucchino’s failure. He owned it…and it seemed too that all of his creepy history of meddling, leaking, and undermining was brought into focus. Lucchino lost the power among the Red Sox leadership. And it seems that with the cleansing Dodger trade, Red Sox management got behind Ben Cherington.

Cherington of course proceeded to assemble some good complementary pieces which he added to the Red Sox core and a stocked farm system. He brought back former Sox’ pitching coach John Farrell to manage (after his managerial debut in Toronto) which did much to inspire confidence in the clubhouse. Hence a magical season and World Series title. And a very bright future for the Sox.

Sometimes you need to hit bottom to see things clearly and make necessary changes. The big difference-maker (our MVP) was Bobby Valentine, who effected the long-overdue neutering of Larry Lucchino. And in the end that made all the difference for Red Sox Nation.

This post was written by

Dave Graziano – who has written posts on Big Dog Sports Blog.
Short Hills, NJ USA


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