Larry Lucchino: Bobby Valentine Took Firing With Professionalism; Sox Won’t Set A Date On Hiring Next Manager Just Yet
The dust has finally settled on what turned out to be an awful season for the Boston Red Sox. A franchise that has become the model of consistency over the past decade finished at 69-93, which was good for last place in the American League East. Bobby Valentine has been relieved of his duties as manager. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and President/CEO Larry Lucchino are now in a search for another manager in order to get back to the success Boston has been used to having. In just one year the Red Sox franchise went from a historic collapse at the end of the 2011 season to finishing last in its own division. Boston has a lot of money cleared off the books after the megatrade with the Dodgers, so don’t be surprised to see this team turn it around quickly. Then again, the Red Sox might look to build this team from within, the same way that won them two World Series titles in a four-year span.
Larry Lucchino joined WEEI in Boston with Dennis and Callahan to discuss his breakfast meeting where he told Bobby Valentine he would no longer be manager of the Boston Red Sox, what went wrong for Valentine, Valentine not being hamstrung by the organization, Valentine not being fired for berating Will Middlebrooks in spring training, the timetable for when the next manager will be hired, Red Sox players being told the team wouldn’t hire a manager like Valentine last offseason, rumors that Joe Torre is interested in managing again and if the Red Sox considered retaining Terry Francona last season.
How did the breakfast meeting start where you made the decision to get rid of Bobby Valentine? What was Valentine’s reaction?
“It started with a statement from Ben about the decision that had just been made. And then Bobby took it with great grace and professionalism, I must say. I’ve had the misfortune of being involved in these kinds of decisions from time to time over my 30 years of baseball, and he was exceptional in his grace and constructive comments. As to whether he anticipated what was going to happen, you’d have to speak to him. We didn’t ask him that question. But he certainly, as I said a minute ago, accepted the decision with grace and recognition.”
What went wrong this season for the Boston Red Sox and Bobby Valentine? When did you realize he was the wrong guy for the job?
“I find it awkward and probably a little inappropriate to go into ‘Who shot John?’ and what went right and what went wrong. I think what’s easier to discuss is the record. If we were 93-69 instead of 69-93, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We’re in a results-oriented business, and the results did not occur. We have high levels of expectations here in Boston, and I think rightfully so, and we did not perform. And Bobby understood it in those terms. He basically did [say], ‘My job is to put together a winning team, to deal with the problems that emerge during the course of a tumultuous season and ensure that the team wins as it’s expected to do.’ And that didn’t happen. So he recognized that the bottom line was indeed the bottom line.”
Was Bobby Valentine allowed to be the Bobby Valentine he wanted to be? Was he hamstrung by the organization at all?
“I think he was Bobby V. I think he wanted to be a little careful at the beginning because he stepped into such a difficult situation following the historic collapse last September. That may have urged him to be a little more careful because the situation was so volatile. But by and large I believe he felt that he had our support from the beginning. And throughout, we made it clear, publicly and privately, that when a situation was called into question, that we were going to deal with the manager issue at the conclusion of the season and not until the conclusion of the season. From my point of view, he had my support. Certainly, I was an early advocate for him last offseason. And as he leaves the manager’s office today, I remain a supporter, someone who sees terrific things in Bobby Valentine, both personally and professionally.”
Was Bobby Valentine admonished for berating Will Middlebrooks in spring training?
“No, he was not admonished. [Host: Was he admonished by the players on the Red Sox?] Some [players] may have thought it was an unusual way to deal with it. But that whole issue [during an early-season game] with Will Middlebrooks, I think Bobby handled just fine.”
When will there be a new manager in place for the Red Sox?
“We are not going to set a date. Ben has said over and over that finding the right person, it’s more important than having a rapid process and I couldn’t agree more. But we do think there are some things that need to be done besides that. … This is not the only change that’s going to made this offseason. There are myriad changes that will be made. We’ve begun with the megatrade with the Dodgers, with the addition of Jason Varitek, with the supplement to our evaluation process with Eddie Bane, now with the managerial change, there’ll be some coaching changes. There will be a host of changes. And there will be some new personnel. We believe we have a core of good players, a core of really positive, exciting, hard-nosed players that our fans can embrace. I’m talking about Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks, and I could go on and on. There’s a core of good players there. But we’ve got to supplement them, we’ve got to use free agency, we’ve got to trade, we’ve got to do what we can to add to this team to make it stronger and let’s hope make it healthier.”
On reports that last offseason the players were told the team would not hire a confrontational manager like Bobby Valentine:
“We will talk to our players. … Of course, the more input we get from players on things, the better. But they do not have a vote in this process. This is not a referendum of players who will tell us who they’re next manager should be. That, I think, is misguided. … I have no personal knowledge of [what the players were told last time]. I’ve heard the same story, that Theo Epstein — I believe it was, at least that’s the story that I’ve heard — made that comment while he was here as general manager. But of course the decision was made later than that, after Theo was gone. So, I don’t know if he indeed did say something like that or not. You’d probably have to ask him.”
Have you heard the rumor that Joe Torre is interested in managing again?
“I have not heard that rumor.”
Did the team reconsider retaining Terry Francona last season?
“I don’t want to open old issues except to say Terry was not an option. He told us he was not prepared to manage again in 2012, and we took him at his word. So, no, that alternative was never considered or explored.”