The Tenure Problem with the Red Sox

August 17, 2012

Critics of public school teachers often state that what is wrong with the profession is tenure- after a certain period of evaluation, usually three years, something close to job security is granted. Now that doesn’t mean teachers with tenure can’t get fired for a range of misdeeds or failures, but the process becomes much more difficult, some say impossible.

Now the current bunch of Red Sox aren’t teachers, but they too have a kind of tenure deal with guaranteed contracts, free agency and after ten years in the majors the right to say yes or no to a trade. What this baseball version of tenure does is give the players enormous bargaining power and the ability to play or not play the game on their terms.

The Red Sox management is now experiencing the results of this baseball tenure system as the players work to rid themselves of Bobby Valentine, mostly by talking behind his back to team owners, especially John Henry. It seems that the players just don’t like Valentine’s managerial style and know that they can push him out of the dugout by working the back channels.

The players also know that with these huge guaranteed contracts and the ability to easily fake some bogus injury like a hamstring strain, they can influence the direction of the team without much in the way of personal consequences. In short these players have a secure job, make tons of money, hold the cards when it comes to a trade, and best yet can pretty much limit the power and influence of the manager.

No one really knows who is behind the back stabbing of Bobby Valentine – it could be Josh Beckett, it could be John Lackey, it could be David Ortiz or even Petey Pedroia. All of these guys have sent out signals that they don’t care much for Valentine. By the way these are some of the same guys who contributed to the downfall of Tito Francona during last year’s September fiasco – another example of the inmates running the asylum.

So how to bring some control and accountability to these tenured baseball players? The Sox answer is to have the managerial troika publicly support Valentine, but the players know that they hold all the cards – they stay and get paid for losing or they control their own trading process. Meanwhile Valentine goes back to his tavern in Connecticut.

These are the days that John Henry and company wish they were running a football team where a coach like Bill Belichick can just send a player packing for non-performance. In a  rip off line from the baseball movie A League of Their Own, John Henry and Bobby Valentine wish they could say – there’s no tenure in baseball.





A Valentine for the Red Sox

December 8, 2011

This is the season of goodwill toward all and acts of giving to family, friends and those in need; it is not the season of love, romance and roses. Yet in this Christmas season, the Red Sox ownership team got all weepy-eyed and fell in love with Bobby Valentine as the new manager of the Beantown team.

Valentine is without a doubt a charismatic figure and a baseball aficionado, but his record of achievement as a manager is less then stellar. As so many have pointed out, Valentine barely got into the playoffs with his teams and he has never been fitted for a World Series ring.  So fans could legitimately ask, why Valentine?

No one will really know the answer, since the discussions among the ownership team of John Henry, Larry Luchino and Tom Werner is more secretive than the Catholic cardinals choosing a Pope. One can only speculate that Valentine talked his way into the job ( nothing wrong with that) and that the Big Three owners thought that he could end the practice of the players drinking beer and eating fried chicken before important games.

Now a manager is not the key person in determining the fortunes of a baseball team. To state the obvious, a team excels when it is made up of superior players. Of course the manager, if he has personnel skills, can motivate the players, scare the livin’ daylights out of the players, bench the malcontents, and demand that ownership give him guys who want to win, not concentrate on when their checks are direct deposited in the bank.

So much remains to be seen about Bobby Valentine’s skills as a manager. He certainly will be colorful and always available for a juicy quote or a statement designed to create controversy. But what the Red Sox need is a manager who can lift a team that was supposed to win it all last year out of its funk and back into the game.

I for one am more interested in whether Big Papi is too old to swing the bat, or whether the pitching staff can win crucial games and or whether there is someone out their who can replace Jonathan Papelbon. Sure Bobby Valentine will make key decisions, many of which fans will never see because they are made in the privacy of the clubhouse. But let’s get real, Bobby Valentine is just the manger, not the savior of our beloved hometown team.