Let Bobby Valentine give the hook to Red Sox underachievers.
Bobby V probably isn’t the right type for today’s game and maybe a change is needed, but if I’m the general manager, that change comes in the offseason (as do many other changes). I know that Sox fans hang on to every scrap of hope, but let’s face it–2012 is a lost season. As I type these words, 45 games remain in the season and if the Sox won 30 of them (a seldom-achieved .666 pace), they’d have but 87 victories and that’s highly unlikely to get a Wild Card. (The wildcard-leading Orioles and Rays need to go just 25-21 to reach 88 wins) My advice would be to unleash Bobby Valentine–let him take off the kid gloves and call out lousy play in public. Let him say what everyone can see: that Josh Beckett has given up. Let him be feisty and get into scraps with his players á la Billy Martin. In fact, the Sox’s hated rival, the New York Yankees, is a good role model for what to do with Beckett.
If the team can, it should dump Beckett as soon as possible–perhaps even for an A.J. Burnett-like deal: eat most of his salary and get a bucket of balls in return. If Boston can’t swing such a deal–Beckett is due nearly $32 million for the next two years and can veto any deal he doesn’t like–the Red Sox should do what the Yankees did to Ken Holtzman in the late 1970s: bury him in the bullpen out of harm’s way. The Yanks brought Holtzman to New York after five fabulous years in Oakland in which he won 91 games. The 30-year-old Holtzman proceeded to stink up the Bronx and the Yankees banished him to the pen and made him a forgotten man. When he reemerged with the Cubs in 1979 at age 32, he got one more year in MLB before he was released. The Yankees did the same with Kevin Brown, though throwing nearly $16 million at a 39-year-old was insanity in the first place. The Yanks also banished Kei Igawa in the minors before cutting him this spring.
If the Sox have the guts to play hardball with Beckett, they can. Pitchers generally have their peak ERA years at age 29 and their peak win years at 30. Beckett, 32, appears to have peaked earlier. He had 67 wins between the ages of 26 and 29, but just 24 since. His current ERA is over 5 and he is, to put it very mildly, a disruption. Send him to the pen for mop-up duty. He would be 35 when he hits free agency again and I will guarantee you no one will offer him $16 million per.
The Sox, of course, have other issues. Bobby Valentine should be unleashed to tell the press that Adrian Gonzalez wasn’t brought to Boston to be a singles hitter, that Jon Lester can’t mail it in, and that if Jacoby Ellsbury can’t play through nicks and pains they’ll give his roster spot to someone who can. He should privately remind Dustin Pedroia that if he’s going to go behind his back, he’s got a guy named Pedro Cirisco whose natural position is second base and is currently hitting .333, 50 points higher than he. (Note: Pedroia has publicly disavowed a spat with Valentine, either because it never happened, or because his agent told him to STFU.)
As I said, odds are good that Valentine will be let go this winter, so why not give it a whirl? The Sox are going nowhere and the now-sainted Terry Francona couldn’t rule this bunch by kissing their butts. Let Bobby V kick them instead. It can’t get any worse.