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Senior Baseball Columnist

Bobby V. hiring was a mess to start, and the Red Sox made it worse

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With the benefit of hindsight, the Red Sox clearly regret the day they hired Bobby V. (US Presswire)  
With the benefit of hindsight, the Red Sox clearly regret the day they hired Bobby V. (US Presswire)  

What a waste.

What an epic and colossal waste of a perfectly good summer.

The season wasn't finished for more than, oh, five minutes before the Red Sox purged themselves of the hurricane that was Bobby Valentine. The move was not unexpected. It was eminently avoidable.

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How was it avoidable? Any number of ways:

By not hiring him last fall in the first place.

By allowing him to hire his own coaching staff, not stacking it with coaches he didn't pick who ultimately didn't mix with him.

By supporting him far more than the Sox did. Taking his side in the public dustups they had to know were coming, because that's what Bobby V. brings, now and forever.

Pick one, any one. Had the Red Sox made better decisions at several mile markers along the way from last November through, say, June, things could have turned out so much differently.

Instead, the Red Sox suicide-bombed their own season with reckless, arrogant and astonishingly poor decisions that not only failed to fix the fried-chicken-and-beer month of September, 2011, but fueled a spectacular, full-blown six-month explosion in 2012.

How could this ownership group of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, pitch-perfect for so many years, suddenly become so tone deaf?

It has been a very bad year for the Red Sox; very, very bad. Remember Chico Escuela on Saturday Night Live? The opposite of that. Baseball been berry, berry bad to Boston. Lucchino described it as a "season of agony."

Had it not been so self-inflicted, it would be almost sympathetic.

It was as if Valentine suddenly and mysteriously emerged from a door in the Green Monster in the middle of last fall's bumbling managerial search. Judging by their list of candidate interviews, newly promoted general manager Ben Cherington was intent on hiring a young, low-profile, energetic and cutting-edge baseball mind to replace Terry Francona after the Sox steamrolled him so thoroughly that Francona still has tire tracks from the Duck Boats worn into his back.

Dale Sveum was the consensus choice, but Theo Epstein and the Cubs beat the Sox to him pretty much while Theo's suitcases were still in Boston awaiting transport to Wrigley Field. So the Sox moved on to, among others, highly respected coaches Sandy Alomar Jr., Torey Lovullo and Pete Mackanin.

Then, suddenly, came the hard right turn. Valentine entered the picture. Which of these things is not like the other?

It was a clear sign that Cherington was not running the show, no matter how much the Red Sox tried to make it look like he was.

Nearly a year later, I ask you: If Valentine's hiring was all Cherington, then why don't the Sox fire him right now, too?

Because if I hire a rookie GM and he makes these kinds of decisions in Year One, and the entire franchise goes boom! to this degree, I fire him yesterday for gross incompetence.

But I notice Cherington's name was not in the email in which the Sox dispatched Valentine, other than attached to a statement that included this: "Our 2012 season was disappointing for many reasons. No single issue is the reason, and no single individual is to blame. We've been making personnel changes since August, and we will continue to do so as we build a contending club. With an historic number of injuries, Bobby was dealt a difficult hand. He did the best he could under seriously adverse circumstances, and I am thankful to him."

So that's a good start on this winter, right there. Apparently nobody with the Red Sox is going the character assassination route and accusing Valentine of judgment clouded by addiction to painkillers and other assorted grievances, as they did with Francona.

So there's that.

Now what?

Only thing left is to learn from the past and put the pieces back together.

Some suggestions:

Let the new guy hire his own coaches. In fact, encourage him to bring in some of his own guys. Because the Red Sox clearly need new blood and new voices. And because you don't have to be Bobby Doerr to know that if there is a Cold War between a bloc of coaches and the manager, the ship be sinking. Bob McClure, Valentine's inherited pitching coach, bench coach Tim Bogar, and Gary Tuck, the bullpen coach, barely would speak to the man.

If and when the new manager publicly reprimands a key player and Dustin Pedroia responds by saying "that's not the way we do things around here," the correct response is: "It is the way we do things NOW."

Do not meet with players in some hotel suite halfway through the season to listen to grievances. That undermines the manager even further. Even if you, as the owners, were smart enough to put the right people in place to win two World Series, do not do that.

Before hiring the new guy, maybe double-check to see that he doesn't carry a pack of matches in his back pocket to light fires every couple of weeks. Besides, everybody knows that the back pockets in baseball pants are for bubble gum or chewing tobacco, not matches.

Other than that, good luck, Red Sox, you're on your own.

There is one bit of sensational news buried within the agony here: It is humanly impossibly to botch things worse than you already have.

Because right now, there's only one word for these Red Sox. That word is disgraceful.

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