Don’t look at it as a firing. Think of it as a promotion. And maybe, just maybe, a redemption.
Bob McClure is out as Red Sox pitching coach, as the Red Sox attempt to unbuild the wreckage pile that is the 2012 season.
Does that reclamation project now include manager Bobby Valentine?
McClure’s ouster, after a season of silent defiance by the pitching coach against Valentine – and in the immediate aftermath of the clubhouse Sox-ting scandal–can be taken as an unspoken vote of confidence for the embattled manager.
There was a more public statement made by management days after the so-called “Round Table,” meetings in New York in late July. When the apparent impetus for those meetings became a major media event this past week, the Red Sox again backed Bobby, and this time followed the words with a deed.
Coming concurrently with the announcement of Carl Crawford’s season-ending Tommy John surgery, and with the team hopelessly behind in the Wild Card race, the team’s focus has now shifted toward 2013. So, what better time to rid themselves one of their most-toxic scenarios?
The Valentine-McClure ticket was doomed from the beginning, with McClure clearly not Valentine’s choice for the job, but still had the pitching coach forced upon him. The two rarely, if ever, talked, including during games after McClure’s visits to the mound.
Then, recently, McClure left the team to tend to a matter with one of his young children. In a radio interview, Valentine called it a “vacation,” before correcting himself, but the animosity behind it was unmistakable.
If there was a living, breathing symbol of that dysfunction, it was the man in the middle – baseball’s only assistant pitching coach, Randy Niemann. If McClure was the anti-Bobby, then Niemann’s promotion to replace McClure as pitching coach makes for a happy Valentine.
Niemann has been one of Bobby’s guys dating back to Valentine’s tenure as Mets manager, serving as his bullpen coach. Now, for the first time this season, Valentine has one of “his guys” working with him and watching his back.
For the first time, management has sent a signal that, far from preparing to bow to the recalcitrant players in the clubhouse, the team is showing it is serious about making the Bobby Experiment work – at least until after next season, when John Farrell’s contract with Toronto is up.