|Top Stories of 2012, No. 2: Bobby Valentine leads woeful Sox to 93 losses, gets fired||12.31.12 at 11:30 am ET|
Over the final week of 2012, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. This entry in the countdown is No. 2: Bobby Valentine’s nightmare season as Red Sox manager.
Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NHL lockout
No. 9: Wes Welker’s up-and-down year
No. 8: Bruins’ early playoff elimination
No. 7: Ray Allen’s departure from Celtics
No. 6: Tim Thomas’ political controversy and sabbatical
No. 5: Celtics’ Eastern Conference finals loss to Heat
No. 4: Red Sox’ megatrade with Dodgers
No. 3: Tom Brady’s MVP-caliber season
In a forgettable season, the 2012 Sox finished 69-93, their worst record since 1965, and in last place in the American League East for the first time since John Henry and Tom Werner bought the team.
According to multiple reports, Bobby Valentine was not the preferred choice of first-year general manager Ben Cherington, but team president and CEO Larry Lucchino made the hire to replace Terry Francona.
As Valentine was formally introduced to Boston, nobody could have foreseen the outcome of the season.
“I am honored, I’m humbled and I’m pretty damn excited,” Valentine said at his introductory press conference. “This day is a special day, and it’s more than a special day. It’s the beginning of a life that I think is going to extend beyond anything else that I thought of doing. The talent level and the players that we have in this organization, I think, is a gift to anyone. And I’m the receiver of that gift.”
Valentine, 62, would become the first Red Sox manager since 1934 (Bucky Harris) to be fired after just one season with the team.
|Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Bill O’Brien says he’s staying at Penn State||11.28.12 at 8:07 am ET|
WEDNESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: Nets at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE; WEEI-FM)
NBA: Rockets at Thunder, 8 p.m. (NBA TV)
NBA: Timberwolves at Clippers, 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
College basketball: Boston College at Penn State, 9:15 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Virginia at Wisconsin, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Purdue at Clemson, 7:15 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Michigan State at Miami, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: George Mason at Rhode Island, 8 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Georgia Tech at Illinois, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Ohio State at Duke, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)
AROUND THE WEB:
♦ Former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien guided Penn State to an 8-4 record in his first season at the helm of the Nittany Lions, no small feat given the school’s troubles related to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Now there are rumors that O’Brien has other opportunities — college and pro — should he want to jump ship while the program serves three more years of NCAA punishment that includes reduced scholarships and a bowl ban. O’Brien, who has eight more years left on his contract, said Tuesday he’s not going anywhere.
“I plan on being the head football coach at Penn State [in 2013],” he told Atlanta’s 790-AM “The Zone.” “That’s my plan and that’s what I intend to do.”
His agent, Joe Linta, was even more adamant. “[O'Brien] is staying, and we’ve had no conversations with anyone else,” Linta said. “In fact he’s leaving at 6 in the morning [Wednesday] to go out on the recruiting trail.”
O’Brien also was in the news this week for apparently uttering an obscenity during a live TV interview after Saturday’s victory over Wisconsin. O’Brien seems to say a swear word that begins with the letter ‘f’ when referring to the effort of his players, although he denies it.
“You know I’m not a choir boy, but I said ‘fighters,’ ” he said.
♦ “Fireman Ed” Anzalone, who announced on Sunday that he is stepping down as the team’s unofficial cheerleader because he’s tired of the behavior of fellow fans, is getting no sympathy from his counterpart with the Dolphins, Thomas Phillips, aka Big Papa Pump.
In a Tuesday appearance on South Florida radio station Sports Talk: The Ticket, the longtime Dolphins superfan called out Fireman Ed.
“If you’re stepping down because of what you see, getting your butt whupped week-in and week-out and you haven’t been to the Super Bowl since Super Bowl III, that is a wuss. That is a wuss,” he said. “You don’t back out of your team like that. That’s something you don’t do. You don’t step down from being a superfan. You don’t do that. Fireman Ed, you’re a disgrace, man.”
Added Big Papa Pump: “This team is looking up to him and this is what he’s telling them? You quit? You just give up? If you’re winning and you quit, it’s another thing. But you’re losing and you quit, that’s even worse.”
♦ At GQ, writer Drew Magary has a list of the 25 least influential people of 2012. The list is not limited to sports, but there are a number of sports figures on it, including ex-Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine at No. 15. Mitt Romney is No. 1. Lakers center Dwight Howard is the top athlete, at No. 4 overall.
At Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci has a column on nine baseball rules that need to change. Among them are a call for more replay and fewer timeouts (such as the catcher walking out to the mound).
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On Nov. 28, 1938, the Bruins traded legendary but aging goaltender Cecil “Tiny” Thompson to the Red Wings and called up which rookie to replace him?
|LEEInks List: Worst coaches in Boston sports history||10.19.12 at 9:17 am ET|
With the recent firing of Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine, one has to wonder where he ranks among the worst managers/coaches of all-time in Boston sports. Valentine had it all — disastrously bad record, poor relationship with players (although he’ll tell you otherwise) and incident after incident in which he embarrassed himself and the team.
We’ve gone through the history books to determine which men had the least impressive performances leading one of the major professional teams in Boston. Our ranking is based on a combination of factors including team record, coaching decisions, relationship to players, and perception by fans/media.
When you’re done reading this list, check out our poll so you can cast your vote on who deserves recognition as worst of the worst.
10. M.L. Carr, Celtics
In defense of Carr, it’s widely believed that the Celtics’ intention was to lose in order to get a better draft position. And lose they did. In two seasons, Carr’s teams went 48-116. In 1996-97, the C’s went 15-67, their worst record ever. They had the second-worst record in the league and hoped for a fortuitous lottery so that they could select consensus top pick Tim Duncan. However, they ended up dropping to the No. 3 spot and settled for Chauncey Billups, who was traded (for Kenny Anderson) midway through his rookie season by Carr’s successor, Rick Pitino. At least Carr can look back fondly at his playing days for the C’s.
9. Phil Watson, Bruins
The B’s coach during the 1961-62 season and part of 1962-63, Watson had just 16 wins in 84 games. A former Rangers center who coached the Blueshirts from 1955-56 until 1959-60, Watson was known as a hard-worker, but he never made things click for the B’s. Boston finished last in the NHL both seasons he coached. Talent obviously was a big part of the issue, as Milt Schmidt was not much more successful after taking over during the 1962-63 campaign. Watson, who went on to coach in the AHL for three seasons, died in 1991.
8. Pinky Higgins, Red Sox
Higgins was a three-time All-Star who had two stints playing for the Sox before he had two stints as manager, starting in 1955. Higgins’ overall record over eight seasons was unimpressive but not disastrous (560-556). Higgins earns a spot on this list for being widely recognized as a bigot who conspired to keep African-American players from playing for the Red Sox. Boston was the last team to integrate and that is credited in large part to Higgins (allegedly in concert with team owner Tom Yawkey). Higgins, who went on to become the team’s general manager until being fired in September 1965, was charged in 1968 with killing a man and injuring several others when he was driving drunk and his car plowed into a Louisiana highway department crew. He died in 1969, the day after being released from prison.
7. Billy Herman, Red Sox
A standout National League second baseman in the 1930s and ’40s, Herman took over managing the Red Sox from Johnny Pesky for the final two games of the 1964 season, reportedly because Pinky Higgins (see above entry) didn’t get along with Pesky. Herman led the team to consecutive ninth-place finishes in 1965 and 1966, with a 128-192 record. Herman’s 1965 season featured a stunning 100 losses. The lack of improvement the following season led to Herman being replaced with 16 games remaining in the season. Herman, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975, died in 1992.
|Kevin Youkilis’ brother rips Boston, Bobby Valentine on Twitter||06.25.12 at 12:37 pm ET|
While Kevin Youkilis’ turbulent season with the Red Sox came to an end Sunday with a standing ovation from the Fenway faithful, Youk’s brother celebrated his trade to the White Sox with a string of tweets lashing out at Boston and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine over the weekend.
Scott Youkilis, a chef in San Francisco, wrote on Saturday that he was “glad that #teamyouk may be changing sox real soon. #Chicago is better town anyways!”
Scott Youkilis would later tweet that “Bobby V is a joke” before listing several reasons why he felt Chicago is a better city than Boston.
|The year in Boston sports: Biggest media controversies of 2011||12.30.11 at 9:42 am ET|
The Boston media did its best to live up to its reputation in 2011, creating and reporting on controversy throughout the year. Some of the issues were initiated by the players themselves, via tweets and press conferences. Others were started by former players who have moved over to the dark side.
With that in mind, we present our list of the top 10 Boston sports media controversies of 2011.
10. MLB institutes a dress code for media members
Although the dress code itself was not out of the ordinary, it was significant that MLB was the first professional sports league to police the fashion of its media members when it announced the policy in December. Items on the list of banned clothes include tank tops, short shorts/skirts, ripped jeans, visible undergarments, one-shoulder or strapless tops, clothes with team logos and flip-flops. The dress code came one year after the NFL had a situation on its hands when Mexican TV reporter Ines Sainz was the subject of catcalls from members of the Jets after wearing a tight pair of jeans to a practice.
Baseball Writers’ Association of America vice president Susan Slusser served on the guidelines panel and acknowledged: “I believe the baseball media in general could dress slightly more professionally,” adding partly in jest: “Don’t dress like a hobo and don’t dress like a ho, those are the extremes they’re looking at.” This would be disappointing news to fans of Heidi Watney, but she left NESN anyhow.
9. Rodney Harrison rips Patriots defense on NBC
After Ben Roethlisberger carved up the Patriots secondary for 365 yards on Oct. 30, Harrison, the former Patriots safety who now serves as an NBC analyst, questioned the defensive strategy of coach Bill Belichick and ripped the passive style of the secondary.
“I look at that secondary, and they’re playing really soft coverage, that bend-but-don’t-break defense,” Harrison said. “I hate that. I think you have to challenge your players more. You have to start blitzing, force the quarterback into making mistakes. I know you can’t stop everything. I know they were afraid of their speed. But sometimes you’ve just got to go challenge them. And I just don’t see them doing it.”
Earlier this month, Harrison took his criticism a step further, saying, “They should be concerned, because that secondary is probably the worst secondary I’ve seen in the last decade.” Added Harrison of Tom Brady: “He feels like he has to shoulder a lot of the pressure because that defense is so bad.”
Responded defensive lineman Vince Wilfork during a Dec. 12 appearance on The Big Show: “I want to [call the Patriots critics] all the time and tell them to shut the ‘f’ up.”
|Top Stories of 2011, No. 3: Red Sox’ manager/GM turnover||12.29.11 at 12:00 pm ET|
For the final 10 days of 2011, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. Our next entry in the countdown is No. 3: The Red Sox’ manager/GM turnover.
Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NBA lockout
No. 9: NFL lockout
No. 8: Celtics’ playoff loss to Heat
No. 7: Patriots’ acquisitions of Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco
No. 6: Jacoby Ellsbury’s MVP-caliber season
No. 5: Patriots’ playoff loss to Jets
No. 4: Celtics’ trade of Kendrick Perkins
On Sept. 29, a visibly frustrated Terry Francona sat beside a similarly frustrated-looking Theo Epstein in the Fenway Park media room. Epstein wore a navy blue Red Sox zip-up. He sat hunched forward while Francona leaned back in his chair, his arms crossed across his chest and a glower on his face. The two men attempted to explain why the Red Sox — a team that had been in first place going into September and was the best team in baseball at times during the summer months — failed to make the playoffs due to a 7-20 September.
But neither man had a satisfying explanation for the club’s September swoon, and neither man was willing to address his status with the team going forward. Francona appeared to be in a more precarious position than Epstein. The manager had just completed the last year of a three-year, $12 million contract that had an option for the 2012 and 2013 seasons that ownership would have to decide to pick up.
Epstein had one year left on a four-year deal that would keep him in Boston until the end of the 2012 season.
It was Francona who addressed his contract status first, as he met with Red Sox brass behind closed doors the morning after his tense press conference with Epstein. There, Francona said he informed ownership that he felt it was time for a new managerial voice to help guide the team.
“I passed along my frustrations at my inability to effectively reach the players,” Francona said in a statement after the club announced he would not be returning. “After many conversations and much consideration, I ultimately felt that, out of respect to this team, it was time for me to move on. I’ve always maintained that it is not only the right, but the obligation, of ownership to have the right person doing this job. I told them that out of my enormous respect for this organization and the people in it, they may need to find a different voice to lead the team.”
After Francona’s departure, more details emerged about the troubled times over the course of the season that led to his desire to leave the organization. Francona said he felt like the team was not coming together over the course of the season the way teams typically do, and after leaving the Red Sox Francona said he did not always feel that ownership supported him.
|Monday’s Morning Mashup: Derek Fisher reportedly tells players to be ready for NBA season||09.12.11 at 7:52 am ET|
WHAT’S HAPPENING LOCALLY MONDAY:
NFL: Patriots at Dolphins, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
AROUND THE WEB:
♦ The NBA might be close to resolving its labor dispute, if you believe reports of a text message from union president Derek Fisher. According to Sports Illustrated‘s Sam Amick, the Lakers guard texted some players last week telling them to be physically prepared in case the season starts on time. This was one of a few signs that the sides might finally be close to a breakthrough.
♦ The NFL and Major League Baseball had some memorable tributes in memory of 9/11 Sunday. But MLB denied the Mets’ request to wear hats honoring New York’s police and fire personnel, and that was what many were left talking about. Said MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre: “Certainly it’s not a lack of respect. We just felt all the major leagues are honoring the same way with the American flag on the uniform and the cap. This is a unanimity thing.” In the New York Daily News, Bobby Valentine recalls how 10 years ago, when he managed the Mets, his team defied a similar order and wore the special caps.
♦ When the USC-Utah game ended Saturday night, the score was 17-14. Two hours later, Pac-12 officials decided that a game-ending touchdown by the Trojans should have been allowed, making the score 23-14 and allowing USC to cover the point spread of 8½. The Los Angeles Times looks at the confusion this caused at Las Vegas sports books, with some deciding to stick with the original final score and others ending up paying off both sides.
♦ University of Minnesota assistant football coach Jerry Kill suffered a seizure on the sideline in the final minute of the Gophers’ 28-21 loss to New Mexico State on Saturday. In the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Chip Scoggins writes about the scary moment that silenced the stadium, and how the outcome of the game didn’t seem to matter anymore. Kill, a cancer survivor with a history of seizures, is expected to make a full recovery.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On Sept. 12, 2005, David Ortiz hit his 40th home run of the season, a solo shot in the 11th inning to give the Red Sox a 6-5 victory over the Blue Jays in Toronto. With that clout, he became just the second Red Sox player to have back-to-back 40-home run seasons. Who was the first?
|Bobby Valentine reportedly looking into buying part of Mets||02.28.11 at 9:00 am ET|
Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine is looking into buying at least a portion of the team, according to ESPNNewYork.com. The article said Valentine, who managed the Mets from 1996-2002 and took them to the World Series in 2000, has spoken with financial backers about setting up a bid.
“I’ve talked to a number of people interested in purchasing part of the New York Mets, but I’m not formally with any group that is actively pursuing this venture,” Valentine told ESPN.
Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon has said he intends to explore selling 20 to 25 percent of the team because of financial issues. The team acknowledged Friday that it accepted a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball in November because of liquidity issues. Ownership also faces a $1 billion lawsuit by the trustee trying to recover funds for victims of Bernard Madoff‘s Ponzi scheme.
|ESPN to feature new Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team in 2011||12.01.10 at 4:11 pm ET|
The start of the 2011 baseball season will feature a new Sunday Night Baseball team, after ESPN did not renew the contracts of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. ESPN.com announced on Wednesday that the new team of Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine will take over the booth on Sunday nights next season.
Miller and Morgan had been the voices on Sunday Night Baseball for the past 21 seasons. The new team, according to ESPN Executive Vice President of Production Norby Williamson, will make for a “dynamic Sunday Night team.”
Shulman and Hershiser both worked on Sunday Night Baseball last season; Shulman with ESPN Radio and other ESPN TV games, and Hershiser with SNB TV games as well. Valentine was an analyst on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, and will be in the booth for the first time.
|Report: Mariners interview Bobby Valentine||10.12.10 at 3:44 pm ET|
The Mariners interviewed Bobby Valentine Monday, according to the Seattle Times as their search to replace former manager Don Wakamatsu gets underway. Seattle will also interview former Astros manager Cecil Cooper and former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon later this week.
The full list of candidates also includes former Indians manager Eric Wedge and former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons who will also reportedly interview this week. All five men have experience managing at the big league level, a stark contrast to two years ago when the Mariners hired Wakamatsu when all seven of the finalists had no previous experience at the big league level.
Valentine has 15 years of experience managing after stints with the Rangers and Mets, but he has not managed in the States since 2002. He also has a connection with the Mariners front office as he served as the Mets Triple-A manager when Mariners GM Jeff Zduriencik was the Mets farm director.
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