Making official what was reported as a done deal yesterday afternoon, the Red Sox just announced that Bobby Valentine has been fired as manager.
Signed to a two-year, $5 million deal to replace Terry Francona, Valentine spent the year making headlines for all the wrong reasons and seemingly rubbed key players the wrong way almost immediately.
It also didn’t help that the team was terrible on the field, showing Red Sox fans that things could get significantly worse than what was viewed as a pretty miserable situation during Francona’s final season at the helm.
Boston went 69-93 under Valentine for the franchise’s worst winning percentage since 1965. General manager Ben Cherington will now begin his second manager search in one year on the job, the first of which resulted in paying Valentine $5 million for six months of work (of course, who exactly made the final decision to hire Valentine is in question).
In a press release, Cherington noted that “with an historic number of injuries, Bobby was dealt a difficult hand” and added that “he did the best he could under seriously adverse circumstances, and I am thankful to him.”
Meanwhile, team president Larry Lucchino called it “a season of agony” and promised “more [changes] will come” because “we are determined to fix that which is broken and return the Red Sox to the level of success we have experienced over the past decade.”
As for Cherington’s status, owner John Henry said: “We have confidence in Ben Cherington and the kind of baseball organization he is determined to build.”
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.