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Bobby Valentine is one-and-done in Boston

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Bobby Valentine is one-and-done in Boston

From Comcast SportsNetBOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox thought Bobby Valentine would restore order to a coddled clubhouse that disintegrated during the 2011 pennant race.Instead, he only caused more problems.The brash and supremely confident manager was fired on Thursday, the day after the finale of a season beset with internal sniping and far too many losses. Valentine went 69-93 in his only year in Boston, the ballclub's worst in almost 50 years."I understand this decision," Valentine said in a statement released by the team. "This year in Boston has been an incredible experience for me, but I am as disappointed in the results as are ownership and the great fans of Red Sox Nation. ... I'm sure next year will be a turnaround year."A baseball savant who won the NL pennant with the New York Mets and won it all in Japan, Valentine was brought in after two-time World Series champion Terry Francona lost control of the clubhouse during an unprecedented September collapse.But the players who took advantage of Francona's hands-off approach to gorge on fried chicken and beer during games bristled at Valentine's abrasive style.More importantly, they didn't win for him, either."We felt it was the right decision for that team at that time," general manager Ben Cherington said on Thursday in an interview at Fenway Park. "It hasn't worked out, because the season has been a great disappointment. That's not on Bobby Valentine; that's on all of us. We felt that in order to move forward and have a fresh start, we need to start anew in the manager's office."Under Valentine, the Red Sox started 4-10 and didn't break .500 until after Memorial Day. By August, when the contenders were setting their playoff roster, the Red Sox knew they would not be among them and traded several of their best players -- and biggest salaries -- to the Los Angeles Dodgers.Without Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, the Red Sox will save 250 million in future salaries and have a chance to rebuild over the winter.But that will be too late for Valentine."We have gratitude for him, respect for him and affection for him, and we're not going to get into what his inabilities were, what his issues were," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. "I just don't think it's fair."Cherington, who replaced Theo Epstein last offseason, will lead the search for a new manager. The team's top target is current Toronto manager and former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, who has a year left on his deal with the Blue Jays.Cherington said he has thought about potential successors but declined to comment on specific individuals. He said he is looking for someone "who can establish a culture in the clubhouse that allows players to perform, and sets a standard.""And we need to find a person that can bring some stability to that office," Cherington said. "When we hired Bobby, the roster was fairly mature and we felt, mistakenly, in retrospect, that we had a chance to win and the team was ready to win. We're now at a different point. We're trying to build the next good Red Sox team, so it's a little bit different."A year after a 7-20 September cost the Red Sox a chance at the postseason, the club went 7-22 in September and October to close its worst season since 1965. Boston lost its last eight games, failing even in its role of spoiler as it was swept down the stretch by playoff contenders Tampa Bay, Baltimore and the rival New York Yankees.That left the Red Sox in last place -- 26 games out -- for the first time since 1992 and out of the playoffs for the third year in a row."This year's won-loss record reflects a season of agony. It begs for changes," Lucchino said. "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."What was supposed to be a season of celebration for Fenway's 100th anniversary was instead the worst under the current management, which bought the team in 2002. And though injuries probably doomed the Red Sox anyway -- they used a franchise record 56 players -- Valentine's clumsy handling of his players forced him into frequent apologies that undermined his authority in the clubhouse."There's no single reason why we had this dismal of a season," Lucchino said. "But certainly the epidemic of injuries and the injuries to key players were major factors. ... Do I think there's an element of unfairness, given the shortness of his duration, given the injury problems. ... I think there is."The Red Sox had the AL's best record and a nine-game lead in the wild-card race on Sept. 1, 2011, before missing out on a playoff berth on the final day of the season. Francona, who led the Red Sox to Series titles in 2004 and again in 2007, was let go after admitting that he had lost his touch in the clubhouse.To replace him, the Red Sox picked Valentine, who took the New York Mets to the 2000 World Series and won a championship in Japan but hadn't managed in the majors in 10 years. The move was an intentional and abrupt attempt to change a culture that enabled pitchers to drink beer and eat fried chicken in the clubhouse during games on their off-nights.On that, Valentine delivered immediately: He banned beer from the clubhouse, and didn't hesitate to criticize his own players publicly -- something Francona took pains to avoid.But even before the season began, injuries began tearing the roster apart.Crawford missed much of the season, joining pitchers John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list before opening day. Potential closers Andrew Bailey and Bobby Jenks had offseason surgery; Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Beckett and Youkilis also spent time on the DL.And many of those who remained resented the new accountability.Kevin Youkilis lashed back after Valentine said he wasn't as "into the game" as before, and Pedroia came to his teammate's defense, saying, "That's not the way we go about our stuff around here.""He'll figure that out. The whole team is behind Youk. We have each other's backs here," Pedroia said. "Maybe that works in Japan."In August, management gave up on 2012 and unloaded several of the team's most burdensome salaries on the Dodgers. Los Angeles also missed the playoffs.Although Cherington openly conceded the season, Valentine refused to do so. Asked during his weekly radio show if he had "checked out," Valentine jokingly said he should punch the host in the nose. (He showed up for their next interview with boxing gloves.)In mid-September, with Boston's Triple-A team in the playoffs and reinforcements scarce, Valentine called the Red Sox "the weakest roster we've ever had in September in the history of baseball."Again, he was forced to backtrack.(But, again, he was probably right.)Ultimately, Valentine will be judged on his record.And it was dreadful."I don't know how it could be more challenging than this season," Valentine said after saying goodbye to his players following Wednesday night's season-ending loss to the Yankees."As I told them, they're not defined as people by their record or the season. They're defined by who they are, not what they are. They were part of a really lousy season, but they gave a hell of an effort every day."

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Five things to know about new Nationals prospect Tanner Rainey

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Five things to know about new Nationals prospect Tanner Rainey

In what may be a Major League Baseball first, two players named Tanner R. were traded for each other Wednesday at the Winter Meetings.

It’s a fun (unconfirmed) fact, but what really makes it interesting for Nationals fans is the fact that one of the Tanners’ last name is Roark, which means Washington now has a hole to fill in their rotation. They’ve already added Patrick Corbin, but expect the team to search for other options now.

Roark had been a staple in the Nats rotation for the last few years, and often provided a steadying presence at the back end of the rotation. He was never as talented or awe-inspiring as Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg, but he never needed to be.

Let’s focus on the newest addition to the organization though: the one named Rainey.

Here are five things to know about Tanner Rainey.

1. He went to two small schools, but still has pedigree

Rainey was born in Louisiana, and played collegiate ball at Southeastern Louisiana University and the University of West Alabama.

He was both a first baseman and a pitcher, but was drafted as a pitcher in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Cincinnati Reds.

2.  His career got off on the wrong foot

Rainey made his Major League debut in April 2018, and it could have gone better. He allowed a grand slam to Scott Kingery of the Phillies, and he finished the season with a 24.43 ERA.

Of course, the caveat is sample size. He pitched just seven innings at the big league level in 2018, and while he struck out an impressive seven batters in those innings, his WAR was -1.0.

3. He was born on Christmas Day

This, of course, allows for many fun puns, especially considering he once played for the Reds. Rudolph The Red(s)-Nosed Rainey-deer? Okay, we’ll try to come up with something better.

The Christmas Day he was born on was in 1992, so he’ll be 26 in a few weeks. It’s a little old for someone without much Major League experience, but he’s got some arm talent, and relievers regularly develop into reliable options later in their careers.

4. He has an electric arm

Rainey may struggle with command at this point in his career, but he can really whip a fastball.

While we live in the era of velocity and relievers boasting ridiculous radar gun totals seemingly every day, it’s interesting to note that 100 mph is still an impressive mark to reach. As Simon mentions, only 36 pitchers hit triple digits in 2018, and Rainey was one of them. That’s something any bullpen can use.

When taking a chance on unproven minor leaguers, you might as well take a chance on somebody with a very valuable, very elite skill.

5. He may never end up working out, but that doesn't mean it was a bad trade if he doesn't

Most minor leaguers don’t pan out. The fact that Rainey has thrown a pitch in the Majors makes his career more impressive than millions of players before him. He was ranked in the top 30 (no. 23 to be exact) of the Reds’ prospects according to MLB Pipeline, so he’s clearly talented enough for the Nats to think they can tap into his potential.

If it doesn't happen, however, losing Roark won’t be the difference for this roster in competing or not. With the rotation they have, even as top-heavy as it looks, they can certainly still compete in the division, and if it works out, they’ve acquired a dynamic piece for the back end of the bullpen.

You have to give up something to get something, and this trade could end up looking good for both teams down the road. If the Nats were set on moving Roark, which it appears they were, they could have done worse than a hard-throwing reliever in an era when hard-throwing relievers are more coveted than ever before.

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Five observations from Wizards' overtime loss to the Celtics, including John Wall's return

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Five observations from Wizards' overtime loss to the Celtics, including John Wall's return

The Washington Wizards lost to the Boston Celtics 130-125 in overtime on Wednesday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. Tough loss: No matter the stakes, the location or the personnel, the Wizards and Celtics always seem to bring the best out of each other. On Wednesday, they went to overtime for the third time in their past four meetings.

John Wall and Kyrie Irving put in All-Star performances, but a series of clutch shots by Irving in the final period proved the difference in a Celtics win. On one, to put the Celtics ahead by two with under a minute to go, Irving swished a three with Wall all over him. Mostly, he dashed past defenders and finished with spin off the glass.

The Wizards lost their third straight game and fell to 11-17 on the season.

2. Wall was back: After missing one game due to bone spurs in his left heel, John Wall returned to the Wizards lineup. Though he took 26 shots and had five turnovers, he played well for the most part.

Wall ended up with 34 points, 13 assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter alone.

The best part of Wall's night early on was his defense. He was more engaged  and disciplined than usual. Though it's nearly impossible to stay in front of Irving, Wall did a solid job disrupting his path to the rim. 

Wall's defense trailed off at times in the second half, but overall it was a solid return for the five-time All-Star. Though Irving scored a lot of points, he shot 12-for-28, and Wall did his part to limit him, at least until late.

This game had a major injury scare for Wall. After making a layup with just over two minutes remaining in overtime, he hit the floor and stayed there in obvious pain. Trainers rushed to his aid and checked out the back of his right leg. Somehow, he was able to return.

3. Horrible third quarter: The first half was among the most impressive the Wizards have played this season. Finally, they were putting together a complete performance on both ends of the floor. They didn't go down by 20, which has been customary even in many of their wins.

Things were going well through two quarters, but then the third quarter happened, and the Celtics essentially dominated for a 12-minute stretch. They outscored the Wizards 38-22 in the frame and shot 61.9 percent, knocking down 4-of-7 from three. 

Boston forced the issue for the most part, but the Wizards made their share of mistakes to give them opportunities. They had seven turnovers in the third quarter with Bradley Beal (22 points, seven rebounds) accounting for three of them on his own. 

The Wizards forced overtime by outdoing the Celtics by seven points in the fourth. It was the third time in four meetings these teams have gone an extra period.

4. Porter was out: Though Wall came back, the Wizards were without starting forward Otto Porter Jr. Porter missed his third game of the season, this time due to a right knee contusion which he suffered in Monday's loss to the Pacers.

Porter was close, but was ruled out after going through a pregame workout as a gametime decision. One member of the coaching staff remarked to NBC Sports Washington before the game he expected Porter to play, so clearly he was very close to giving it a go.

It would be surprising if he didn't play on Friday. It's just a really bad bruise.

5. Dekker played, Brown didn't: Though Sam Dekker was acquired just a few days ago in a trade, he appears to be ahead of Troy Brown Jr. on the depth chart. Porter's absence meant head coach Scott Brooks had to go deeper on his bench than usual, and it was Dekker who got the nod.

Brown was the team's first round pick in June, but at only 19 years old is being brought along very slowly. He is barely getting any floor time at all, while others in his draft class are playing rotation minutes. 

Take Robert Williams, for instance. The Celtics' first round pick, who was taken 12 spots after Brown at 27th, played 14 minutes on Wednesday. 

Williams, by the way, was impressive. He had a nice block on Dekker and a slam off a pick-and-roll that drew a big reaction from the crowd. He can get up there.

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