After missing the postseason in 2010 and seeing their television ratings sag, Red Sox ownership decided they needed to make some big changes during the offseason. Their mission was accomplished when they let both Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre sign elsewhere as free agents while they traded four prospects to the Padres for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and offered outfielder Carl Crawford a megabucks deal to come to Boston.
The Crawford signing proved to be a disaster from the start but it looked at first as if the Red Sox struck gold with Gonzalez. During his first season in Beantown, he led the AL in hits with 213, averaged .338, won his third Gold Glove, made his fourth straight all star team, and though he was a left-handed hitter playing half his games in Fenway, he still managed to belt 27 home runs and drive in 117. In fact it would have been a perfect first season for both the player and his new team if the Rays hadn’t caught and edged out the slumping Red Sox late in the season to capture the 2011 AL wild card spot.
That end-of-the-year collapse and second straight missed postseason caused more panic in Boston’s front office and before you knew it, the Red Sox had fired Terry Francona as skipper and replaced him with Bobby Valentine. I wasn’t alone in predicting the managerial switch would be a disaster for Boston and both the team and their new field boss did a great job proving me right in 2012.
Valentine started screwing with the team’s chemistry in spring training and by Opening Day he had his entire roster on edge. Though Gonzalez managed to continue to produce good offensive numbers, he hated playing for Valentine and led a contingent of players who went to John Henry and Larry Lucchino to ask that the manager be fired. Instead, the embarrassed Red Sox owner issued a public statement of support for Valentine and a month later made the famous $400 million house-cleaning deal with the Dodgers that sent Gonzalez, Crawford, pitcher Josh Becket and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney, Ivan DeJesus and three other prospects.