Top 5 Red Sox storylines of 2012

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
11:09
AM ET
BOSTON -- As far as the Boston Red Sox are concerned, 2012 came to an end back in August when it became clear that the club would miss the postseason for the third consecutive year.

With the relationship between then-manager Bobby Valentine and players continuing to deteriorate, Boston found itself in the basement of the AL East, so GM Ben Cherington quickly started to prepare for 2013.

Even now, as Cherington continues to shape the roster for the 2013 season, many Red Sox staffers have said there’s no need to talk about the disappointing 2012 campaign -- one of the worst in franchise history.

Looking back on last season and coming up with some highlights is nearly impossible because there were too many negatives. Here are our top five Red Sox storylines of 2012:

1. The Valentine hiring: Even though Valentine was officially introduced as the 45th manager in Red Sox history on Dec. 1, 2011, his hiring was a major issue for the entire 2012 season. From the start of spring training, there were issues between the manager and the players, and the manager and his coaching staff. The lack of communication and cohesiveness resulted in the club finishing in last place in the AL East with a disappointing 69-93 record.

2. The Youkilis saga: Even though many players had their own issues with Valentine, the tension between him and Kevin Youkilis was front and center. In April, Bobby V was asked about Youkilis and told the media: "I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.” Those comments infuriated Youkilis and his teammates. Then, when Youkilis strained his back early in the season, the team promoted third base prospect Will Middlebrooks from Triple-A Pawtucket to Boston. Middlebrooks took advantage of the situation and played well. When Youkilis was healthy, his playing time was inconsistent and the rift between him and Valentine grew wider. On June 25, Youkilis was traded to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for outfielder Brent Lillibridge and pitcher Zach Stewart. This offseason, Youkilis signed with the New York Yankees. If Valentine was still managing in Boston, Youk’s OPS against Boston would probably be astronomical.

3. Blockbuster: Speaking of trades, Cherington pulled off one of the biggest in club history when he dealt outfielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett and infielder Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 25. It turned out to be a major salary dump for the Red Sox. Crawford never played up to expectations and was often injured during his season and a half in Boston; Beckett was miserable and his pitching performances were sub-par; Gonzalez put up solid numbers but was never the complete player the Sox expected; and Punto gave the Dodgers a solid veteran utility guy. The biggest chip Boston received in the transaction was pitching prospect Rubby De La Rosa.

4. Bye Bye, Bobby: There was much joy in Boston when the Red Sox fired Valentine on Oct. 4 after only one tumultuous season. He quietly rode off on his bike and Red Sox ownership said that Valentine was professional about the situation. Well, that didn’t last long. On the same day the Red Sox named John Farrell as new manager, Valentine told Bob Costas in a televised interview that veteran DH David Ortiz shut it down for the season after the club made that historic nine-player trade with the Dodgers. Valentine also took a shot at his coaching staff. Both comments did not go over well. Valentine’s bench coach Tim Bogar fired back in an interview with ESPNBoston.com the next day, and Ortiz waited until he had signed a two-year extension with the Red Sox before voicing his displeasure with Valentine.

5. Sox get their man: Cherington gave new hope to Red Sox Nation when the club announced they had acquired John Farrell via trade with the Toronto Blue Jays and named him manager on Oct. 23. Almost immediately, Red Sox players spoke out about the instant credibility Farrell brings both on and off the field in Boston. He served as pitching coach for the Red Sox under Terry Francona and Farrell returns to Boston after two seasons as manager of the Blue Jays.

Things can only get better for the Red Sox in 2013. With Farrell back in the mix, a revised lineup and rebuilt clubhouse, the Red Sox are hoping to return to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

So far, those new additions include outfielders Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes, shortstop Stephen Drew, pitchers Joel Hanrahan, Ryan Dempster and Koji Uehara, catcher David Ross and possibly first baseman/catcher Mike Napoli.

The Red Sox also extended David Ortiz’s contract and gave the veteran slugger a two-year deal. Cherington is also looking to extend the current contract of veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia at some point this offseason.

What are your five most memorable Red Sox moments of 2012 -- good or bad? Feel free to share them on the comments page.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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