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Red Sox fire manager Bobby Valentine

Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine looks on from the dugout against the New York Yankees during the fifth inning of their MLB American L
Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine looks on from the dugout against the New York Yankees during the fifth inning of their MLB American L

By Julian Linden

(Reuters) - Bobby Valentine was fired as manager of the Boston Red Sox on Thursday after failing to turn around the struggling Major League Baseball team during his first season in charge.

Although Valentine still had another season remaining on his two-year contract, the Red Sox swiftly announced their decision a day after the 2012 regular season finished.

"This year's won-loss record reflects a season of agony," Red Sox President Larry Lucchino said in a statement. "It begs for changes, some of which have already transpired. More will come. We are determined to fix that which is broken."

World Series champions twice in the last eight years, the Red Sox endured a miserable season under Valentine, compiling a 69-93 record, the franchise's worst result since 1965.

In the same year they were celebrating the 100th anniversary of Boston's Fenway Park, the Red Sox finished last in the five-team American League East, 26 wins behind the division champion and rival New York Yankees.

"This season was by far the worst we have experienced in over 10 years here," Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner said.

"Ultimately, we are all collectively responsible for the team's performance. We are going to be working tirelessly to reconstruct the ball club for 2013. We'll be back."

Valentine was hired by the Red Sox last year to replace Terry Francona, who left the club following one of the greatest late-season collapses in MLB history.

Leading their division by nine games heading into the final month of the season, the Red Sox lost 20 of 27 games to miss out on the playoffs, a misery compounded by their pre-season status as favorites to win the World Series after a massive spending spree and a $161 million payroll.

Valentine, a former major league player and successful manager with the Texas Rangers and New York Mets, was brought in to try and turn the team around.

But the Red Sox performed even worse this season, losing 21 more games than in 2011, raising speculation that his days in Boston were numbered.

"I understand this decision," Valentine said. "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."

It was not long until the first signs of trouble began to surface. The Red Sox made a slow start to the season and then lurched from one disaster to the next.

Hit by injuries to key players, it quickly became evident that there was also growing dissent in the ranks.

Valentine publicly criticized third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who was later traded to the Chicago White Sox, as well as his own coaching staff.

Late in the season, the Red Sox traded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers to free up money for the future but triggering another collapse.

"No single issue is the reason, and no single individual is to blame," Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington said. "We've been making personnel changes since August, and we will continue to do so as we build a contending club.

"With an historic number of injuries, Bobby was dealt a difficult hand. He did the best he could under seriously adverse circumstances."

Cherington said the search for a new manager would start immediately. Local media outlets said John Farrell, the Toronto Blue Jays manager and former Red Sox pitching coach, was looming as the most likely successor.

(Reporting by Julian Linden in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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