For some players, criticism serves as motivation. It’s up to the manager to determine which players can handle being called out publicly, yelled at in front of others and which need the smoother, more gentle approach.
“I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason,” Valentine said. “But [on Saturday] it seemed, you know, he’s seeing the ball well, got those two walks, got his on-base percentage up higher than his batting average, which is always a good thing, and he’ll move on from there.”
Is there a big controversy about these comments? Are they on a level with Valentine, as Mets’ manager, openly suggesting that Todd Hundley was partying when he should’ve been sleeping?
These media storms were regular occurrences with Valentine. It’s an old-school method from an old-school manager and that’s what the Red Sox wanted when they hired Valentine.
The “let them be” approach of Terry Francona was credited with the Red Sox rallying from a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 ALCS; it was credited with them rallying from a 3-1 deficit in the 2007 ALCS. They won the World Series in sweeps after both pennants.
Last year the Red Sox had all the ingredients to win again and didn’t. Francona’s hands off approach was blamed.
Was it because Francona was too soft?
Was it because they had too many players who were more interested in selfish pursuits than forging bonds with teammates?
Or did they hit a bad patch with injuries and poor play at the wrong time?
Whatever it was, Valentine is the opposite of Francona in temperament and tone. He’s an experienced baseball man as a player, coach, manager and broadcaster and if, after watching Youkilis from afar, observing him this spring and over the first 10 games of the season he saw something different in Youkilis’s intensity, it’s not out of the realm of reason to openly question him to light a fire and get him playing angry.
In the above-linked story, Dustin Pedroia defended Youkilis and said the oft-repeated phrase, “That’s not the way we go about our stuff around here.”
The way they did things ended 2011 in embarrassment, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’re changing the plot in 2012.
Valentine couldn’t care less what the players think of him as long as there’s a unity of purpose. If that means the unity was borne from hatred of him, he’ll live with that if it results in wins on the field.
It was a strange time to do it since the Red Sox are playing well, but that too might’ve been intentional.
Or he might’ve said something that he felt would be innocuous and was blown out of proportion.
Does it matter?
Like the hiring of Valentine, the only way to know if it succeeded will be in hindsight. If Youkilis goes on a tear starting now, the perception will be that it was Valentine’s comments that motivated him. Youkilis will scoff at the notion, but much like the idea that these comments are that serious, reality is irrelevant.
It’s a tactic. Because it’s Valentine, the masses are overreacting as if they were waiting for something like this, heard it as the loud pop of a starting pistol and exploded out of the blocks as fast as they could. Social media and the proliferation of commenters exacerbates the issue in ways unheard of when Valentine was last managing in the big leagues in 2002.
Either way, it’s why Valentine was hired—to stir things up in ways Francona never did.
Maybe it’ll work. And maybe it won’t.
That it happened at all shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who’s watched and listened to Bobby Valentine over the past 25 years. Perhaps the Red Sox selected him over the other candidates because those other candidates would’ve been happy to have the job and done whatever they needed to do to keep the peace including enabling the players like Francona did.
Valentine, as his comments prove, won’t.
He’s not Francona.
That’s why they hired him.