For Better Or Worse, This Is Why Valentine Was Hired

Ballparks, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Stats, World Series

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.

Bobby Valentine is under fire for his comments about Kevin Youkilis. You can read the story here on ESPN.com.

Valentine said:

“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.

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4 thoughts on “For Better Or Worse, This Is Why Valentine Was Hired

  1. Francona said on an ESPN broadcast the other day that they hired Valentine because he’s not Francona and that if they wanted somebody like him they would’ve just kept him. It makes sense.

    As far as Pedroia’s comment about not doing things this way, who is he to say how things should be done? He’s one of the team’s veterans, right? So where was he during the collapse?

    He’s a lot more to blame for last September than Valentine, so he ought to worry about figuring out how to win instead of acting like a baby.

    1. Teams generally go in the opposite direction when they make a managerial change. That’s universal.
      Pedroia was the one guy in that clubhouse last season busting ass from start to finish. I don’t think Pedroia was challenging Valentine as much as he was defending Youkilis. Valentine takes time to get used to. I doubt Valentine has a problem with Pedroia.

      1. I wasn’t accusing Pedroia of not doing everything he could to win last September, but the status quo didn’t work back then. The status quo fell apart late when all they needed to do was win another game or two.

        I won’t pretend to know what goes on in their clubhouse, but who was policing the situation when it needed to be policed? Pedroia? Youk?

        Valentine’s not giving them much slack and maybe that’s what they need. Only time will tell, I suppose.

      2. I got the sense that Varitek’s influence had waned and that Pedroia and Papelbon were the main men who were standing up and taking responsibility for what was going on. They had a giant mess with infighting and disinterest at the end and by then it was doubtful that Pedroia’s impassioned pleas to come together would’ve been any more effective than Francona’s.
        This Valentine-Youkilis thing is being overblown as I said in my posting because everyone was waiting for Bobby to say something and when he did it was taken as a rip when it really wasn’t.

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