The Boston Red Sox knew precisely what they were getting when they hired Bobby Valentine as their new manager — a man who speaks his mind, doesn’t coddle his players and occasionally shows up in the dugout in disguise.
So is it really all that surprising that Valentine is already ruffling feathers in Beantown?
Apparently for some of his new players, the answer is yes.
When asked if Valentine’s recent criticism of third baseman Kevin Youkilis could have been designed to motivate the slumping veteran, second baseman Dustin Pedroia questioned the approach.
“Maybe [that works] in Japan or something, but over here in the U.S we’ve got a three-game winning streak going and we want to feel good and keep it rolling. We feel we have a good team and we’ve just got to get each other’s backs and play together. If you don’t do that, I don’t care what sport you’re playing, you’re not going to win.”
Whatever the modus operandi was last season resulted in an epic season-ending collapse and the firing of manager Terry Francona. So could it be time for the Red Sox to tweak “the way we go about our stuff” this season?
The kerfuffle began began Sunday when Valentine attempted to diagnose Youkilis’ early-season struggles.
“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 in an interview with WHDH. “But [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.”
Youkilis responded Monday morning, telling reporters “That’s not what I see. I go out every day and play as hard as I can.”
Valentine said he apologized for the comments but was unsure if Youkilis, who was out of the lineup Monday, had accepted it.
After Monday’s shutout loss to James Shields and the Rays, the Red Sox are 4-6 and looking up at the rest of the American League East.
If Valentine is trying to spark his team into playing better baseball, calling out a veteran leader or two might work. This time, it flopped. But Valentine is not going to suddenly morph into the more player-friendly skipper he replaced — and the Red Sox don’t want him to do so.
Boston’s ownership brought Valentine in to run a tight ship and clean up the chicken-and-beer distractions of last season. And that’s what he aims to do.
As Boston Globe columnist Tony Massarotti wrote Tuesday:
Earth to Red Sox players: Francona covered your backs for eight years and you got him fired last September. You have no right to complain about anything anymore. Had you conducted yourselves with a little more professionalism and been a whole lot more committed, you would likely still possess a secure environment. The moment that blew up, you left yourselves open to an array of possibilities, one of which was a manager who wasn't going to repeatedly tell you how great you are.
If someone like Pedroia has an issue with that, he really needs to take it up with the gluttonous teammates through whose greasy fingers last year's season slipped. We all like Pedroia. We all like what he stands for. But the players work for the manager, not the other way around.
Maybe Valentine’s style will prove ill-fitting for his new charges. Or maybe the Red Sox will redirect the energy used sticking up for a slumping teammate onto the field and start winning some ballgames.
It’s a long season, and Bobby Valentine is just getting started.
What’s your take? Did Valentine go over the line with Youkilis? Should he adapt to suit the needs of Boston’s players or should the Red Sox adapt to his managing style? Is this marriage destined for a quick divorce?