When the Boston Red Sox hired Bobby Valentine this past offseason most of the mainstream sports media scratched their heads in unison. Bobby V was seen as an iconoclast not suited for the rigors of Boston. This is the man who donned a fake mustache and glasses after being ejected from a game as manager of the Mets and largely had not been heard from since taking a coaching job in Japan in 2008. As a Yankee fan I loved the move. It fit nicely with the paradigm of MLB I developed over years of watching games, one that maintains certain personalities will only be considered by certain organizations. A guy who wears disguises isn’t welcome in Pinstripes, but would fit right with the club that gave us the Idiots in 2004. Having coached the Mets I figured Bobby V would have a lower learning curve than someone unaccustomed to the perpetual angst that surrounds a franchise like the Boston Red Sox.
The consensus that believed Booby V would be a disaster was thrown a bone this weekend when Bobby V criticized Red Sox 3rd baseman Kevin Youkilis’ work ethic, saying that he didn’t seem as passionate as he did last season. Stop the presses! The Red Sox new skipper was lambasted for calling out the team’s spiritual leader. All Star 2nd baseman/ team captain 1A Dustin Pedroia immediately defended Youkilis, saying that “is not how we do things” in Boston. Those who follow the Red Sox were baffled by Valentine’s comments. Youkilis himself said he has been criticized for being too emotional but never for a lack of passion. Also, while Youklis is an emotional leader on the field, his clubhouse persona is much more low-key.
The devil gave me a heckuva deal when I sold my soul to him so allow me to play the role of his advocate for a moment. What’s the fear in having a manager criticize a player? Isn’t this kind of prodding necessary to get your team to rallying behind one of its best players? A silver lining could be Pedroia’s defense of Youkilis. Red Sox Nation could take hear that the club known for “25 guys, 25 cabs” has found a rallying point that could hold them together during trying times. For those who find fault with the timing, all manners of poor performance (in this case by the manager) can be easily explained away by old saws like, “It’s early” and “it’s a long season.” If the Sox are going to be successful this season, and I’m praying they’re not, what better time than now to galvanize the team? Spring training is fresh in everyone’s mind. I’d have a much tougher task defending Bobby’s actions in the middle of a pennant race.
Valentine has already apologized to Youkilis and this dustup will be history by time this rant is published. While Youkilis might feel pricked by Valentine this is the type of behavior the organization had to know they were getting. Time will tell but for the moment, this type of Bobby Jedi mind trick looks like his version of leadership 101.