Bobby Valentine says something one minute, tries to defuse it the next. One step up, one step back. Just like his baseball team.
And so collectively, the Red Sox go nowhere.
The Red Sox were 5-0 losers to the wretched Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on Thursday night, but that was only part of the story on yet another day featuring more verbal damage and attempted repair from the erratic Bobby V. On Wednesday, Valentine volunteered a story to WEEI about a mishap (or misunderstanding) involving third baseman Will Middlebrooks, whom Valentine admitted to playfully teasing following a pair of misplays during an inning earlier this year. The happening made its way back to ownership and painted Valentine in a far more critical light, evoking obvious questions about whether Red Sox players, coaches or both were scurrying up the back stairs behind Valentine's back.
On Thursday, Valentine subsequently called his remarks to WEEI "the most stupid thing that I ever said on the radio program," which may or may not be true. Off the radio? Also debatable.
Valentine, after all, clearly is inclined to speak his mind with regard to the dysfunction surrounding the Red Sox. He did so regarding Carl Crawford. He did so regarding Kevin Youkilis. And he will continue to do so between now and the end of the year because Valentine simply cannot help himself.
From the wrap sandwich to ballroom dancing to the suicide squeeze, Bobby V. has an opinion on everything. Heck, the guy was Mike Trout before Mike Trout was.
Going back to last year, when Valentine was an analyst for ESPN, his messages have been downright contradictory. Back then, Valentine told us Josh Beckett took way too much time on the mound between pitches. Then Valentine was hired by the Red Sox, met with Beckett, and tried to sell us the idea that Beckett's stalling techniques were actually tactical. With Crawford, Valentine openly mocked the manner in which the Red Sox were handling the outfielder's health and care, then came back the next day and said he had a better understanding of the situation.
And so, if communication has been a problem with the Red Sox this season, we should hardly be surprised. Valentine always has been someone who talks a hell of a lot more than he listens. Valentine himself acknowledged that quality as a flaw when he took over the Red Sox, saying that one of his challenges was to be more open-minded to the perspectives of others.
Can we all agree now that he hasn't been? And before anyone interprets this as some sort of defense of Red Sox ownership and upper management, let's make something incredibly clear.
They've made the same mistake.
Think about it: in theory, the Red Sox hired Valentine because he was different than Terry Francona, whose player-friendly style clearly ran its course. Valentine came with a reputation for being a pot-stirrer and verbally provocative. And yet, at the first sign of provocation, Red Sox officials effectively neutered Valentine, most everyone in the organization siding with second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
"I really don’t know what Bobby’s trying to do, but that’s not the way we go about our stuff around here," Pedroia said in April. "He’ll figure that out. The whole team is behind [Youkilis].”
So the Red Sox hired Valentine to change the culture. And then, when he tried to change it, they told him that his methods were not welcome.
We'd like you to come in and change things, Bobby. But we want you to do it our way.
Why even hire the guy if his job was merely to perpetuate organizational philosophy and methods? The idea of bringing in a 62-year-old manager with considerable baseball experience is to inject his influence. If his influence is then stifled, what's the point?
All of that said, Valentine clearly has not learned a thing since taking the New York Mets to a fifth-place finish in 2002. Anyone who knows Valentine called him a tremendous evaluator during his career as a player, coach and manager, and yet relatively little attention was paid to the fact that Valentine has never really won anything in the majors. He has no World Series championships. He has never even won a division title. In retrospect, maybe there was a reason for all that?
For his career, Valentine is 1170-1125 as a manager. His average finish? Fourth place. Good evaluator. Bad communicator.
One step up, one step back.
For the Red Sox, of course, the dysfunction existed long before Valentine got here. Valentine has every right to point that out. Red Sox players tuned out their manager and complained about the schedule last year, and they were rewarded with pricey headphones and a night on owner John Henry's yacht. No wonder they're racing each other up the back stairs. Valentine neither hurt the Red Sox nor helped them when he brought this latest piece of information to light this week, and so the only part we can try to blame him for was the latter.
The Red Sox, after all, were already running in place when he got here.
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