|Valentine has the Red Sox in line before the Patriots Day game vs. the Rays. (Getty Images)|
The soap opera has come to the Red Sox clubhouse, maybe even a bit earlier than expected, as the inital player response to Valentine's unusual candor is, predictably, somewhat less than glowing.
Some are going to be upset Valentine doesn't always think everything is great. But it's refeshing to see such honesty from a major-league manager at a time when players are used to hearing only compliments from their managers, at least publicly. It would also be nice to see abject candor work as a managerial strategy after so many managers seem to have committed themselves to BSing their way through interviews. They apparently believe it's important to be loved by their players; it certainly is more comfortable for them.
Red Sox players, in particular, are used to Terry Francona's everything-is-wonderful public stance, except maybe in that rare moment where he thinks he's telling one person, and not the world, like when he whispered to Peter Gammons, "Manny Ramirez is the worst human being I've ever met.''
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So it was no surprise that Dustin Pedroia, a team leader, reacted by saying, "I don't know what Bobby is trying to do. That's not the way we go about our stuff around here. He'll figure that out.The whole team is behind Youk. We have each other's back.''
They have each others' backs, but apparently not Bobby's -- not at the moment, anyway.
Pedroia, who was the daily cribbage partner of Fraancona and by far the closest to Francona of any of the Red Sox players, was decrying the "negativity'' in the press only a day earlier while sitting on the bench and chatting with teammate David Ortz, another team leader. Pedroia and David Ortiz specifically were complaining about a Boston media person suggesting on the airwaves that Youkilis might be done. The players were offended that a media person, who they respected, would say such a thing, especially so early in the season.
But this hits a lot closer to home. Valentine said a few nice things about how Youkilis was seeing the ball better in his interview with Boston's WHDH-TV, but the emphasis will be on the really candid part where he said, "I don't think that he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.''
Red Sox players are used to the media sometimes questioning them and have developed a bit of a bunker mentality at times. Pedroia decried the "negativity'' while sitting on the bench before Sunday's game. But this is something new entirely. This hits closer to home.
This is also vintage Bobby. While he said later he didn't mean it as a criticism and suggested Pedroia didn't hear the whole thing. But this is Bobby. He is a smart man. He very likely had a point to make about Youkilis. Maybe it will help him, maybe not.
The reality is that players, like real people, go through peaks and valleys. Nobody gives exactly the same effort all the time. But nobody wants to hear about it, either.
Valentine is very likely not going to win any clubhouse popularity poll, especially not today. He said he apologized to Youkilis, but he really doesn't care how well-liked he is in the clubhouse. He only cares about a positive result on the field. The danger for him is that the more unpoular he may become in the clubhouse, the more imperative it becomes for an even more positive result on the field.
Bobby will be an adjustment for the players, and everyone else around the Red Sox, too. "I don't believe Bobby's intent was to criticize Kevin,'' GM Ben Cherington texted back. "We all know how hard Kevin plays and how committed he is to the game. Bobby wants him to succeed as much as anyone. Bobby's acknowledged that he shouldn't have said what he said and spoke to Kevin about it.''
Valentine does like to talk. But there is always a method to his (seeming) madness. This may benefit Youkilis, who has been horrific so far this year. But as for the rest of the players, they'd be better off if they just reminded themselves of this one thing: It's just Bobby being Bobby.