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Jacobsen: Valentine’s talk not good for Sox (Sept. 17)

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, September 17, 2012

Bobby Valentine, the man who is somehow still manager of the Boston Red Sox, has made a career out of saying ridiculous things – and I’m not just talking about his stint as an ESPN analyst.

I’m half-convinced that baseball writers across the country promoted him as “the smartest man in baseball” (a notion that may or may not have originated with Bobby V himself) in the hopes that some foolhardy franchise would hire him and unleash torrents of bizarre comments and needless drama for the knights of the press box to feed upon. And the Red Sox owners fell for the ruse.

I say this not because I doubt Valentine’s mastery of the intricacies of infield defense, but because I find it hard to believe that knowledge outweighs the problems that arise when your manager appears to have learned his people skills from a middle-school mean girl.

If you enjoy uncalled-for comments eventually followed by lukewarm apologies, than I really hope you’ve been following the Red Sox this summer. Valentine began the season by telling the press that World Series winner and fan-favorite Kevin Youkilis wasn’t “as physically or emotionally into the game” as he used to be. Perhaps he simply had his players confused – then-Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett was the one who went for a round of golf when he was supposedly too hurt to play, while Youkilis (who was traded to the White Sox in June) is the one who throws around his helmet after he makes an out as if he’s just lost the World Series.

Either way, this criticism is pretty rich given that a manager’s main job is deciding who is going to play what position when, and still Bobby V has turned in multiple lineup cards with blatant mistakes. Even if we overlook the time he named his batting order under the impression that Twins pitcher Liam Hendriks is left-handed (he’s not), on Sept. 2 the press had to alert him to the fact he had outfielder Scott Podsednik hitting third, and he was both surprised and unconcerned by this information. Does this sound like a manager who is “physical and emotionally into the game”? (But don’t bring up this point to Bobby V himself. The last time a journalist questioned his commitment, Valentine said he’d like to punch him in the face.)

But make no mistake: Valentine’s failure in his other role – keeping the clubhouse in some state of harmony – has been even more spectacular. Players are bound to get annoyed with their manager, and feuding between the skipper and general manager is practically unavoidable. But Valentine set a new standard for dysfunction by avoiding communication with his pitching coach, Bob McClure, who has since been fired. For those of you who are wondering if perhaps McClure was the problem, I’d just like to point out that Valentine also clashed with others while managing the Rangers and Mets. And for all the talk of his legendary status in Japan, he’s been fired by the Chiba Lotte Marines on two separate occasions for disagreements with management.

There are some people (including Red Sox ownership, apparently), who seem to think that firing Bobby Valentine would be a reward to the players who didn’t give him enough respect in this past year. Those people forget that respect is a two-way street: Why should you respect a man who has never won a World Series as a player or a manager, who can’t get along with anyone and who can’t resist insulting players when there’s a microphone in front of his face? This man’s greatest claim to fame is that he owns the restaurant claiming to have invented “the wrap.”

This Friday, he called his team the “weakest roster” in September of all time — clearly a joke, seeing as “the smartest man in baseball” has to know the Houston Astros are still playing. But is that a joke you make about players you respect? Is that what you say about a group you want to respect you? Nope, that’s what you say when you want to make sure you’re not managing that roster next season.

Maybe Valentine is the smartest man in baseball. But for the Red Sox sake, I hope a dumber man is managing them next year.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.