The Boston Red Sox should be celebrating; after all, they ended an early season disaster by winning 3 out of 4 games against A.L. East rivals the Tampa Bay Rays. Instead, they are questioning the odd comments from their new manager, Bobby Valentine. On Sunday morning at his weekly interview at WHDH-TV’s Sports Xtra, Valentine was asked about Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis is off to another slow start after having his worst career year in 2011, one that was plagued by injuries. Youkilis is currently batting .200 with 8 strike outs, 3 RBIs, and 6 hits. Valentine said “I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason. But (on 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.” It was strange of Valentine to question Youkilis’ emotions since at time he seems to be too emotionally involved in the game; practically dancing at his at-bats and throwing helmets in anger. Also, the interview did not help Valentine gain new fans. Valentine was already booed on opening day at Fenway Park due to the Red Sox’s slow start. When the interview aired Sunday night, baseball fans all over the country began to question why a new manager would bad mouth one of the Red Sox’s star players.
On Monday morning, Youkilis confronted Valentine about his comments. This actually surprised Valentine, he was just expecting Youkilis to update him about his groin injury (Youkilis would miss Monday’s game because of a minor groin injury). What exactly was said we may never know, but Valentine claims he apologized, though he does not know if Youkilis accepted his apology. Valentine attempted to explain his bizarre comment before Monday’s game, saying “I should have been more specific. Physical is about your swing, emotional is about not being happy when he doesn’t hit a ball off the wall,” but no one is buying it. Some have theorized that Valentine is attempting to unite the Red Sox as a family. Dustin Pedroia stated that he is confused by Valentine’s comments, but he and the rest of the team have Youkilis’ back. It is no secret that the Red Sox clubhouse has had an adverse feeling since there was at least one rat in the bunch telling secrets to the media last fall. Valentine could also have been attempting to motivate Youkilis, but the real reason why Valentine would throw Youkilis under the bus is still a mystery. Criticizing a player is a strange way to build a family.
On Monday, Terry Francona, former Red Sox manager and current ESPN analyst, was asked about his experience with Youkilis. Francona says at first, the Red Sox organization thought Youkilis was too emotional and they tried to calm him down, but they realized that was just who he was. Though he sometimes went back to the dugout and threw a helmet down in anger, he quickly moved on from his bad at-bat. Francona also commented that each manager is different and has his own way of handling things. I bet the Red Sox players are regretting all the chicken they ate and all the beer they drank since their poor sportsmanship helped kick Francona out of Boston. Valentine is no Francona as the Red Sox players are realizing. The Red Sox players were already worried that Bobby Valentine would make “it all about Bobby,” since he is known for making odd comments. Now they have to worry which player will be publicly criticized. Though Valentine tried to do damage control by explaining he just meant to talk about Youkilis’ batting, he pretty much lost all the Red Sox fans that he gained by beating the Rays. Valentine could either help unite the Red Sox by leading them to the playoffs, or he could tear Red Sox nation down either further by creating a hostile environment.
Quotes are from Sports Illustrated