Say what you want about Terry Francona, he was an excellent manager. Not only did he guide a prominent sports franchise for an entire decade, he was also an excellent in-game tactician. Baseball is a sport that requires a light touch. Do too much and you can use up all your players and burn out your bullpen. Do too little and your tired starter will get killed. While I hated watching the Yankees be on the other side of Francona’s Red Sox, I had to respect his ability to make the right decision at the right time. He didn’t play the games, of course, but he was clearly good at his job.
I don’t feel the same way about the Red Sox new manager. In fact, whether he was managing the Mets or talking on ESPN, I could never tolerate Bobby Valentine. The only time I had a stomach for him was when he was in Japan and I only could put up with him then because I didn’t have to deal with him in any way.
I don’t like Bobby Valentine because he has a big mouth and doesn’t seem to be any good at managing a baseball team. Tony La Russa drives me nuts as well, but at least he can point to a history of success managing baseball teams (one that seems to defy all logic, but one that exists all the same). Bobby V. has no such record, and he just keeps on talking.
When rumors first began swirling that Bobby Valentine was under consideration to become the new manager of the Red Sox I was desperate for them not to be true; not because I felt that Bobby V. would succeed as Red Sox manager, but because I just can’t stand the guy. And, sure enough, he’s a part of my life again in a way I never wanted.
In the last week Bobby Valentine has managed to take shots at Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Bobby’s defenders have suggested that he did this to shift media attention away from the ongoing beer and chicken story that is surrounding the Red Sox starting rotation. That may be true (although I don’t buy it) but if it is there were other, less obnoxious, ways for Valentine to diffuse the story. Instead, he chose to insert himself into the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry just when Pitchers and Catchers were reporting. The Yankees handled the nonsense fine, but this is just the beginning.
As a result, I’ll put my money where my mouth is. Valentine is not the right manager for the Red Sox (he’s not the right manager for any baseball team, but I digress). The Red Sox will get more media attention than any other baseball team save one this season simply for being who they are. That kind of focus requires a manager like Francona, Joe Torre, or, dare I say it, even Joe Girardi, a manager who can absorb the media’s energy, without creating more of it. Valentine can’t do that. He’ll increase the team’s media scrutiny, not decrease it. It’s not clear that approach is what Boston needed during spring training, but it most certainly won’t be what they need as the marathon baseball season progresses. Boston will struggle this year, as will every other team in baseball, but unlike almost every other team, when they struggle it will be a national story line. When that media attention kicks up, Valentine will try to absorb it, but he’ll be more successful at magnifying it. At a certain point this season that approach will backfire, mark my words.
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