With 3 and a half months since being hired and only a couple weeks until first pitch of the 2012 campaign, it’s time to take a look at the impact so far and going forward, of Bobby Valentine. I feel that I should preface this article by mentioning that I did not (and still do not) like this hiring by the Red Sox and have never really understood the love for Valentine’s personality from a management stand point. Never mind the fact that he is the one person on Earth who could make me long for the days of Joe Morgan on Sunday Night Baseball.
That being said, Bobby V does get some props in my book for actually trying to take an active approach to managing this team that is in desperate need of an image overhaul. The only problem is that this approach only works if it actually helps the team, not just puts a nice public relations spin on real issues that should have been discussed with the team. There is no doubt in my mind that banning beer in the club house was for the image of the team, as Terry Francona said a couple weeks ago. Now, I don’t claim to know anything about how a baseball clubhouse works, but in my opinion, the best way to reach a middle ground with the players would just simply say no beer or hanging out in the clubhouse during the actual game. The problem with that scenario is that you don’t get the full support of the Pink Hat fans, who have and less understanding of things than I do.
Coming into spring training, we all knew that Valentine loves the media, and loves the media loving him. What this means is that we will presumably get more information on players than Francona would offer up after someone sits for a day or is pulled from a start. The issue is that Valentine loves people talking about him and why he is doing certain things with his team. Take one of his first quotes after taking the job, “it’s one of the manager’s jobs to make those who are uncomfortable comfortable. And the other job is to make those that are too comfortable uncomfortable, I guess.” I do agree with this in some scale. You do want to make a guy like Carl Crawford comfortable so he can be productive this season, but I would not make 3-4 other guys who are hitting well “uncomfortable” for the sake of one player. Throughout the spring, Bobby has used many different versions of what a starting lineup may look like. I understand wanting players to be aware that they may be in different spots in the line up occasionally, but at some point in the spring, you need to establish a normal routine for your starters so you enter the regular season in a sort of rhythm.
The most confusing move this spring, however, has been the Daniel Bard transition to starter. The decision itself to move Bard to the rotation seemed to be an organizational decision, not just Bobby V’s, so I won’t make that part of the article. (I do happen to agree with Nick in that Bard should stay in the pen. Read his thoughts here). What I will talk about, though, is how Valentine has handled Bard’s transition. Bard had made a few starts normally this spring, with 5 shutout innings in his previous 2 starts, as he adapted to learning a starting pitcher’s routine. Right as it seemed Bard was getting his game-day schedule down, Bobby V had Bard come out of the pen in the 6th inning in a game against the Cardinals. Bard got rocked in that outing. Bard said he had been readying himself for that game like his other starts this season, but then found out he would be in the pen. If Valentine wants Bard to go back to the pen, thats fine. If Valentine wants Bard in the rotation, have at it. But a decision needs to be made as to where he will start the season and get him on that routine.
What Valentine has done this spring seems to indicate that he is too concerned with “shaking things up” and keeping players on their toes to be ready for any situation, whereas the MLB season is probably the most routine professional sport season there can be. Decisions on the line-up, rotation, and bull-pen need to be made now so everyone can adjust and be set to go at 1:05 on Thursday, April 5th in Detroit.