Grading Mr. Bobby Valentine
One thing is for certain two months into the baseball season: The Red Sox are playing in the image of their manager.
Sometimes they are brilliant. Sometimes they are maddening. They have a propensity to do damage to themselves. And, good or bad, they are rarely boring.
The Red Sox finally climbed Mount .500 on Tuesday, even as another vital cog in the machine, Dustin Pedroia, went down with a potentially devastating thumb injury. Just another day inside Bobby V.’s complex Complex.
So what do we make of the manager at the two-month mark?
Is Bobby V. the master baseball mind, using unconventional methods to drag untapped potential from last season’s underachievers? Or is he the village idiot, past his prime and unable to connect to today’s player, breeding mistrust, controversy and ridicule?
On one hand, Valentine was handed a fractured clubhouse, a misshapen roster and an injury bug that would not die. He still has yet to get a game from Carl Crawford and Andrew Bailey and has had 2011 MVP runner-up Jacoby Ellsbury for about five minutes.
And yet, despite the gaping holes, Valentine has prevented the ship from sinking, creatively working rookie Will Middlebrooks into the same corner infield with Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez and somehow making it work. He has gotten the likes of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Daniel Nava to take on starring roles and helped develop pitcher Felix Doubront into a reliable major league starter. There is a resiliency to this team that is absolutely playing out in the image of its manager.
But Valentine, who has never met an opinion he didn’t like, has also alienated his stars, calling out Youkilis for no apparent reason in April and incurring the wrath of Pedroia in the process. He has looked lost at times with his management of the pitching staff and seemed helpless as the inmates ran the asylum, with Josh Beckett playing golf and Daniel Bard dictating his usage.
And yet, somehow, it all appears to be coming together. Like last season, the Red Sox are shaking off a dismal start and are showing signs of making a summer run at first place.
For now, call it an incomplete for Bobby V. But maybe, just maybe, the manager’s grade for September will be a bit more favorable this time around.
The heat is off manager Bobby Valentine … for now.
Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino had this to say regarding his manager’s performance on WEEI yesterday: “I thought (Valentine) was a convenient symbol for people. I don’t think it was certainly fair to focus on him (during the early struggles).
Dustin Pedroia will “be back a lot sooner than projected,” Valentine told WEEI yesterday. Pedroia injured his right thumb Monday against Detroit.