Bobby Valentine: Kevin Youkilis is not “physically or emotionally into the game”

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Bobby Valentine went on a local radio show in Boston last night and said this about Kevin Youkilis:

“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.”

This is exactly what people are talking about when they say that Bobby Valentine is going to be trouble in Boston.  It’s a comment that, in and of itself, isn’t the biggest problem in the world.  A sports radio guy or a columnist might make it and no one would think a thing about it. It may be even true on some level too.

But it is not the kind of thing a team’s manager should ever say publicly about one of his players. The manager should be the one guy in the world who protects his players. He is the one guy who should be in the business of defusing controversies, not creating them. If a manager suggests there is a problem with a player, people will quite reasonably take it seriously.

Flash forward an hour or so from now. It’s an early start in Boston for Patriot’s Day, so it will be hard enough for players to get prepared. Youkilis will have to sit at his locker with an army of reporters there, however, explaining that yes, he is emotionally into the game right now despite what his manager said on the radio last night.  He will have to diplomatically sidestep questions from the press about why his manager might think that he’s not ready to play right now. It is probably the last thing he friggin’ wants, and it’s 100% created by the one guy who is supposed to have his back.

Bobby Valentine was hired by the Red Sox because there was a crazy media firestorm going on that led to the firing of Terry Francona.  It’s remarkable, then, that his primary contribution to the Boston Red Sox thus far is to create little media firestorms like this.

UPDATE: The beat reporters have started talking to Youkilis. His first comment: that he was “surprised and confused” by Valentine’s comments and that he heard from his agent about it last night.  Players talk about not liking distractions. This is what they mean. Youkilis probably just wanted to watch “Mad Men” last night and go to sleep, come to the park today and think about getting back on track. Instead he had to deal with this garbage.

UPDATE II:  Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia have responded more fully. Valentine said a moment ago that he has apologized to Youkilis. He said he did not mean that to be a motivational thing. Rather, he was simply asked about Youkilis and answered the question. He said the “physical” aspect of his comment was about his swing. And the “emotional” aspect was about Youkilis’ reactions to bad at bats, breaking bats, etc.

So, it’s probably over now. At least until the next time.

Matthew Stafford audibles with “Kershaw! Kershaw!”

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Last night the Detroit Lions played the New York Giants. During the game Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford called an audible. The call itself referenced Stafford’s childhood friend and high school baseball teammate, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. From the Freep:

Matthew Stafford stepped to the line of scrimmage late in the third quarter and surveyed the Giants defense.

With five pass rushers across the front and three Giants cornerbacks showing a press-man look, Stafford looked at his two receivers to the left and invoked the name of his childhood friend, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

“Give me Kershaw here, Kershaw,” Stafford said, repeating his friend’s name two more times as he spun around at the line of scrimmage.

The audible did not result in a pick-4 to Aaron Altherr. It called for a run up the middle. And it worked nicely, gaining eight yards.

You may suggest the results of other starting pitcher-themed audibles in the comments. I’ll start: “Harvey! Harvey!” is where the QB fakes a handoff, drops back, looks deep and then his arm falls completely off. Damndest thing.

Matt Harvey has a 13.19 ERA since coming back from the disabled list

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Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.

Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.

Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.

Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.

Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.