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.