Mutiny In Boston?

Bobby_Valentine
Bobby Valentine, Photo: Keith Allison

Back in April, Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, in his typical outspoken Bobby V way said of a struggling 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.”
 
The comment set off a firestorm. Fellow teammate Dustin Pedroia commented, “I really don’t know what Bobby is trying to do. That’s not the way we go about our stuff around here. He’ll figure that out. The whole team is behind Youk. We have each other’s backs here.” He added, “Maybe that works in Japan.”
 
A report from Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan yesterday said that there was a meeting between players and ownership in late July, after starting pitcher Jon Lester had a terrible July 22 start against Toronto, and Bobby left him in the game to allow 11 runs and four home runs. The story states that First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Pedroia and others met with ownership, saying that some players no longer wanted to play for Bobby.
 
However, the story also said, “The perception that Valentine is being scapegoated unfairly to divert attention from mediocre performances by star players exists among some players, according to sources.”
 
As often happens when a successful team begins going downhill, locker rooms become divided, and that seems to be what’s happening here, with the manger being in the middle.
 
As Pedroia stated, Japanese culture is indeed quite different than the culture in the Boston Red Sox organization. But the Boston Red Sox owners, John Henry and Larry Lucchino knew what they were getting in Bobby. He’s a different kind of bird than Terry Francona was. Now though, team ownership may be beginning to think it made a mistake in hiring Valentine by allowing team players to go around the embattled manager to talk directly to them. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before said manager is on the outsies.
 
Publicly, the owners support Bobby, but allowing the players to go around him was a curious move. Regardless though, it’s clear that Bobby Valentine’s style takes more of a 20th century approach to the job. The problem is that we’re in the 21st century. A century where players, not managers run the show. Managers are supposed to do their job while being respectful of players as equals, not as it was “back in the day” where players were underlings to all-powerful managers who ruled with iron fists.
 
What’s really interesting to me about the collapse of the Red Sox is that Yankee fans are upset too. While many of them revel in the collapse of the Bosox, almost as many lament the fact that their rivals can’t muster up the fight to be worthy of the challenge they usually present. If the Yankees do triumph, many feel that it will be a hollow victory.
 
From Red Sox fans, opinions are mixed. Here’s an interesting viewpoint from Matthew Kory of the Red Sox blog, “Over The Monster”, who thinks the Yahoo article is overblown, writing today, “These articles will give us the illusion of knowledge. But we won’t know the whole picture.” He added on Twitter, “If Passan’s story proves anything it’s that we don’t know the inner workings of the clubhouse. His story hasn’t changed that, by the way.”
 
Whether the situation is overblown or not, to me, it seems that Bobby Valentine is more suited for managing in Japan, where players jump when the manager tells them to. It’s because of the Japanese culture, which is more respectful of authority than here in the U.S. That doesn’t mean they are “20th century” there. It just means they have different values. Values that allow managers to be mean and impersonal in their motivational techniques. Something which Bobby Valentine is well known for. But as for managing in the U.S., as Dustin Pedroia said, “That’s not the way we go about our stuff around here.” At least not any more.

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