Everything Bobby Valentine does is calculated. He’s been that way ever since the public has gotten to know him as a manager and baseball personality. He’s a well-educated man who has made his career studying, analyzing and predicting. It should come as no surprise when he adopts the same principles in dealing with people. No matter what situation you put Bobby Valentine in, he’s going to access it, identify what needs to be done and follow the course that he thinks is best, without apology.
The Red Sox and their fans knew what they were getting when they hired him, and the stirring of controversy two weeks into the season is simply a validation that he is, in fact, the same man everybody thought he was.
However, there is a simple fact that gets lost amidst the clamor of injustice and audacity. Bobby Valentine is a self-centered manager. Not in the sense that he only does what’s best for himself, but simply that he likes to put himself at the center of attention. Many Red Sox fans are currently finding this to be an abrasive trait, especially after the laid back years led by Terry Francona, but the truth is, Valentine’s way is actually better for his players.
A perfect example of this occurred a couple of days ago when he publicly questioned the motivation of Kevin Youkilis, one of the team’s hardest-working players. Red Sox players were offended. Red Sox Nation was appalled, but Bobby Valentine was just doing what he has always done, and he wasn’t in the wrong.
A natural side effect of Bobby Valentine’s self-centered style is that he deflects attention from his players. The media and fans were all over him in response to the comments about Youkilis. Look closely at the reaction and it’s easy to see why Valentine was onto something.
The comment was not designed to make Youkilis motivate himself, as some people have suggested. It was about taking his mind away from his struggles.
Kevin Youkilis is an aging player at a demanding position who hasn’t proven that he can stay healthy. He’s in the last year of his contract with the only team he has ever played for and his production is dipping. Yet, once Bobby Valentine opened his mouth, the casual fan would have thought that Youkilis was the reigning MVP off to a torrid start. The entire Red Sox team, the fanbase and the media all hurried to Youkilis' defense. Articles and quotes were released discussing how good Youkilis is and how he is the heart and soul of the team.
The one thing nobody was mentioning? The poor production and realistic possibility that Kevin Youkilis may be near the end of a great career.
Most people liken Kevin Youkilis to past Red Sox fan favorite Trot Nixon. Trot was also a fanatical worker and skilled player who brought tremendous energy and solid production despite not fitting the aesthetic of a professional athlete. He also played every inning like it was his last. Consequently, Nixon’s body started to wear down early, leading to his retirement at the age of 34. Who’s to say that Youkilis isn’t far behind?
In today’s world of intense media scrutiny and harassment of players, these are the type of connections that do not go unnoticed or unasked. Yet, Bobby Valentine was able to take all that away. If he had defended Youkilis, people would have questioned whether or not he was covering up a real problem. If he had remained silent, the attention would have eventually turned to Youkilis after another bad game or two. Instead, Valentine made himself the focus of the spotlight. He made it all about him.
Like it or not, it's what Valentine does and he does it well.