On Sunday, ESPN writer Gordon Edes reported that Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine placed blame for his strained relationship with Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis strictly on Youkilis.
Per Edes, these strained relations stem from April 15th, when Valentine went on WHDH-TV and said: “I don’t think [Youkilis is] as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.”
Sunday, Valentine all but removed himself from any responsibility for Youkilis growing upset by his own manager’s public chastisement toward him.
"I think the comment I made early, [Youkilis] made a big issue out of,” Valentine said, “and I don't think he ever wanted to get over it.”
Well, no kidding.
Frankly, as a baseball writer and fan, this entire spectacle turns my stomach. It is a testament to how immature, arrogant, testosterone-driven leadership can destroy an organization.
Let’s break this ridiculous debacle down for a second.
Since replacing Terry Francona, Valentine has loomed larger over the Red Sox than the actual players who take the field for him.
It seems like nearly every day there is some snippet somewhere about him.
Vowing to clean up Boston’s veteran-dominated clubhouse, Valentine went on public airwaves and questioned Youkilis—a man whose fingerprints are all over Beantown’s baseball success the past decade.
Youkilis came up with the Red Sox. Youkilis grew up with the Red Sox. And Youkilis was the heart and soul of the Red Sox team that climbed from misery to their first World Series win since 1918. Three years later, this three-time All-Star helped Boston win the World Series again.
Yet Valentine scratches his head, wondering how Youkilis could take offense to his own manager using a microphone to malign a player. And Valentine wonders why he was unable to get peak performance out of Youkilis afterward.
Now, there are some Red Sox fans who said Youkilis is to blame for his inability to deal with a new sheriff in town. And the product in the end was a disgruntled, washed up, shell of a once-excellent baseball player.
And what have you done for me lately—on to the next one—Will Middlebrooks came up just in time and turned heads with his outstanding play.
Yet there are other Red Sox fans that saw Valentine’s treatment toward Youkilis as nothing less than asinine.
These fans knew there was more than meets the eye in this situation. They also knew Youkilis was grateful to the Red Sox. Last, these fans realized Youkilis gave his heart and soul to Boston.
This is reflected in Youkilis' letter to Red Sox Nation, which you can read via ESPN Boston.
This could also explain why Youkilis received a standing ovation at Fenway Park during his last game in a Red Sox uniform in June.
Of course, some apologetic types might say this was Red Sox fans just being nice.
I doubt this.
I also doubt Youkilis is washed up. Last check, Youkilis is 33. And since joining the White Sox, Youkilis has looked recharged, to say the least.
He has raised his batting average nearly 20 points since joining the White Sox. In the last 10 games, Youkilis is batting .333 (13-for-39) with three home runs and 12 RBI.
By watching Youkilis play, one gets the impression he has let the unfortunate situation in Boston go.
''I got nothing about any of that stuff,'' Youkilis said in response to Valentine’s above comment (per the Associated Press). ''I'm over all the Boston thing of this year. There is a lot of great past history, but the focus is on the White Sox.''
Good for Youkilis.
Unlike Valentine, Youkilis is not looking in the rear-view mirror for more drama.
But I bet you there is one thing Youkilis is looking forward to: haunting the Red Sox for years to come.
This, as Boston muddles along—losers of seven of its last 10 games—wondering what to do next.