Bobby Valentine looks like a man on the brink.
Going into Wednesday night (Sept. 5), the Boston Red Sox have 25 games remaining in the 2012 season. But will Bobby Valentine make it through the month of September as their manager?
The poor guy (and I say that knowing very few feel sorry for him) seems like he's ready to crack. Has this disaster of a season—with all the drama and tension that's come with it—finally broken Bobby V?
Wednesday afternoon, during his weekly appearance on Boston's WEEI, host Glenn Ordway apparently hit the wrong nerve with Valentine when he asked the Red Sox manager if he had "checked out" for the season. Valentine, as you might imagine, did not care for the line of questioning.
"What an embarrassing thing to say," said Valentine (as transcribed by WEEI.com's Alex Speier. "If I were there right now, I'd punch you right in the mouth. Ha, ha. How's that sound? Is that like I checked out? What an embarrassing thing.
"Why would somebody even, that's stuff that a comic strip person would write. If someone's here, watching me go out at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, watching me put in the right relief pitchers to get a win, putting on a hit-and-run when it was necessary, talking to the guys after the game in the food room—ahow could someone in real life say that?"
Valentine went on to call this season "miserable." He could have been talking merely about the past week.
During the Labor Day holiday weekend, Red Sox owner John Henry and general manager Ben Cherington flew out to join the team in Seattle. Henry referred to the trip as a "fact-finding" mission, during which he intended to speak with players, coaches and even reporters who cover the team about what was going wrong with the Red Sox.
Was it a coincidence that the owner and GM joined the team as it finished off a seven-game losing streak? The Red Sox had lost 11 of 14 games. For the month of August, the team had a record of 9-20.
Wins and losses aside, Valentine was giving off the distinct vibe of someone who had experienced enough losing and constant scrutiny from the media that cover the team.
When asked by reporters, including the Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson, if the then-six-game losing streak had been difficult on him, Valentine responded, "What difference does it make?"
Before Friday's (Aug. 31) loss to Oakland, as explained by WEEI's Speier, Valentine showed up to the ballpark less than three hours before game time, much later after a manager typically arrives in order to prepare for the evening's ballgame. Valentine said he was picking his son up from the airport.
The following night, Valentine had Scott Podsednik penciled in to the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Given that Podsednik was batting third for the first time in the majors, had 42 career home runs and a .381 slugging percentage, it seemed like a strange choice. But maybe Bobby V was trying something different. After all, Podsednik was batting .354 with a .790 OPS.
According to Speier, however, Valentine acted as if the decision was a frivolous one.
“Just a mistake,” Valentine told reporters. “Is that what it says on the lineup? What the (expletive). Switch it up. Who knows? Maybe it will look good. I haven’t seen it.”
Of course, he was probably being sarcastic. In Valentine's mind, perhaps he was joking. More than likely, he's probably just tired of being asked about every single decision he makes. But that's part of the job, especially when you manage the Red Sox.
To answer in such a fashion only added to the perception that Valentine just didn't care anymore, thus Ordway's asking if he was "checked out." It was hardly an out-of-bounds question to ask, though certainly a brash one.
Cherington insisted that his trip to Seattle had been planned in advance and that Henry already happened to be on the West Coast. That would make sense, as a cross-country trip simply to have breakfast seemed excessive and strained believability.
Yet their presence, along with Valentine's odd recent behavior, gave the strong impression that Valentine wasn't going to return to Boston as the manager of the Red Sox—or with the team at all.
It seems virtually certain that Valentine isn't going to be the Red Sox manager next year, even if it costs ownership a reported $2.5 million. But will he even make it through this season, especially if he believes that he's essentially a lame-duck manager, sure to be dismissed as soon as the Red Sox play their last game?
Valentine is acting like a man who's daring his bosses to fire him. Knowing that he'd get that $2.5 million from ownership and could likely go back to ESPN (or perhaps MLB Network this time) for a cushy studio or game analyst gig might make him feel like he has nothing to lose.
Of course, the failure in Boston would sting. But Valentine would surely get over it. It's not like he would be getting another major league managing gig any time soon.
The Red Sox have one more game on this West Coast trip Wednesday night. The team has a day off for travel on Thursday. Will Valentine be in the dugout when the Red Sox return to Fenway Park on Friday?
If the front office and ownership want to make a change after the season, they could just as easily do it now as well. Why not put Valentine out of his misery?
I would say "put everyone out of their misery," but Cherington, Henry and team president Larry Lucchino still have to try and clean up the mess started when Valentine was forced in as manager to begin with.
Valentine was only given a two-year contract, however, which may have been an indication that there were serious questions as to whether or not this would work. The answers happened to come far sooner than expected.
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