Tuesday may have been a rare day off for the PawSox, yet the baseball chatter never ceases …
For the point of this exercise, let’s start with the definition of the word “manage” – to bring about or succeed in accomplishing, sometimes despite difficulty or hardship.
Or to take charge or care of represents another form of usage. Or, finally, someone in a position to manage conducts business by the following means – to handle, direct, govern or control in action or use.
These interpretations, courtesy of Dictionary.com, sum up what Bobby Valentine’s job description should entail with the Red Sox. Alas, the idea of managing the 2012 edition of Boston’s baseball band of backstabbers, whistleblowers and meddlers has made Valentine’s ability to skipper the team in the fashion he sees fit more than an uphill climb.
Instead of focusing his energy on baseball-related matters, Valentine has to play the role of exterminator and sniff out the rats in the clubhouse. Instead of engaging in some playful banter with a ballplayer with the intention of taking the edge off a tense situation, Valentine has to maintain a constant vigilance in making sure one of his players – someone who wasn’t the target in the first place – doesn’t run to the principal’s office and, while sucking on his thumb, informs ownership or baseball operations that “Bobby isn’t being very nice.”
While Valentine probably feels like he’s stumbled upon No-Man’s Land, he’s certainly not the first Boston manager to feel like he’s getting pushed out to sea. Former PawSox and Red Sox manager Joe Morgan can empathize with Valentine’s current plight of getting cut off at the knees, a harsh but true state of affairs that has prevented Valentine from completely directing his attention toward the primary aspect regarding why he’s here in the first place.
“He’s certainly had a lot of problems this year with various injuries and all that,” Morgan remarked over the weekend while attending the International League Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at McCoy Stadium. “There’s always something that crops up that you don’t expect and it keeps coming at you. That’s what happens when you have a lousy year, and I’ve seen it a hundred times.”
According to page 40 of the 2012 Red Sox media guide, Valentine is listed as the Red Sox manager. So why does it feel like he’s being undermined and left holding the bag? Four months into his first year in Boston, it’s clear that the players don’t respect him, hence why the crack Valentine made about Will Middlebrooks’ defense didn’t die in the dugout.
You have to wonder, though, whether anyone in the organization truly respects Valentine – or takes the necessary steps that would alleviate some of the day-to-day headaches. The pre-programmed schedule regarding how many consecutive days Carl Crawford should play and how the skipper dispensed the information was most puzzling, yet what was even more peculiar was the reason Valentine provided in the wake of Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s absence from a game late last week.
Originally, Saltalamacchia was excused due to food poisoning. Later the story was twisted that Saltalamacchia was felled by an ear infection, a claim the catcher denied. Needless to say, Valentine came off looking like someone who barricades himself in his office and doesn’t adhere to fact-checking.
Morgan believes part of Valentine’s problem stems from players wielding too much power due to bloated salaries, which in turn creates a culture of entitlement that has created division among the ranks.
“The people upstairs should go down and tell these people, ‘Hey, here’s your manager, don’t be complaining, here’s your money, now go out and play, period,’” said the 81-year-old Morgan, proving he’s still one of the sharpest knives in the drawer.
Such a course of action should have transpired on the first day of spring training. If Mr. E-mail Extraordinaire John Henry or Larry Lucchino were to emerge from their respective ivory towers today, walk into the clubhouse and command that the Red Sox players start showing Valentine the respect that goes with being manager, they would probably be greeted by a series of blank stares.
“When I was there, egos weren’t much of a problem,” says Morgan, Boston’s manager from 1988-91. “I had some good players, but they weren’t ego guys.”
Valentine finds himself standing in the polar opposite of Morgan’s shoes, trying to save a topsy-turvy ball club that continues to resemble a soap opera with each passing day. At this point, we should simply wish Bobby V the best and hope he’s able to survive the balance of this downtrodden Red Sox season.
Jose Iglesias has eight extra base hits in 78 Triple-A games, a paltry sum that only increases the debate whether the slick-fielding shortstop is cut out for everyday major-league duty. Taking Iglesias’ woes at the plate a step further, the 22-year-old ranks second from the bottom among International League qualifiers in slugging percentage (.289) and dead last in OPS (.587).
According to Red Sox minor-league hitting instructor Victor Rodriguez, Iglesias is a prime example of never judging a book by its cover.
“This year he’s stuck with his approach and understanding what a quality plate appearance is,” Rodriguez explained. “Overall, there’s been a lot of improvement. The ball’s coming off his bat a lot better than it was in the past.
“A lot of times, kids don’t get the results they desire and want to change their approach. They believe by changing, they may have the result they want, but what happens is that they get deeper into trouble,” Rodriguez added. “He still has a ways to go, but he’s improving, especially from the mental side.”
The NBA’s compressed schedule, with 66 games in four months, was one of the main storylines during last season’s lockout-shortened campaign. These princes of the hardwood have nothing on the grind of an International League season, where 144 games are squeezed into 152 days.
A closer examination of the 2012 schedule brings to light just how demanding and compacted the travel can get for an I.L. team. Since June 30, Pawtucket has partaken in five two-game series (the total would have been upped to six had rain not washed out the July 28 contest at McCoy against Scranton).
Wednesday marks the kickoff of three consecutive two-game series for Pawtucket, the latter two taking place in Rochester and Buffalo. International League President Randy Mobley acknowledged that the goal is to minimize the number of two-game series and to specifically reserve them for divisional opponents.
“Two-game series are something we hear a lot about,” Mobley said. “At the same time, you consider all factors and it’s part of what we deal with.”
In terms of any consideration ever being given to extending the season past Labor Day, which would allow for a few more off-days to be sprinkled in, Mobley says that it’s merely wishful thinking due to major league teams being allowed to expand their active rosters up to 40 players in September.
“The player development contract between the major and minor leagues requires that all minor-league seasons be over on Labor Day,” says Mobley. “The schedule is like airline food – it’s something that you’re never happy with, but we’re always trying to make it work better.”
After holding a meeting of the minds in his office, PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler brought Red Sox and PawSox legend Wade Boggs into the middle of Pawtucket’s clubhouse Saturday. Beyeler had barely gotten done with his introduction when Boggs shouted, “Where’s Daniel Bard?”
Boggs had something he desired in the worst way to get off his chest regarding Bard, which the Hall of Fame third baseman gladly shared with the fourth estate a short time later.
“We were going over little scenarios of starting and closing … leave the kid (meaning Bard) alone and let him be the closer,” said an eager Boggs. “Let him go; he’s got it.”
Perhaps Boggs should have sat in on last fall’s meeting that resulted in Bard moving to the rotation, a switch that can be chalked up to one large mess and something in which the 27-year-old has yet to fully recover.