Just one week into the season and first-year Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine has created a virtual media frenzy in Boston by calling out clean-up hitter Kevin Youkilis on his level of effort.  Bad thing is, he did it with reporters and NOT privately with “Youk”.  Bobby, Bobby, Bobby…….you just don’t go doing something like that to one of the most beloved Red Sox players this side of Carl Yastrzemski.  “I don’t think he’s physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason,” questioned Valentine.  Youkilis said he was confused by Valentine’s comments……..so are we, Youk!

Valentine’s clarification to Youkilis the following day was even more confusing and more criticized.  Immediately, teammates rushed to Youkilis’ defense, with All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia leading the charge declaring, “I don’t know what Bobby’s trying to do, maybe that stuff works in Japan, but that’s not how we go about our stuff here”.   Valentine has always been one to draw attention to himself, but he’s gone way out of line here.  What is Bobby V trying to stir up this time?

Granted, Youkilis did hit a career low .258 in an injury-plagued season last year, and has struggled since coming off a sports hernia surgery during the offseason.  This past spring training he hit only .195 with one extra-base hit, and he’s not doing much better than that since the regular season started.  Keep in mind too that Youk is in the last year of his 4-year $41.25M contract, paying him $12.25M this year.  The club does hold a $13M option on his contract for 2013, but it’s unlikely they’ll exercise that option given all his recent health and production problems.  Kind of reminds one of the recent awkward “retirement” of 15-year Red Sox captain, catcher Jason Varitek.   When the body breaks down and can no longer give the production, it’s hard to find a way to say goodbye to a hard-nosed, mainstay player.  Still, the new-guy-on-the-block manager doesn’t get away with treating a local icon this way in the eyes of the Red Sox faithful!  Who died and made Bobby Valentine the King of Yawkey Way?

It’s no secret that Valentine is known more for his smugness and “big personality” than anything else.  Many certainly doubted the selection of the 61-year old to take over (actually just swapped jobs) for the abruptly-dismissed Terry Francona following last season’s epic collapse.  In his 15-year MLB managerial career, Bobby Valentine has won only 51% of his games……eight years with the Rangers and seven year with the Mets.  However, he did win a National League pennant with the Mets in 2000, eventually losing in the World Series to the crosstown rival Yankees in five games.  While spending seven years managing in Japan when nobody in MLB seemed to what him, he took the Chiba Lotte Marines in 2005 to their first Nippon League championship in 31 years,  His name kept popping up for managerial vacancies over the years with the Orioles, Marlins, Mets, Blue Jays, Mariners, and Brewers….but, he was never chosen.  Why now?

This won’t be the first questionable action by Valentine, and this particular one with Youkilis will not go away anytime soon, especially given the Red Sox sluggish start to the season.  Sadly, Youkilis (who now has been dropped to 6th in the order and hitting .184) has not responded well out of the blocks to Valentine’s assertion, going 0-4 with FOUR strikeouts in the Rangers’ 18-3 thrashing of Boston on April 17th.  The next night, Youkilis homered but the Sox lost again to the Rangers, 6-3.  You know, there’s only one thing that will help the Boston fans digest Bobby Valentine and his egocentric ways a little easier……….WINNING!

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