Valentine Era Begins for Boston
Coach Ron Meyer: Valentine Era Begins for Boston
Bobby Valentine will take the field Thursday for the first time as manager of the Boston Red Sox in a regular season game. Already there's been turmoil with the team, and the 2012 campaign hasn't started yet. I'm very interested to see how the Red Sox players handle the transition to the new manager.
It's no secret that last year's team tuned out Terry Francona in the final weeks of the season. That can happen to even the very best managers or head coaches...particularly in sports where the best players are paid so much more than the decision-makers. If a multi-millionaire wants to eat fried chicken during the game in a locker room...it can be harder to discourage that than you might imagine if the owner and general manager want to keep the players happy. Last year's Red Sox players took it too far. You can only get away with that stuff when you're winning!
Here are the concerns I have about Valentine this season:
He's got a personality that rubs a lot of people the wrong way. That's followed him wherever he's been. Even over in Japan, he got into a conflict with a higher-up, and that led to his dismissal. That may not be what the Red Sox need right now. Yes, the players have to be held accountable. But, this kind of manager can lose the respect of his players very quickly.
He's known to play hunches or make decisions in ways that make sense to him, but not to his players. We're already seeing that this Spring with the starting rotation and bullpen. Players want to see a leader in command...and a leader who's doing what's right. A manager better be RIGHT when he defies conventional wisdom. One reason Valentine's worn out his welcome in past jobs is that he wasn't right as often as he needed to be.
He's the kind of manager who likes being the center of attention. That can work in big city environments where the media scrutiny is intense. It takes a lot of the burden off the players. But, if things go well, and Valentine is seen as "taking credit" for a turnaround by grandstanding for the press, that's not going to go over well in this locker room at all.
Valentine may be best suited for leading a young team to surprising heights. Younger players are less prone to question a manager's authority or decision-making. And, that kind of team can really play well when the youngsters are focused on performing on the field while the manager keeps the media at bay. It's telling that Valentine had initial success in Japan where a language barrier kept him from annoying his players. Respect for authority is huge in the orient...which helped the best of Valentine shine through.
In Boston...this may or may not be a great fit. As a former coach who's now a handicapper, I'll be paying very close attention to how the Red Sox start the season. Things could implode right off the bat. Or, a collection of players who are embarrassed about last year may take the bull by the horns and win a lot of games.
Boston's upcoming schedule:
Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: at Detroit
Monday-Wednesday: at Toronto
Friday-Monday: vs. Tampa Bay
April 17-18: vs. Texas
April 20-22: vs. NY Yankees
What a brutal start to the season! The only non-playoff contender is Toronto, and that's on the road. We'll learn a lot about the Red Sox in these first few series. A possible implosion seems even more possible now because there's no margin for error against a schedule like that. But, if Boston plays well, it could signal a fantastic season because thriving vs. other contenders is the sign of a champion.
You may not think that a football coach is the best guy to hook up with for baseball winners. My long term record in this sport tears that argument to shreds. Thinking like a coach or manager helps you understand what causes wins and losses in any sport. Understanding what it's like to be in the thick of the pressure and drama pays off whenever and wherever there's pressure and drama! You saw how hot I could get in college basketball this year. The same thing is the norm in baseball.
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Boston will soon find out if they made the right choice in Bobby Valentine. Sports bettors KNOW they made the right choice when they sign up with COACH RON MEYER!
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