Word broke last night that Bobby Valentine would be the next manager of the Boston Red Sox. At Getting Blanked, we’ve often discussed the difficulty that exists in attempting to measure the value that a manager brings to a team. While such intangible things as morale certainly do exist and fall under the manager’s purview, they’re impossible to calculate.
As such, it’s somewhat silly to attempt to predict how Valentine’s leadership will affect the Red Sox roster. What we can expect from Boston’s new manager is something that’s perhaps under appreciated by most pundits and that’s his lack of predictability when it comes to in-game decisions. Valentine is the guy at the poker table who will bluff just as often he’ll pull a great hand.
Here’s what others are saying about the Red Sox newest hire:
Baseball players play the games, so it stands to reason that they’re the ones responsible for winning and losing … When all is said and done, the Boston Red Sox are the same team they were yesterday. A better result in 2012 will be achieved by playing better baseball. Better health wouldn’t hurt either. Come to think of it, does Valentine have any medical training?
The Red Sox have become the George Steinbrenner Yankees, and now they have their Billy Martin, a combustible manager as likely to throw the organization into further chaos as he is to bring championship glory. Valentine is ingenious and inflammatory, and his greatest detractors would add insincere.
But his supporters — and I fall much more into this subset — recognize Valentine is a brilliant tactician, as good an evaluator of talent as there is in the game, a maestro at deploying the strengths of a full 25-man roster, a tireless worker, an independent thinker and a competition junkie. He also is a riveting personality, a human carnival who doesn’t do boring.
From Tim Kurkijan of ESPN:
Yet for all his interests in so many things, baseball is what he knows best and loves most. He is fascinated by it: what players think, what makes them better. What’s the best way to make a tag? How do you shield the ball from the sun? He is as observant as anyone you will ever meet, constantly looking for ways to get the most from players.
He has no patience for some of the clichéd teaching techniques today, and the common misconceptions about the game. Tell him about the “squish the bug” technique that youth hitting coaches teach, and he will squash that theory. No one “swings down on the ball,” he says, and he says there is no black on home plate, so the pitch can’t be “on the black.” He says that pitchers don’t get “on top of the ball.” That’s impossible; their hand is on the side of the ball. And don’t start him on the “checked swing rule,” or the “check swing rule,” because he says, “there is no rule in the rule book for a checked swing. People don’t even know what it is. They don’t even know how to pronounce it. So how can you call it?”
From Rob Neyer of SB Nation:
The numbers can take you only so far. If you’re a Red Sox fan, about all you can do is hope because you really can’t know. If you’re the rest of us, though, you should be absolutely thrilled that the Boston Red Sox have hired Bobby Valentine. Whatever you might think of Bobby Valentine, you have to agree that the American League’s going to be a lot more interesting with him than without him.
The one area of concern I still have stems from the way in which Valentine became a candidate in the first place. He was clearly the owners’ choice. He was clearly imposed on new GM Ben Cherington. As such, if there ever comes a time when Cherington and Valentine have a dispute as to how best to use and deploy Red Sox’ personnel, you have to figure Valentine — knowing that John Henry and Larry Lucchino have his back — won’t back down. To the extent the story of Boston’s success over the past decade has been a function of the Epstein/Cherington brain trust calling the shots and Terry Francona dutifully implementing it, this could mark a shift. Though to be fair, we don’t know that Henry and Lucchino weren’t calling more shots over this time than has been generally accepted. Maybe it’s an old dynamic.
Now imagine you play for the Red Sox. You’re coming off a dispiriting September collapse that has been dissected from every angle for two months. Your new manager is a brilliant strategist, yes, but also a man who can keep you guessing, who often imparts layers of meaning to everything he says. You will wonder what he’s thinking, and why.
If you’re smart – and if Valentine has enough disciples to spread his word in the clubhouse – you will take advantage of one of the brightest minds in the game. Most of all, you will pay attention, and for a talented team trying to shake the ghosts of September, that is a pretty good start.
And The Rest
The Toronto Blue Jays have expressed some interest in young, controllable Kansas City Royals reliever Greg Holland.
Baseball America’s Jim Callis shares with us some more details about the MLB first year player draft under the new collective bargaining agreement.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Jayson Stark speaks with the head of the players’ union about the new deal with the owners.
The Texas Rangers have hired Greg Maddux as a special assistant to the general manager.
The Detroit Tigers are interested in Los Angeles Angels infielder Macier Izturis.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are attempting to rival the Arizona Diamondbacks for having the most expensive mediocre middle infield in the league.
For the fantasy nerds out there, Tom Tango has released the results of the annual forecasters’ challenge.
Finally, it’s Gary Sheffield in our building, and no one even let us know: