Bobby Valentine returns to Fenway Park Wednesday for the first time since his dismissal as Red Sox manager following the 2012 season.
He will serve as an ESPN analyst for the Sox-Rangers game, speaking specifically about Japanese baseball as part of a theme for the network.
Valentine, 65 and currently the athletic director at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., is also about to open his third restaurant, oversees a successful film company that is working on three new documentaries, and owns a youth sports company and facility.
Valentine said he’s looking forward to stepping foot in Fenway again.
“I’m very excited about it,” he said. “It will be good to see the fans. The fans were always very good to me there.”
In person yes, but behind his back, not so much.
No Red Sox manager since Grady Little has taken more abuse from fans than Valentine.
Valentine endured a 2012 season in which the team collapsed after 53-51 start, going 16-42 the rest of the way. There was inner turmoil, including backlash from some veteran players. It was the most trying season of the 16 he has managed in the majors.
“I wish I had made better decisions,” Valentine said. “I basically put too much capital into the wrong products. It was a bad year, but a lot of people have had bad years. I just picked the wrong time to have one.”
Valentine added, “I got to be the manager of the 100th year at Fenway. I’m grateful for that and for the opportunity I received. I wish it had turned out better.”
When Andrew Bailey went down with an injury, Valentine had to commit to Alfredo Aceves (25 saves) as his closer.
Valentine was told to use Daniel Bard as a starter, but he insisted that Andrew Miller remain a reliever. “When I saw both Bard and Miller, I said neither one should ever pitch out of a windup,” recalled Valentine.
Miller went on to find his niche as a late-inning reliever. Bard lost his ability to throw strikes and has never been the same.
Valentine also got into a war of words with Kevin Youkilis that season.
Valentine had said in a Channel 7 interview, “I don’t think [Youkilis is] as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past, for some reason. But [on Saturday] it seemed, you know, he’s seeing the ball well, got those two walks, got his on-base percentage up higher than his batting average, which is always a good thing, and he’ll move on from there.”
Which prompted Dustin Pedroia to say, “I don’t know what Bobby’s trying to do. But that’s not how we go about our stuff here.”
Youkilis, who never got going that year, was traded to the White Sox in late June.
The players and staff offered their thoughts on Valentine at a meeting John Henry called in New York before a series in July. But Henry and Sox ownership kept backing Valentine publicly.
The Red Sox, specifically Larry Lucchino, had hired Valentine because they wanted a firmer hand running the team after the epic September collapse of 2011, when Terry Francona admitted he lost control of the team.
But Ben Cherington, the new general manager at the time, wasn’t ever on the same page with Valentine’s tougher, old-school methods.
Cherington had been leaning toward Dale Sveum to manage the team but was steered in Valentine’s direction after Sveum was hired by the Cubs.
The Red Sox traded stars Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers in an infamous salary dump in late August, which left Valentine with essentially a Triple A team for the rest of the season. It resulted in a 69-win campaign and the first of two last-place finishes in the next three years, the other managed by John Farrell.
Asked if he missed baseball, Valentine said, “I love my life. I’m doing a lot of things, running a major college program and all of my outside business interests. I’m very lucky to have had the life I’ve had. I’ve been able to do a lot of things and enjoyed every moment. I’ve had a few calls about baseball things, but nothing I felt I wanted to do. There are times I do miss putting on the uniform.”
Valentine won 1,186 games, 43d on the all-time list. He managed the Rangers, Mets, and Red Sox. He led the Mets to the 2000 National League pennant, but lost the World Series to the Yankees.
Valentine also managed the Chiba Lotte Marines and led them to a Japan Series championship.
Valentine was a tremendous athlete in his day.
The fifth overall selection of the Dodgers in the 1968 draft, he made his major league debut at age 19 for the Dodgers, but tore up his leg while jumping for a fly ball in Anaheim in 1973, suffering a compound fracture that never healed properly.
After being an analyst with ESPN, he ended a 10-year layoff from managing with the Red Sox. But it ended after just one season.
“I never had a chance to navigate through some of the things there,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s because I didn’t have enough time, but it didn’t work out.”
Time for the Rockies to trade Tulowitzki
Before the Red Sox made a flurry of offseason moves that led to a World Series championship in 2013, they were approached about Troy Tulowitzki, but nothing ever came of it as Rockies owner Dick Monfort in the end wanted no part of dealing his star player.
And the Rockies continue to hold on to an asset they should have moved long ago when Tulowitzki’s value was highest. But even after comments made Thursday by Tulowitzki that he won’t ask for a trade, it appears something may happen before this season’s deadline.
Former Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd, now a commentator on MLB Network, said that because Tulowitzki is a “high-waisted infielder,” he makes unique throws from unique angles and therefore puts tremendous strain on his joints.
O’Dowd believes Tulowitzki, who played just 264 games from 2012-14, would stay healthier in a different location. Injuries, and the $109 million remaining on his contract, would be problematic in trying to deal him. But there’s growing sentiment he will be moved because he’s an impact player.
Based on which teams could give the Rockies the desired players in return, the Nationals and Red Sox appear 1 and 2. The Nationals have Ian Desmond, but he’ll be a free agent and isn’t having a good season. The Nationals will get a shortstop (Trea Turner) as the player to be named in the three-team deal with the Rays and Padres in which Wil Myers went to San Diego.
The Red Sox probably wouldn’t dip their toes into the Tulowitzki hunt with their commitment to Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. They also need to devote resources to their pitching issues. But again, the Red Sox have the young talent to do a deal.
The Mariners appear to be a fit. They’ve got Brad Miller and Chris Taylor at shortstop. Enough said. Put Tulowitzki in a lineup with Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager, and now we’re talking. The Mariners are built to win now. They got off to a terrible start but have begun to play like the team many prognosticators picked to get to the World Series.
Other teams prominently mentioned with regard to Tulowitzki are the Rays and Yankees. The Yankees don’t appear as good a fit as the Mets, who have the pitchers to trade and are struggling with Wilmer Flores as their shortstop. The Yankees are also saying no.
The Rays have the pieces to deal but not the financial means, unless there’s a big nugget swallowed by the Rockies. The Cardinals, Padres, Angels, Dodgers, and Giants have been mentioned as well.
While Tulowitzki is a shortstop, there could be a scenario in which he’d be asked to move to third base.
Apropos of nothing
1. Red Sox infield coach Brian Butterfield is starting to see more of an effort by hitters to go the other way against the shift. “I’m seeing it in batting practice where guys are really trying to send a ball middle-in the other way,” Butterfield said. But still, there’s a vacant part of the field, and a bunt or half-swing would give the batter an automatic hit. “Some guys who are paid to drive the ball in the gaps and hit home runs are still trying to do that,” said Butterfield. “If they see three guys on one side they’re still not trying to hit the ball on the ground the other way and are still trying to hit the ball in the gaps for extra bases. Some guys that haven’t bunted before are bunting, and that can work, too. We’ve told our guys that all an advance scout has to see is one successful bunt attempt and you’ll end up getting one of your lanes back. That advance scout will go back and say, ‘Look, until two strikes he’ll attempt a bunt down the third base line, so you have to honor that until two strikes.’ ’’
2. John Farrell says the two hitters the Red Sox have had to change their defensive positioning the most for are Baltimore’s Ryan Flaherty (currently on the disabled list) and Texas’s Mitch Moreland, whom the Sox will face Tuesday-Thursday.
3. The Phillies continue to scout the Red Sox farm system and have spent the last six days with Double A Portland. The Phillies have a plethora of players to sell, including Cole Hamels, Aaron Harang, Jonathan Papelbon, Ben Revere, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, and Chase Utley (if he ever hits).
4. The Dodgers through Thursday had gone 1,231 straight games without a home rainout.
5. The fear in Kansas City is that the Royals’ excellent bullpen is going to wear down because their starting pitching has been so poor of late. Though the Royals will not pull the trigger yet on a trade for starter, team scouts are on the lookout for low-cost starters. They also hope that Jason Vargas comes back strong from his injury.
6. One of the biggest surprises in baseball: Manny Machado with eight errors (six throwing) at third base.
7. Of the first 181 batters Madison Bumgarner faced this season, only 14 were lefthanded.
Updates on nine
1. Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers — Hamilton is expected to rejoin the Rangers within a week. The question is, do the Rangers want him to make that return in Boston or New York? Hamilton could play the final game of the Boston series on Thursday, or wait until Friday at Yankee Stadium.
2. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies — Troy Tulowitzki isn’t the only Rockies player who could go. Gonzalez has gotten off to a poor start, but his winning three-run homer last week may pick up his game and improve his trade value. Gonzalez is another favorite of owner Dick Monfort, and another player who could bring a good haul.
3. Addison Reed, RHP, Diamondbacks — It’s been a head-scratching demise for Reed, who is 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA and blown two saves in 11 appearances. One NL talent evaluator said, “He’s just in one of those ruts right now where he’s not finishing off his pitches, repeating his delivery. His mechanics aren’t good and sometimes you’re just fighting yourself, and that’s what appears to be happening.” The Diamondbacks are trying to stick with him, but setup man Brad Ziegler may soon get the chance to close.
4. Kyle Lohse, RHP, Brewers — Scouts who have watched his starts believe he just needs “a change of scenery” to get locked in. Lohse could be had immediately as the Brewers are likely ready to sell. Matt Garza also falls into that category.
5. Mike Leake, RHP, Reds — There has been a lot of interest in the Reds by scouts, and that will only intensify. Johnny Cueto remains the prize for most contending teams as a rental because he’s making a reasonable $10 million. His acquisition cost will be high, and then his signability is the major issue. But Leake “may get more looks than anyone,” according to one scout because “he’s having an outstanding year and translates well to the American League.” He also makes a tad under $10 million and his signability long term is much better than Cueto.
6. Jorge De La Rosa, LHP, Rockies — De La Rosa had a slow start because of a groin injury but the veteran will garner some interest as he improves and shows more consistency. De La Rosa re-signed quickly with the Rockies last offseason for a two-year deal worth $25 million probably because he’s 45-15 with a 4.16 ERA at Coors Field. That’s tough to do.
7. Tim Lincecum, RHP, Giants — Despite a bit of a comeback by the two-time Cy Young winner, the Giants are still concerned about Lincecum’s command issues. He had 19 walks in his first 40⅔ innings, but the Giants can’t complain about his 3-2 record and 2.43 ERA.
8. Dan Haren, RHP, Marlins — He’s appearing on trade lists all around baseball because he’s having a good season (4-2, 3.70 ERA, 1.089 WHIP). Those who have him on their lists are also watching the standings. Will the Marlins contend enough where they’ll be looking to add rather than sell? Below .500, one would think the Marlins need to pick it up big time with the Nationals and Mets ahead of them. Don’t forget, Haren wanted to play for a West Coast team before being traded to the Marlins. He also contemplated retiring. The Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Athletics, Diamondbacks, and Padres could all have a need by the trading deadline.
9. Barry Bonds, retired — So, what does Bonds have on Major League Baseball in his collusion case? It’s a sensitive issue and will be handled by the Players Association. Bonds contends MLB conspired to keep him out of baseball following the 2007 season.
From the Bill Chuck files — “In the 162 games between the start of the 2012 season and May 21, 2013, Allen Craig hit .307 with 24 homers, 123 RBIs, and an OPS of .856. In the 162 games between Aug. 23, 2013, and May 9, 2015, Craig hit .220 with 10 homers, 55 RBIs, and an OPS of .603.” . . . Also, “Julio Franco at 56 is the player-manager for the Ishikawa Million Stars in Japan’s semi-professional Baseball Challenge League and is hitting .333.” . . . Happy birthday, Carlos Pena (37).Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.