Bobby V!

A 3-game winning streak has a way of making one feel much better about things. The Red Sox have taken the first 3 of a 4-game series against Tampa Bay by bashing some of the best young starters in the game. Today’s annual Patriots Day game starts at 11:05 am with the Red Sox looking for the series sweep.

What has been making the rounds early today is manager Bobby Valentine’s comments about Kevin Youkilis after Sunday’s win. Here they are: “I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason but it seemed, you know, he’s seeing the ball well, got those two walks (referring to Sunday’s game), got his on-base percentage up higher than his batting average, which is always a good thing, and he’ll move on from there.”

Youkilis has gotten off to a terrible start, but is 6 for his last 18 and the Red Sox have won 3 in a row. It sure seems like a curious time to be calling out your starting 3rd baseman. And before delving into why Valentine said this, let’s just acknowledge the stark contrast between Terry Francona and Valentine. Never, ever would Francona call out a player like that yet just 9 games into the season Valentine is doing so with Youkilis.

For his part, Youkilis expressed “confusion” about the comments and said that he and Valentine talked about it this morning (Monday) but didn’t elaborate on what was discussed.

This is an obvious attempt, like a 2×4 to the head obvious, at motivating Youkilis but it is an interesting way of doing so, especially when you run the risk of “losing” the player. Additionally, Valentine just got here this year, how much could he possibly know about Youkilis’ past physical and emotional commitment?

Let’s watch the next week and see how Youkilis performs. There is likely to be resentment on his part regardless of how he does but if he does poorly, he can point to Valentine being a mega distraction and if he does well, he is likely to feel the resentment of a manager saying “I told you so.”

=======Update=======
WEEI has some more fallout from Valentine’s comments. They provided this response from Dustin Pedroia: “I know Youk plays as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen in my life. I have his back and his teammates have his back. We know how hard he plays. I don’t really understand what Bobby’s trying to do but that’s really not the way we go about our stuff here. I’m sure he’ll figure that out soon. We’ve got Youk’s back, he’s played his butt off for us for a long time. Anytime he steps on the field, he’s a great player. We’re here to win and we’re here to win with him.”

Asked about Valentine’s comments being motivational in nature Pedroia said: “Maybe in Japan or something. Over here in the U.S. we’re on a three-game winning streak, we want to feel good and keep it rolling. We feel we have a good team and we’ve just got to get each other’s backs and play together. Because if you don’t do that, I don’t care what sport you are playing, you’re not going to win. I’ll talk to Bobby and talk to everybody. We’ll figure it out.”

Wow, that’s a player basically saying his manager isn’t doing things the right way. Strong comments from Pedroia. But, in just a few hours since Valentine’s quote floated out, the team is coming to the defense of Youkilis, in essence bringing the team together. Was that Valentine’s M.O.? Probably, but aren’t there other ways of doing this?

=======Update # 2=======

Bobby V has apologized directly to Youkilis. You can read it here in Gordon Edes ESPN Boston column.

I suppose there is some sincerity behind the apology and maybe this is just a case of Bobby not remembering how rabid the media (and bloggers) can be. I can’t speak to Youkilis’ swing, but there is some truth to the fact he hasn’t had a dugout temper tantrum yet…