Well, we are nine games into Bobby V's tenure as manager of the Red Sox and he has already made one of his trademark "throw a player under a bus" comments to the media. Valentine told WHDH-TV on Sunday in regards to Kevin Youkilis that, "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason". Youkilis responded this morning by stating, "I'm more surprised than anything. That's not what I see. I go out every day and play as hard as I can. The only time my emotion has ever been questioned is when I've been too emotional." Dustin Pedroia, upon getting to the clubhouse this morning fired back at Bobby V saying, "I really don't know what Bobby is trying to do but that's not the way we go about our stuff around here. Maybe that works in Japan".
Now that the Patriot's Day lineups have been released, we see that Youkilis is not in the lineup, and instead Nick Punto is hitting 7th and playing 3B. Clearly Youk did something to piss Bobby V off. We officially have our second Red Sox controversy of the season (first being should we move Bard back to the closer, answered by Fettuccine nailing home two saves recently) - a rite of spring up there with red-breasted robins and The Masters. The Sox media and Twitter are buzzing around this story like flies on a hambone left in the sun.
**Update***: Bobby V's response during his media briefing this morning, "There's a perception that I'm going to criticize players in the paper or in the press, so as soon as I say something that's construed as criticism, it's going to be misinterpreted. I totally apologized. The last thing I want Youk to think is that I was questioning him." It was not a managerial tactic, Valentine said, "That wasn't meant to motivate." Valentine initially approached Youkilis about a groin that was sore on Sunday, which is why Youkilis is out of the lineup, according to Valentine. Sounds like Bobby V is back-pedaling faster than Darrelle Revis. No no! Nothing to see here! We're fine! Youk's groin is tweaked, nothing more!
A few takeaways from my perspective, before the Valentine remarks this morning:
- Youkilis seems to be Valentine's first target. First Youk got benched after two games and two 0-fers. Now he gets ripped in the media before being told to his face. Now he gets benched again. Does Valentine think that ripping a player motivates them to prove him wrong? Or can he just not filter his mouth when being interviewed by the press? It will be interesting to see how Youk responds on the field and in the batters box. Will the added thoughts rattling around in his huge cranium affect him? Or will he just keep being Youk?
- I read the readers' comments under a boston.com story earlier in the season when Youk was really struggling and they were saying they thought he was the snitch last year about the chicken and beer and they thought Youk was a whiner about being moved back to 3B and his teammates don't like him. Did Bobby V sense a disconnect with Youk and decide to put his thumb on it early in the season? Or was that all wild speculation on the part of the boston.com readers? Probably the latter.
- Is there something going on off the field that the rest of us don't know about? Is Youk going out and getting drunk at night too often a la Ozzie Guillen? Is he over-weight? Has he refused to take extra grounders at 3B that Babby V wants? The way Pedroia immediately fired back a protective comment almost felt like he was over-reacting, a little too much "there's nothing to see here! Move along people!"
- Speaking of Pedroia's quote, I found it fascinating. I love that it shows the leadership role that Pede has assumed with Varitek's retirement. They should just get it over with and affix a "C" onto his jersey. Love that guy. But I also find it interesting that Pedroia would play the "maybe it worked in Japan" card already. Maybe this is indicative of an underlying resentment at the way Valentine approaches the job with some of the old guard Sox players. Like if they would really tell the truth, they hated Valentine's spring training regimen and don't like the way he does a lot of things. Or maybe Bobby V wanted Pedroia to say something exactly like that to rally the players together under a common banner? Maybe he felt a disconnect in the clubhouse that might be fixed by uniting under a 'that's not how we do business' motto? Or maybe I'm over-analyzing. Well if you can't over-analyze on a blog meant for just that, where can you?
- Finally, Youk is in the last year of his contract, and even though the team has an option for 2013, with Will Middlebrooks fast becoming ready to play at the major league level, I would bet this is the last year in Boston for Youkilis. Especially since that option would cost $13 million for a player with declining skills. But if they are trying to audition him for a mid-season or off-season trade, then why decrease his value by saying he doesn't work as hard any more? There is no way that Youk isn't our primary 3B at least until the trade deadline, and most likely all of 2012, so why start ripping him on April 16?