Seemingly out of thin air, Sox manager Bobby Valentine chose to criticize the work ethic of Kevin Youkilis in the media. Bobby Vee’s controversial comments about the third baseman followed a three-game winning streak during which his team scored 31 runs, causing fans and media alike to wonder what his motivation is for making such claims in the public eye rather than behind closed doors.
Why now, Bobby? Your team just reeled off three straight wins against a very good Tampa Bay Rays ballclub, facing what has been proclaimed the best starting rotation in the American League. Your guys tore the cover off the ball against their pitchers, getting solid swings consistently. Everybody in the lineup contributed, including the recovering Kevin Youkilis, who is still working out some kinks in his swing to return it to its original form. Despite his noticeable improvement, Valentine, during an appearance on Boston’s WHDH radio, decided to open his mouth about Youkilis’ slow start to the 2012 season.
When learning of his manager’s comments, Youkilis seemed confused by the claims. “Everyone here knows I go out and play with emotion,” he told Boston reporters Monday morning. “The only time there has ever been a question is because I’ve been too emotional.” Coming as no surprise to this Sox fan, Dustin Pedroia stood up for his teammate. “I really don’t know what Bobby is trying to do,” Pedroia said. “That’s not the way we go about our stuff around here. He’ll figure that out.” After laying down the ground rules, the second baseman says that “The whole team is behind Youk. We have each other’s backs here.” And once he was asked whether Valentine’s comments could serve to motivate, Pedroia said “Maybe in Japan or something.”
Valentine has since apologized to Youkilis, yet the question still remains: what motivated him to make those comments knwon through public exposure? Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that after conversations between himself, Kevin Youk, and Bobby Vee, he believed that any misunderstandings about the manager’s feelings about his third baseman had been cleared up.
“I think what needs to be said has been said, so we’ll move forward,” said Cherington. “I don’t think his intent was to criticize Kevin. That’s the way it came across in print. … I think he [meant], ‘I didn’t see the same player on the field that we’d all seen in the past,’ so he acknowledged that the way he expressed that was not the best way to express it. He said the same thing to Kevin, he apologized and had a chance to explain what he meant. I think we’ll all learn from it.”
Cherington agreed that it was appropriate for Valentine to apologize to Youkilis, since regardless of the intent, the manager’s remarks were ultimately something for which the player had to answer. The GM also enjoyed seeing his players, most notably second baseman Dustin Pedroia, making their support of Youk public.
“I was pleased and not surprised. I suspected there would be guys who would speak on Kevin’s behalf,” said Cherington.
Ross, Sox Robbed in Series Finale
Cody Ross takes his frustrations over some questionable strike calls in his final at-bat out on his equipment.
It took five pitches to retire Cody Ross on a strikeout looking to seal a victory in the finale of a four-game series at Fenway. According to the Amica Pitch Zone that is featured in NESN broadcasts, three of the pitches that were called strikes were off the plate. Ross’ tough at-bat marked the end of the Sox winning streak with the conclusion of a 1-0 loss. Despite the bittersweet loss, however, Sox players seem to feel pretty confident in their team’s ability to achieve success this season.
The team has every reason to feel confident, especially after they knocked around the Rays’ trio of talented starters, including lefty David Price, Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson, and southpaw Matt Moore. The Sox offense scored 31 runs total, their hitters showing impressive patience, discipline, and timing at the plate. They got shut down by James Shields, who was as hot as the intense humidity hanging on the mild air in Boston.
But taking three-out-of-four from the Rays is certainly an admirable accomplishment, one I think the Sox can use to help motivate them even more for their upcoming two-game series with the powerful Texas Rangers. As long as Jon Lester is able to go out and be as effective, if not more so, than the start he made last Wednesday against the Blue Jays in Toronto, Boston will have a good chance to take the first game of the series. Besides Lester’s match-up with Colby Lewis being one to watch, Adrian Gonzalez’s numbers against the righty are also noteworthy: the first baseman is 7-for-8 with an .857 average, two home runs, and three RBIs.