Friday, September 7, 2012


Bobby Valentine, one of the biggest lightening rods the game has ever seen,
got zapped on Wednesday for being late to a game in Oakland last week. In an
interview with WEEI in Boston, the Red Sox manager was asked if he had
"checked" out of the season, with radio host, Glenn Ordway, citing his supposedly
late arrival to the ballpark as one of the reasons why people might be thinking that.

Valentine could've broken into his best Allen Iverson imitation and said, "We're
talking about showing up three hours before the game. We're not talking about
missing a game. We're talking about being there a full three hours before the start
of it." That answer would've been better than Valentine telling Ordway he should
"punch him in the mouth," and he would've been right.

Last May, Angels manager Mike Scoscia took a personal day during the season
to attend his son's high school graduation. In June, former Red Sox skipper Terry
Francona missed a game to see his daughter get her diploma in her cap and gown.
And Cubs manager Dale Sveum, in the midst of terrible start, asked for a day off
to see his son graduate from high school. All these managers actually missed a game
and nobody said a word. Nobody said they had "checked out" or accused them
of being unprepared or not caring about the welfare of the team.

Yet, Bobby Valentine goes to the airport to pick up his son, who he's only seen
once in the past year, gets stuck in traffic, and arrives at 4:18 pm for a 7:05 pm
start. That's almost a full three hours before first pitch and considering the team
doesn't take batting practice until around 5pm, is that really a big deal? Is it worthy
of tagging a manager of being indifferent to what is going on with the team.? Highly
doubt it.

Members of the Boston media bought into Terry Francona's act when he said he
showed up for a 7pm game at noon. To them, Valentine showing up nearly four
hours after Francona's regular arrival was blasphemous and signaled a lackadaisical
work ethic, which is almost laughable. Nobody ever really knew if Francona showed
up every day at noon, but since he said it and they believed it, then well, perception
became reality.

I'm sure Francona did what most of us do when we get to work. Check e-mails, get
something to eat, and settle into the job. For crying out loud, baseball is not brain
surgery. No manager prepares for a game like a Harvard medical student gets ready
for an exam in molecular physics. Oh, sure, Bill James can send down his sabremetric
numbers, but how smart do you have to be to figure out lefty-righty match-ups and
who is wielding a hot bat and who isn't?

I'm sure there were times when Francona and other managers had to come in a little
late because of a charity golf tournament, a doctor's appointment, or because a family
member needed some tender loving care. It's life. It happens. People in every walk of
life have unforeseen issues to deal with and that sometimes affects when they get to
work. We've all been there. Even people in the media. Valentine picked up his son,
got caught in traffic, and was at the ballpark at 4:18pm and people are acting like he
ran in, put his uniform on backwards, then ran to the dugout just in time to make it
to the first pitch. Seriously?

Valentine showing up at 4:18 and being "late" didn't affect anyone but those in the
media who thought they had a big scoop. Players expect one thing from the manager
when they arrive at the ballpark: the line-up posted. Players, especially at that level,
are creatures of habit. They have their routines, do their drills, and prepare for the
game. Few of them care to interact with the manager at all. Do you think Albert Pujols
cares when his manager arrives at the park? That has nothing to do with his success
at the plate. Nothing. When Pujols got off to a bad start, I never heard him say, "I
was mentally affected because I didn't play patty-cake with the manager before the
game." It's the players job to get themselves ready and everyone knows that.

Valentine doesn't give scouting reports on that nite's pitcher. Dave Magadan, the hitting
coach, is responsible for that. He doesn't disseminate information on the other team's
hitters. Randy Nieman, the pitching coach, is responsible for that. If you get to the park
early, watch what most major league managers do. They meet with the media, shoot
the bull with players, perhaps, sign a few autographs, and then go behind the batting
cage to watch players take some cuts. Managing is not rocket science, please.

Valentine had plenty of time before picking up his son to read scouting reports and
figure out who is going to be in the starting line-up. Some people in the media think
making out a line-up is akin to trying to figure out a way to cut the 17 trillion dollar
deficit of the United States. Please. it's not that difficult.

It's easy to pile on Valentine, admittedly, I'm guilty of that, but to make a big deal
of him having only 3 hours to prepare for a game is ludicrous. After all, we're not
talking about actually missing a game, we're talking about a guy getting vilified because
he was there only 3 hours before it. Good grief.

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