The Bobby V. Apologist


The Bobby V. Apologist

By now, I assume everyone's up to date on the latest controversy surrounding Bobby Valentine. I think people are calling it "Pinch Hit Gate," but that's just an educated guess.

If you haven't heard: Yesterday afternoon, the Sox and Jays were tied 0-0 in the seventh inning. Pedro Ciriaco was on first base with two outs and the light-hitting Jose Iglesias was up at the plate.

With the count at 1-and-2, Ciraco stole second (the pitch was a ball). So now, the Sox had the leading run in scoring position, with perhaps the worst hitter in baseball (including pitchers) at the plate. At this point, Valentine shocked the world by pinch-hitting Daniel Nava for Iglesias in the middle of the at-bat. The manager later said that the move was a ploy to get some run support for Jon Lester, but in the end it didn't matter. Nava grounded out.

The Sox lost 5-0.

The reaction to Valentine's decision has been predictably sour. He's been accused no longer caring about the development of his young players and once again turning this season into his personal side show. Ever the Valentine apologist, I don't see it quite the same way.

First of all, I don't buy into the argument that Bobby V.'s decision will prove to be some crippling set back in Iglesias' development. Sure, there's a chance that he could have picked up a hit, driven in a run and maybe built a little confidence. But let's be honest, there was a much, much better chance by the numbers, about a 90 percent chance that the shortstop would have come up short. What's that do for him?

Furthermore, it's not like Iglesias is just in a slump. It's not a matter of him picking up one hit and getting into a groove.

He literally can't hit at the Major League level. Not yet, at least. And regardless of whether he knocked in a run or was called back to the dugout, he'll have to work just as hard this offseason to have any chance of playing in the big leagues next year..

In the slight chance that being pinch hit for in the middle of an at-bat ultimately does derail Iglesias' progress? Then guess what: He was probably never going to make it anyway.

He'll have to withstand a lot more adversity than that to survive at this level especially if he plans on staying in Boston.

And yeah, it was an unconventional move by Valentine. It was a move that most, if not every other manager in his position would have resisted. BUT, can you really argue with the logic?

How can you constantly criticize a manager for not caring and then jump on him for making a move that indicates that he cares?

With the season all but over, and his future foggier than John Henry's rec-specs after hotly contested squash match, Valentine could just as well spend these last few games daydreaming about his years in Japan or thinking up new concepts for the winter menu at his restaurant. Instead, a move like yesterday's shows that, at the very least, he's still engaged. He's trying to win. And not even for himself, but for guys like Jon Lester.

So, what's the problem again?

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

South Carolina holds off UMass, 34-28


South Carolina holds off UMass, 34-28

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Freshman Jake Bentley threw for two touchdowns and 201 yards in his first college game and South Carolina matched its victory total from last year with a 34-28 victory over Massachusetts on Saturday.

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp was expecting to redshirt Bentley this season before the team's mounting offensive problems - they entered dead last in points per game in the Football Bowl Subdivision - left the first-year coach open to any solution.

Bentley proved the right answer against the Minutemen (1-7). He led the Gamecocks (3-4) to touchdowns on their first two series, and then threw a pair of pretty fade passes for TD, the first from 16 yards out to K.C. Crosby and later a 24-yarder to Bryan Edwards to lead 27-7.

When UMass cut things to 34-28 with less than 5 minutes left, Bentley accounted for 30 yards to help the Gamecocks run out the clock.

It was the first time South Carolina had scored more than 20 points in a game this season.

UMass did its share to help with three turnovers in the opening half, two which led to two South Carolina scores.

Tight end Adam Breneman had two TD catches for UMass, which fell to 0-3 against Southeastern Conference teams this fall.


UMASS: The Minutemen have been outscored 131-77 in its four games this season against teams from the Power 5 conferences.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Its future - and offensive recovery - may have started with Bentley behind center. The freshman, who'll turn 19 next month, is sure to have some bumps ahead, maybe as soon as next week's home game against No. 18 Tennessee. But there was little benefit keeping the strong-armed Bentley on the bench if he could spark up the offense this season.


UMASS: The Minutemen return home to play Football Championship Subdivision opponent Wagner. The game ends the UMass home season as it finishes with games at Troy, BYU and Hawaii.

SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks go back to the Southeastern Conference grinder against No. 18 Tennessee. The Gamecocks have only won two SEC games the past two seasons and will face a difficult challenge against the Vols, who are in the thick of the Eastern Division chase.

© 2016 by STATS & The Associated Press


UConn falls to Central Florida, 24-16


UConn falls to Central Florida, 24-16

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -McKenzie Milton threw for a season-high 317 yards and three touchdowns to lead Central Florida to a 24-16 win over UConn.

The freshman completed 29 of 45 passes and the Knights (4-3, 2-1 American) moved over the .500 mark by scoring 17 unanswered points and holding the Huskies (3-5, 1-4) scoreless in the second half.

Arkeel Newsome ran 21 times for 101 yards and Noel Thomas had his fifth straight 100-yard receiving game for UConn, catching nine passes for 165 yards.

But Thomas dropped a pass in the end zone on a third down with just over 3 minutes remaining, and quarterback Bryant Shirreffs came up short on a fourth-down scramble.

The Huskies got the ball back near midfield with just over 2 minutes left and drove to the 21, but failed to convert a fourth-down pass.

The Knights took the lead on the first drive of the second half, when Milton hit running back Adrian Killins over the middle for a 39-yard touchdown. It was the third consecutive drive of more than 70 yards for UCF.

A career-long 50-yard field goal by Matthew Wright early in the fourth quarter pushed the lead to eight points.

UConn scored the game's first 13 points, capped by a 3-yard touchdown run from Newsome.

The Huskies final points came on a 35-yard Puyol field goal, one of three he kicked in the first half.

The lead was the first at halftime this season for the Huskies.


UCF: The Knights have apparently found their quarterback in the freshman Milton, who started again over senior Justin Holman. It was Milton's fourth start this season. His 317 yards passing were the most since Holman threw for 336 yards against Temple in 2014.

UConn: The Huskies have two offensive weapons in Newsome and Thomas and need to find a third. Shirreffs was again the team's second leading rusher with 49 yards. Alec Bloom was the team's second-leading receiver. He had two catches for 20 yards.


UCF: The Knights visit No. 11 Houston next Saturday

UConn: The Huskies travel south to face East Carolina.

© 2016 by STATS & The Associated Press