Readers of this blog have come to know me as one of the citys foremost scholars in the field of Bobby Valentine apology. In other words, Im a Bobby V. apologist.
It wasnt always like this. In fact, way back in October and November, after Terry Francona got the boot and the entire world lost its mind, I was right there with the blood-beer-and-fried-chicken-seeking Zombies: I wanted nothing to do with Valentine. Why? Because he was Larry Lucchinos guy and Lucchino is the devil. A vote for Bobby felt like a vote for Larry, and I couldnt do it. So I assumed the worst, bought into the hype and strapped myself to the Dale Sveum bandwagon.
When Sveum signed on with the Cubs, and Valentine was clearly the man, I was angry. Again, I think that anger was more a product of Lucchino getting his way and what that meant for the future of the organization, but it was anger nonetheless. I wasn't happy with the hire.
Then, on the day of Valentines introductory press conference, I received three different texts from three different people. All three are good friends, HUGE Mets fans and guys whose opinion I respect in all matters of sports and life. Each text said basically the same thing:
Congrats on Bobby V. Im really jealous. He was my favorite manager weve ever had."
It happened all at once, and it really hit home. So at that point, I made a decision:
Screw Larry Lucchino. Screw everyone trying to run Valentine out of town before he even gets here. Screw anyone who thinks they know anything about this guy a guy who hasn't managed in the majors in a decade and spent nine of those 10 years on the other side of the world.
Just give him a clean slate, allow him to get comfortable, don't jump on EVERY SINGLE MISTAKE and see what happens.
It wasn't easy. Certainly Valentine made more than a few missteps over the last five months, but as the season continues to play out and he gets exceedingly comfortable in his new home, with his new team and under the enormous Boston microscope, the fog is starting to clear. Even the biggest Valentine haters are starting to look at what he's done to help keep the Sox together through endless controversies and non-stop injuries and have no choice but to give the man at least a little credit.
Their biggest concession?
He's done a great job with the bullpen.
Even in the face of their repeated badgering the players don't like him! He's an awful communicator! He's a clown! An attention whore! that's the one thing that the anti-Valentine crew has almost universally agreed upon.
The bullpen! It's been great. And Bobby V deserves all the accolades!
Of course, the irony is that, as Valentine apologist No. 1, I feel like he's getting too much credit for the bullpen. I mean, there's no question that the 'pen which was perceived to be one of THE major issues for this team, especially after Andrew Bailey got hurt and Mark Melancon proved useless has been an enormous surprise. The crew was at it again last night, collectively giving up only one hit, striking out three and walking none over three and one-third innings.
But really, even if Bobby V has done a solid job of managing the relievers and putting everyone in the best position to succeed, the bullpen is still a crap shoot. I mean, is it because of Bobby V that Vincente Padilla and Scott Atchinson have been so reliable? That Alfredo Aceves has been so versatile and comfortable in the closer's role? Of course not. The success of a major league bullpen runs along the same lines as the "it's a makemiss league" mantra that we fall back on in the NBA. It's like, yeah, you can make all the perfect moves you want, but the guys still need to get the job done. For instance, what happens if Valentine continues to employ the same strategy with his 'pen but Padilla and Atchinson suddenly come back to Earth? So now it's Valentine's fault? Now he doesn't know how to manage a bullpen?
You see what I mean?
It comes down to this: Instead of nitpicking a bunch of specifics reasons and ways that Bobby Valentine has been a good manager this season, let's just cut the crap, open the umbrella and say it once and for all: Bobby Valentine has been a good manager this season.
Has he been perfect? Hell no. No one's perfect anyway. But on top of that, I'm not sure how anyone could have inherited the situation he did, in the city he did it and not fall on his face more than a few times.
Valentine certainly has, but more importantly, he keeps getting up, and the Sox keep getting better. Maybe not as good as they were supposed to be, but better than they were yesterday.
And I'll give Bobby V. credit for that. Then again, maybe you have to consider the source.