The latest chapter in the Bobby Valentine saga focuses on an incident that took place between him and Will Middlebrooks. Of course, said incident is a few months old already (at least according to Bobby V.), but it was just recently made public (thanks to Bobby V.) so everyone's going with it. It's the new "Youk isn't emotionally into the game" or "We play like this and we'll win the World Series" or any number of other now-infamous Valentine quotes.
This one's called: "Nice inning, kid."
If you haven't heard the story, there was a game earlier in the year when Middlebrooks allegedly made a couple errors in an inning, and when he came back to the dugout, Valentine greeted him with: "Nice inning, kid." He was obviously being sarcastic, and this upset the rookie third baseman. One of the veterans either overheard or got wind of the conversation, and basically ran and told the front office: "Bobby's being mean to us!! : (" and Valentine earned a lecture from the owners.
Here's how Valentine explained the incident to reporters yesterday, and in the process revealed one of his biggest problems in trying to reel in this dysfunctional team:
Middlebrooks came into the dugout, he made a couple of errors, and I said, Nice inning, kid. I had thought I had established a relationship with him where I could say something like that to him, kind of smile, relax him a little. Maybe he grimaced, I dont know."
Tip for Bobby V.: Don't assume anything about your relationship with these players; just accept that they don't like you.
That may not be an easy pill to swallow, especially with how badly he wants to be one of the guys. But the best thing to do at this point is just stop trying to win the players over. Stop trying to make them laugh or brighten the mood or whatever else is going on. Just make the line-up, manage the game and let everyone go about their business.
The truth is that I really don't think Valentine meant any harm with his sarcastic line to Middlebrooks, I really think that he was just trying to make him feel better.
Last Sunday night, Andrew Miller was caught joking around in the dugout after a rough outing against the Yankees. When the cameras showed him laughing with Aaron Cook and Kelly Shoppach, Orel Hershiser suggested that the scene was indicative of the Sox bad chemistry.
In response, Miller said:
"Thats what good teammates do. Im not going to get all upset and drown in my sorrows right there. I remember talking to Aaron and to Shop, and thats what good teammates do. Theyre trying to keep it light and loose. Its out of my control from that point on. To me, thats kind of odd, something that Hershiser would point out right there. To me, thats kind of the opposite of what you want. I appreciate guys being there for me."
This is exactly what Valentine was trying to do with Middlebrooks. Keep it light and loose; be a good teammate.
But he wildly misjudged his ability to do so.