Bobby's biggest problem

830287.jpg

Bobby's biggest problem

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.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

McAdam: Doesn't take long for second-guessing of Farrell to resume

red_sox_john_farrell_062716.jpg

McAdam: Doesn't take long for second-guessing of Farrell to resume

Three takeaways from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night . . . 

1) Long relief may be short for the Red Sox in the postseason

The news that Drew Pomeranz won't start Thursday and is dealing with forearm soreness was ominous -- to say the least. While the Sox aren't concerned enough to order up an MRI for the lefty, it seems a fair bet that he won't pitch again this season. Pomeranz wasn't going to crack the postseason rotation and would likely have been relegated to relief duty. Now, even that seems a stretch.

Add that development to the continued absence of Steven Wright and the Red Sox are missing 40 percent of their rotation from late July and early August.

Healthy, both would have been stretched-out and available to provide multiple innings in the postseason.

Of course, most teams would prefer to not have to rely on long men in the postseason, since their very appearance in a game would signifiy that a starter got knocked out early.

When that happens, however, it's nice to have experienced, dependable arms to cover innings and not impact the bullpen's high-leverage pitchers.

Now, in such a scenario, the Sox will likely have to turn to either Robbie Ross Jr. or Heath Hembree.

2) Is Aaron Hill heating up?

In the month of September, Hill has posted a line of .381/.409/.571. On Tuesday night, he blasted a pinch-hit homer.

Admittedly, that's a relatively small sample size. But Hill has had better at-bats of late, especially against lefties.

It's doubtful that he'll take over third base -- now or in the postseason -- full-time, since John Farrell has two left-handed hitting options, with Travis Shaw and Brock Holt. Shaw certainly more power and has shown the ability to go on hot streaks at the plate.

But Hill is a veteran player, albeit one with little postseason experience (11 at-bats in the Division Series for Arizona in 2011) for a 12-year veteran.

And one other benefit: Hill is a .373 career hitter as a pinch-hitter, making him a valuable part off the bench in games started by either Holt or Shaw.

3) One loss is all it took for the second-guessing to resurface

The Sox had won 11 straight before Tuesday's loss, which quickly re-introduced criticism of Farrell.

Starter David Price had given up four runs through six innings, but the Sox rallied for two runs off Tommy Layne in the seventh to tie things at 4-4.

At 76 pitches, Price went back out for the seventh and promptly yielded a two-run homer to Tyler Austin, giving the Yanks another two-run lead.

Price hadn't been sharp in the first six. With expanded rosters, plenty of available relievers and a rested bullpen after a day off Monday, why stick with Price?

Offered Farrell: "You go with a right-hander they’re going to go with [Mark] Teixeira and [Brian] McCann with that right-field porch,” Farrell said. “Wanted to keep the (right-handed hitters) in the ballgame, (but Price) mislocated over the plate.”

Felger: Will October be a dance or a dud?

Felger: Will October be a dance or a dud?

For a Red Sox team that has been the best in baseball in September and had won 11 straight prior to last night, you have to admit: There are a lot of things that could go the other way with this team in the playoffs that wouldn't surprise you.

To wit:

-- Would it surprise you if David Price blew up again in the postseason? He has a 5.12 career postseason ERA and has never won a playoff start. Was last night a precursor? He looked like his old shaky October self with a chance to clinch the division in Yankee Stadium.

-- Would it surprise you if Clay Buchholz crapped his pants when it mattered most? This is your No. 3 starter, folks, or No. 4 at worst. He's getting the ball in the playoffs either way, and if I told you that two months ago you'd tell me the Sox are sunk. He looks good now, but we all know he is the ultimate tease.

-- Would it surprise you if John Farrell blows a game with a bone-headed decision from the bench? Of course not; he's been doing that for nearly four years. Yes, he did it all the way to a title in 2013, but the possibility remains very real. It's in the back of most everyone's mind.

-- Would it surprise you if Koji Uehara regresses and the eighth inning once again becomes a problem? Uehara certainly has the experience and has pitched well recently, but the fact is that it feels like his arm is attached by a noodle.

-- Would it surprise you if some of the Sox' youth shows its age? It shouldn't. Happens all the time. Would it surprise you if Craig Kimbrel can't find the plate in a big save situation? It shouldn't. He's shown glimpses of it all season and has never pitched past the division series in his career. Would it surprise you if Hanley Ramirez makes an important mistake at first? Or the Sox' hole at third becomes a factor? Nope and nope.

We could play this game all night.

Now, what do I think is going to happen? I think the Sox are going to pitch well, even Price, and the offense will remain a force. I have full faith in Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Rick Porcello and the lineup in general. There's a feeling on this team that's hard to ignore, likely inspired by Ortiz, and I think they'll keep it going in the postseason. I agree with those who say the Sox have the most talent in the American League, so that's a great place to start. I don't know if that means the ALCS, the World Series or a championship. I just think they'll continue to play well into October.

But all of that is just a feeling, just a prediction -- and you know what those are good for. The point is this: If it goes the other way for the Sox, I think we already have the reasons why.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN.