Valentine's thoughts on composing lineups

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Valentine's thoughts on composing lineups

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The composition of lineups is an endlessly fascinating topic for many -- new manager Bobby Valentine included.

In his Sunday morning pre-game meeting with the media, Valentine was asked about his philosophy and thoughts on putting together a lineup.

Here are some highlights:

On whether Dustin Pedroia, slated to hit leadoff Sunday, might hit there during the season: "Depending on who else is around there, yeah.''

Valentine likes the idea of a righthanded hitter hitting first, followed by a lefthanded hitter.

"I would think if you polled 100 guys,'' he said, ''and they wanted a guy leading off the inning and have the second batter batting, most of them would want a lefthanded (hitter) batting if the first guy got on. If he hits a double, it's a lot easier for him to advance him to third; if he hits a single, he hits with a hole (on the right side).''

On the importance of alternating lefty and righty hitters, so as to make the opposing manager have a tougher time with late-inning matchups.

"It's a thought. We don't do that with righthanders and say, 'God forbid I ever have two righthanders in a row.' So it's not necessarily a reason.

"Now, if there's a platoon differential -- and a lot of times there is, more so on the left side because there's some lefthanded specialists -- you don't like to give the other (manager) an advantage in thinking. It's not necessarily an advantage in strategy; it's just one less thought he has to make.' ''

On how he came to believe that it was good to mix in different lineups.

"I think (my thinking) has evolved. It was a combination of things. One, I would start getting more information, where I would realize that some lineups probably work better against some pitchers. Some lineups probably work better against different bullpens. Some lineups cannot be together all year and the last thing you ever want a pitcher to think when he goes out on the mound is that he's pitching with something less than the best lineup behind him. That's all part of team-building, I think.

"Knowing that a lineup is going to change 100 times in a season, if the only time a team thinks it's going to win is when their lineup's out on the field, then there's going to be a lot of games they're going to take the field where they think they don't have to win. It creates a bad mentality, I think, to think that you have one lineup and that lineup is the one that wins. I think it's a Little League mentality that should not exist at the highest level of baseball.

"I just don't think it's part and parcel to (success in the major leagues). It's a wonderful talk show topic, the lineup. Then you go through the St. Louis Cardinals run to the World Series and you see in the playoffs and the World Series, they might have used the same lineup twice.''

On facing resistance from players when he changes lineup frequently.

"I had Mike Piazza, who said, 'I only hit third. It's the only way I can be successful.' So he's going to the Hall of Fame because of what he did with the Mets hitting fourth. So I get all that stuff.

"I think that's a work in progress. Some guys have said, 'Hit my anywhere; I don't care.' Then when I walk out, I see that their fingers were crossed.''

On his general spring thoughts about makeup of the Red Sox lineup:

"I don't have a good feel for it (yet). I think it's such a talented team that it seems like they can score a lot of runs a lot of ways. The only thing I think about a lineup is that I want to have a chance to score every inning and make it close to an equal chance.''

Brady on whether he called Trump: 'I've called him in the past'

Brady on whether he called Trump: 'I've called him in the past'

When President Donald Trump announced last week that he'd received a phone call from Tom Brady, Brady's response when questioned by reporters at a mass press conference was "Let's talk about football."

This morning, during his weekly interview on WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show, Brady shed a little more light onto the subject.

Though not a whole lot more.

"I have called him, yes, in the past," Brady said when given the chance the confirm or deny the call.  "Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,. But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”

He also explained why he chooses to dance around this topict . . . and a lot of others.

“I’m a pretty positive person, so I don’t want to create any distractions for our team and so forth,” he said. “I just try and stay positive and actually this world could use a little more positivity. Everything’s not great in this world and everything is not great in life. But if you try and take a positive approach … I try to do that. I try to do that in practice. I try to do that with my team. I try to do that with my family. That’s how I go about life. I don’t like negativity. I don’t like a lot of confrontation. Those things don’t make me feel very good. I wouldn’t be a good talk show host."

Curran: Relentless Patriots proving that living well is the best revenge

Curran: Relentless Patriots proving that living well is the best revenge

FOXBORO -- There's a clock on the wall in the weight room at Tom Brady's house.

When the Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game last January, Brady's father told me his son set the clock to count away the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Super Bowl 51. That clock has just 13 days left on it now. It won't require a sad resetting this week.

Brady won't be around to see it hit zeroes. He'll be in Texas playing in his record seventh Super Bowl. As planned.

PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9

HERE THEY COME, ROGER

The Patriots are the last team the NFL apparatus wanted to see in Houston and now the boogeyman's at their door, proving that living well is the best revenge.

Nowhere to run to, Roger. Nowhere to hide. The rules apply to everyone and there's a rule that we all learn sooner or later is very true. What goes around comes around. We all have it coming, kid.

We imagine Brady is clearing his throat for the delicious last laugh, but he's said it a hundred different ways in the past four months: Vengeance and vindication aren't driving him. That's wasted energy. Poison.

He's focused on what's immediately in front of him while reminding himself time's fleeting. The best way for him to help his team during his four-game exile in September was to work out relentlessly, which he did so that when he returned he was as good as he's ever been.

And in his absence, his team understood the best way to honor him while he was gone was to take care of business. Which they did beginning September 12 in Arizona when, instead of playing rudderless football without their on-field leader, they began a 3-1 run with a combination of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.

"Yeah, well we never dwell on that," Bill Belichick began when I asked him Sunday night about the obstacles the team's had in front of it beginning in September and through the rest of the season. "We take the hand that we're dealt and play the cards . . .

"You referenced the beginning of the year, but it's been true in every game, really," Belichick added. "It's a credit to those guys. It's a credit to the depth on our team and the way that those guys prepare. They work hard. They don't know if they're going to get an opportunity or not and then when it finally comes and they do get it, they're usually ready to take advantage of it and help the team win. That's why we're where we are. We have a special team, a special group of guys that really work hard. They deserve the success that they've had. I mean, it's hard to win 16 games in this league. You've got to give a lot of credit to the players and the job they've done all year week after week. It's tough, but they come in and grind it out. They sit in these seats for hours, and hours, and hours, and prepare, and prepare, and go out there and lay it on the line every week. Again, it's a good group of men."

Beginning in the offseason with the trade of Chandler Jones to the start of the season with the Brady suspension to the stunning trade of Jamie Collins, the loss of Rob Gronkowski and a defense that was scoffed at on a weekly basis, the Patriots have weathered all of it to get to this point.

"One More" is the marketing slogan this team's had affixed to it.

"Bend Don't Break" is much more apt. Because they never did.

It's a phrase that's been framed as a slight by when used to describe the New England defense this season but safety Duron Harmon had a different interpretation.

"I don't know. I kind of like it," he said. "It just shows the type of toughness and mental toughness we have. Even when the situation might seem terrible or might seem bad, we have enough mental toughness to come out and make a positive out of it."

Harmon and Patrick Chung hauled down Steelers tight end Jesse James inches short of a touchdown just before halftime. The Patriots defense held after that, forcing Pittsburgh to settle for a deflating field goal. Instead of a 17-13 lead at halftime, the Pats led 17-9.

"Right then and there, a lot of people are thinking that's seven points, but that's a four-point turnover basically," said Harmon. "Just hold them to three and that really helped us with the momentum going into [halftime]."

When one considers all the collateral damage of Deflategate and the fortunes of the antagonists and protagonists since, it's . . . well, it's telling.

The Colts canned tattletale GM Ryan Grigson on Saturday and are in disarray. The Ravens missed the playoffs again. Owners who fingerwagged and wanted to see the Patriots brought to heel like John Mara, Bob McNair, Jerry Jones and Jerry Richardson have teams that were either bounced from the playoffs or didn't even make them.

And the Patriots are headed to Houston anyway. Despite all their best efforts.

"I think it's a great story, but I think right now our focus is got to go out to Houston in a couple of weeks and try to win it," said Devin McCourty when asked about the revenge angle. "I think that makes the story even better."