Bobby V. and his bullpen

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Bobby V. and his bullpen

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.

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

Rangers have used medical staff to recruit players

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Rangers have used medical staff to recruit players

Acquiring pitchers who stay healthy hasn’t been the easiest for Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski since he got to Boston.

The Texas Rangers, on the other hand, seem to be having success taking pitchers with prior injury concerns and revitalizing them.

Righty Andrew Cashner has been on the disabled list seven times. The first was for a rotator cuff strain. Elbow, shoulder, biceps, it’s all there on his body’s rap sheet. He has a 3.18 ERA.

Another Rangers starter, A.J. Griffin, has been to the DL six times. He doesn’t have the best ERA at the moment, 5.02, but he is in the rotation. 

Tyson Ross, who has great upside if healthy, is getting close to a return to the big leagues on a minor league rehab assignment. He's coming back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

It’s been a catchphrase for major league executives: the medical arena is where the most valuable advances will come now that advanced on-field statistics are so readily available.

Have the Rangers figured something out more broadly, or are Cashner, Griffin and Ross just case-by-case discussions?

Rangers president Jon Daniels explained on the CSNNE Baseball Show podcast. 

“There’s some of both,” Daniels said. “I think that there are certain injuries, there are certain body types, there are certain medical histories that probably lend themselves to coming back more than others. But the biggest [matter] is about the individual, both the individual player and then the individuals on your medical staff and your coaching staff and how do they handle it. 

“One of the things that I’ve become so acutely aware of, whether it’s sports medicine or it’s the real world, real-life medicine, it matters dramatically. If you have a heart attack, you have a stroke, it matters dramatically which hospital you go to and which doctor you see. And so by the same token, when you’re putting a medical team together and they’re all highly qualified, and yet there’s still an enormous difference between — and not just in medical practices, but in bedside manner. Kind of the ability to communicate with the players, get the most out of them, have players trust them. Our whole medical team, top to bottom, has been a real asset for us and has helped us both recruit players and then get the most out of them when they’re on the mend.”

Daniels said his medical staff has grown in recent years. Team physician Dr. Keith Meister has a sports medicine facility that players take advantage of.

“The personnel there, the [physical therapists] there [are] really really gifted. And so we work very closely with them. We have given some, with [Yu] Darvish … we’ve been open to some different like styles of treatment.”

Daniels didn’t specify the treatments, but noted they weren’t too far out there.

“I don’t think it’s like anything crazy, and I don’t think we’re the only ones doing it,” he said. “When you’re exposed to just different mindsets, you explore it a little bit, you end up taking the best of each world and kind of incorporating it into our plan. Jamie Reed, long-time major league trainer, he’s our medical director and he gets people, he gets players and he gets sports medicine. And he’s been instrumental in putting together a lot of really good people on our medical side. When you look at some of the better medical staffs out there, Arizona and Tampa, he’s been directly involved with training some of those guys.

“Like anything else, you can have like the best ideas in the world,” Daniels continued. “If you don’t have the right people executing it, it doesn’t matter. It comes down to the people and really proud of the group we’ve got together.”

What makes a good manager? Rangers GM Jon Daniels explains

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What makes a good manager? Rangers GM Jon Daniels explains

Across the way from John Farrell in the Rangers dugout this series is a manager who was voted the American League’s best in his first year at the helm, 2015.

Jeff Banister is one of three full-time skippers Rangers president Jon Daniels has had in his time running the Rangers.

Much has been made about how Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski views the manager’s job: that in-game management isn’t the most important, but running the clubhouse is.

How does another top baseball exec look at it? Daniels explained on the CSNNE Baseball Show podcast.

“I think manager’s an enormous role,” Daniels said. “Huge importance, I don’t buy into any of the sort of snarky commentary. … What I think sometimes gets a little blown out of proportions, at times whether it’s lineup construction, some of those — the in-game stuff, bullpen management’s very real. 

“Certainly the knowledge of the game is big. I think the ability to teach the game is big. But the No. 1 separator, in my opinion, is managing people. It’s really the word ‘manager.’ Helping to mold the culture in the clubhouse. Getting everybody on the same page. Young players, older players, everybody’s got different self-interests and to be able to get all those unique self-interests enough on the same page for a common goal while representing the club publicly, with the media, with the fans, and doing it under a pretty intense spotlight — I think that’s the biggest piece. Probably the hardest to truly evaluate unless you’re like, in the clubhouse or around the clubhouse on a daily basis and have a sense for who’s good at it, who’s not. That for me is like where guys really separate themselves.”

Asked if he’s ever surprised by player sensitivity, Daniels underscored what stage of life most ballplayers are in.

“Everybody’s different, right?” Daniels said. “So everyone has different insecurities, everyone has different level of ego, grown up in different circumstances. At the end of the day everybody wants a few basic things. You want to be like kind of communicated on a pretty forthright, direct way. You want to be treated with respect. Some guys can handle a little more criticism than others. 

“Some guys can handle a little more criticism from their peers than others can. I think that’s a manager’s job, to understand kind of the different approaches. Players, the guys are in their 20s. Think about where you were when you were first out of college … a few years off that, and your maturity level and really your lack of life experience in a lot of ways. And, kind of like evaluate under those circumstances: you’re going to be somewhat sensitive when you’re in that time period in your life.”

How well a manager handles a clubhouse isn’t something the Rangers, at least, have tried to quantify.

“More anecdotal for me. There may be ways,” Daniels said. “I haven’t really been part of that. If there is [a way] we haven’t figured it out, and we haven’t really tried to do, to be honest with you.”

For the full interview, listen to the podcast below