First pitch: Valentine proven to be expert evaluator

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First pitch: Valentine proven to be expert evaluator

Less than three months into his first season as manager of the Red Sox, Bobby Valentine has hardly been what many expected.

Known as something of a baseball provocateur, with a penchant for engaging in public -- and not always complimentary -- comments about his players, Valentine has been strangely muted. It's the opinion of many that when Valentine saw the harsh reaction to his tweak of Kevin Youkilis just 10 days into the season, he retreated from his habit of sending messages through the media.

Thought to be a superb in-game manager, Valentine has instead made some strategic moves that have had both players and club officials scratching their heads. Two weeks ago, to cite on curious decision, he sent Clay Buchholz back out for the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles with the game well in hand -- the Sox led 7-0 -- and his starter's pitch count already over 100 pitches.

(It was not lost on those around the club that Buchholz recently passed on a request to pitch Sunday night in place of Josh Beckett on what would have been Buchholz's regular day to throw, citing a need for additional between-start rest. Valentine discussed Buchholz' decision on Saturday.)

But if Valentine has been something less than advertised when it comes to pushing the buttons of players or outwitting the opposition from the dugout, he's proved to still be a top-notch talent evaluator.

In spring training, Valentine argued that reliever-turned-starter Daniel Bard was better suited to pitch out of the bullpen. Bard's massive struggles in adapting to the demands of the rotation proved Valentine's instincts correct.

More recently, Valentine campaigned for reliever Franklin Morales to get some work as a starter. Working toward that goal, he had stretched out the lefty's innings load in two recent relief appearances, prepping
him for a spot start.

When the opportunity came Sunday night in the road trip finale, Morales flourished, reflecting well on the manager's faith in him and validating his judgement.

Morales hadn't started in the big leagues over the last three years, but Valentine saw something that would translate. And indeed, Morales was brilliant, striking out nine while walking none over five innings, during which he allowed just two runs on four hits.

Clearly, a five-inning outing against the worst team in baseball guarantees little for Morales, beyond a second start when Beckett's turn comes around again Saturday.

What's more, Valentine seemed unable -- or at least unwilling -- to articulate exactly what he saw in Morales that made the manager believe he'd be a worthy starter.

Right, however, is right.

That's not to suggest that Valentine has been infallible when it comes to evaluating. Mike Aviles, whom Valentine judged to be a less-than-appealing option at short during spring training, has played far better than the manager expected.

But even the best talent evaluators stumble at times and when players exceed expectations, there's little damage done.

Valentine's on-target assessment of how to best utilize his roster -- exemplified not only by his evaluation of Bard and Morales, but his ability to fashion a working bullpen alignment after closer Andrew Bailey went down late in spring training -- is telling and suggests that he deserves a bigger role in such future decisions.

David Ortiz re-enacts Boston movie scenes as part of charity video

David Ortiz re-enacts Boston movie scenes as part of charity video

As part of a charity promotion with Omaze, David Ortiz has made a video re-enacting scenes from Boston-set movies. 

The movies range from a classic -- "Good Will Hunting" -- to very good crime movies -- "The Departed, The Town" — to the just plain bad "Fever Pitch," but all of the scenes are entertaining. Ortiz plays every part in each scene, often playing to characters interacting with one another. 

At the end of the video, a link is given to Omaze.com/papi, which gives fans the opportunity to enter a drawing to attend his jersey retirement ceremony by donating. Proceeds go to the David Ortiz Children’s Fund and the Red Sox Foundation. 

The David Ortiz Children Fund aims to help children in New England and the Dominican Republic who are born with congenital heart failure. 
 

Drellich: When will Red Sox players hold themselves accountable?

Drellich: When will Red Sox players hold themselves accountable?

BOSTON -- Whether John Farrell is managing the Red Sox next week or next month, keep an eye on player accountability.

Five years ago, Bobby Valentine was supposed to be the disciplinarian that stopped babying the clubhouse. Disaster followed, largely because Valentine was a terrible fit for this group, his approach extreme and dated.

But this year’s team makes you wonder whether a distilled sense of Red Sox entitlement lingers.

At Fenway Park, is the message from the veteran voices one that includes a sense of public accountability for not just the manager, but the players as well?

In FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal’s piece on Farrell, Rosenthal noted “some players, but not all, believe that [Farrell] does not stand up for them strongly enough to the media.”

Those unnamed players Rosenthal cites need a mirror, badly. Or at least a glance around the room.

Where’s the guy in the clubhouse standing up to the media with any consistency? There’s no voice that regularly shields the younger, less experienced guys from tough but expected questions after losses.

Dustin Pedroia gets dressed and leaves the clubhouse faster than Chris Sale will get the ball back and throw it Wednesday. 

Pedroia mentioned something about whale poop in Oakland over the weekend. He can be very funny, but he’s not exactly keen to deliver calming, state-of-the-union addresses — not with frequency, anyway.

Farrell, of course, has been criticized for doing the opposite of what the FOX Sports story noted. The manager was mobbed on social media last year for saying David Price had good stuff on a day Price himself said the opposite.

The premise here is amusing, if you think about it.

Follow: Players are upset that the manager does not do a better job lying about their performance. And this, in turn, affects how players play?

Get a grip.

The public isn’t dumb. If you’re bad, you’re bad, and you’re going to hear about it in Boston. No manager changes that.

Whichever Sox player seeks more protection from Farrell really needs a reminder from a teammate to play better.

Too often, some of the most famous, prominent athletes can be sensitive, and over-sensitive. Look at how LeBron James handled a question about what led to his poor performance in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

It is true that some players question Farrell’s leadership, as Rosenthal reported. But it can also be difficult to separate questions of leadership from whining and grumbling that a manager isn’t providing said player more chances, more opportunities, even if undeserved.

How can Drew Pomeranz's unfounded dugout complaints be Farrell's fault?

The situation and player that make Farrell look the worst this year is Hanley Ramirez. The idea of him playing first base is gone, his shoulders apparently too screwed up to make that viable. 

Somehow, Ramirez made 133 starts at first base last year. One has to wonder how all of a sudden Ramirez can barely play a single game. 

If he’s hurt, he’s hurt. But the Sox didn’t come out of the gate in spring training and say, first base is out of the picture because of his health. They kept saying there was hope he'd be able to play in the field.

If Ramirez is being obstinate, he’s in turn making Farrell look weak. And, more importantly, hurting his team.

What would Ramirez be doing if David Ortiz hadn't retired? Spending the year on the disabled list?

Farrell can pack up his bags today, tomorrow or after the next full moon. The players would still need to take it upon themselves to do what’s best for their team: to focus on what matters.

If they’ve forgotten, that’s about performing up to their abilities and being accountable for themselves -- publicly and privately -- when they don’t.

A manager’s quote in the media doesn’t change whether you’re playing bad baseball.