McAdam: Debunking three Valentine myths

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McAdam: Debunking three Valentine myths

BOSTON -- Bobby Valentine has been so many things -- standout amateur baseball player, manager, broadcaster, competitive ballroom dancer -- that, even at 61, it's difficult to get a clear picture of him.

Making matters more complicated is that few people are neutral about Valentine. Valentine has both his ardent supporters and a seemingly equal number of vocal detractors -- and not many who are in-between.

In the last five days, Valentine has gone from stealth candidate to potential Red Sox managerial frontrunner.

Whether he's hired or not, here are three myths about Valentine that require debunking:

1) He's a winner.

That would depend on your definition of "winner."

It's true that Valentine's career winning percentage is .510 (1117-1072) over 2,189 games in the big leagues.

But a closer look reveals that Valentine, true to his winning percentage, was more "slightly above-average" than "winner" in his two previous turns.

In his first manager's job, with the Texas Rangers, Valentine spent eight seasons in the dugout and never reached the playoffs. In fact, for a time, Valentine held the dubious distinction of having managed the most number of games by an active manager without once qualifying for the postseason.

Managing the New York Mets, Valentine had six straight winning seasons and twice took the Mets to the playoffs -- once in 1999 as a wild-card entry which lost in the NLCS to the Atlanta Braves and again in 2000, when he directed the Mets to the World Series (where they lost to the New York Yankees in a famed Subway Series).

In 15 years, Valentine managed a team into the postseason twice. Similarly, his teams cracked the 90-win plateau two times. His teams never finished better than second.

2) He wouldn't stand for the kind of frat-house behavior that sank the 2011 Red Sox.

Actually, Valentine twice oversaw teams which had some similar issues.

In 1999, as the Mets season was ending, at least two of the team's stars -- Bobby Bonilla and Rickey Henderson -- were otherwise occupied. In Game 6 of the NLCS, Bonilla and Henderson were in the clubhouse playing cards while the Mets tried, unsuccessfully, to force a Game 7.

Then, in 2002, some stories alleged that as many as seven players on the roster had smoked marijuana. Some, it was reported, hired limousines rather than take the team bus so they could smoke postgame.

When Valentine was fired after the 2002 season, owner Fred Wilpon said Valentine had lost control of the clubhouse and the players.

Given the late-season implosion the Sox underwent, complete with players drinking beer and eating fried chicken, Valentine undoubtedly had some explaining to do in his interview with Red Sox management and ownership.

3) At 61, Valentine is too established and too set in his ways to incorporate some of the new statistical metrics which the Red Sox employ.

To the contrary, Valentine has long been eager to incorporate advanced statistical data for in-game strategy, dating all the way back to his first major league managerial
job in Texas.

There, Craig Wright, a forerunner among sabremeticians, supplied him with data and Valentie embraced it.

At the time, Wright's information was rather basic; statistical anaylsis has grown mightily in the last 25 years or so.

But when you consider that some organizations still eye such data wearily, the very fact that Valentine was willing to incorporate such information as early as the mid-to-late 1980s signals a willingness to try new things and listen to what others have to offer.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.