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Soup of This Day #160: You Think That’s Where It’s At But Is That Where It’s Supposed To Be?

April 5, 2012

Brown Pelican on a boat in Trinidad
A Brown Pelican sitting on a boat in Trinidad. Pelicans eat fish. Particularly brightly coloured 1s that parade near the surface – Photo: John Boyer, 2010. John Boyer is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

It’s nigh on Opening Day.

Yep, I know there was that whole A’s vs Mariners thing in Japan and the game in an aquarium this morning but for me tomorrow morning is the big deal. Boston at Detroit. Lester on the mound vs Verlander and 162 games stretching off into the distance. In honour of all of this I was going to write a post around how the new season brings hope and expectations but somehow I got caught on the draft of something I’d written a month or so ago.

It’s a post about Bobby Valentine, the new Red Sox Manager. I shelved it initially because I hadn’t made up my mind on Bobby. He’s a high wire act for sure and there didn’t seem to be any way of working out whether he was going to fall or maybe carry off that forward somersault on a unicycle. Now it’s Opening Day and I still have no read on which way it’s breaking.

Part of the problem for me is that I can’t get the necessary perspective on Bobby V.

For 1 I’m all the way down here and so didn’t get the coverage of Bobby V pre-Red Sox, that you’d get in the US. The bits I have got I haven’t much liked, mostly because I’m a guy that is comfortable with silence. By this I mean that I don’t see the value in filling silence with conversation if the quality isn’t there. I prefer to take the time to think about it and maybe wait for a comment of sufficient weight to come out.

Bobby V doesn’t seem to be that guy. To be fair, I get that when you’re on TV your bosses tend not to like silence. They want sound-bites and sometimes the more controversial they are the better. For mine though, Bobby V stretches even that as an expert commentator. He just throws out stuff, not just into the silence but into gaps where you would have sworn there was no reasonable amount of silence to work with.

At least that’s my call from 16,867kms distant. That’s not my only limitation in making an unbiased call on Bobby V though.

I’m a Red Sox fan. I’m never going to be impartial.

Being a fan means walking a fine line – I might not like a player or Manager but I want him to do well because I want the organisation to do well. A great example of this is John Lackey – I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like John if we were guys who worked together. This isn’t necessarily a negative reflection on John – It’s just that he and I have a different working ethos. I’m not a beer in the clubhouse during games kind of guy. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, it’s just not me – I’m the guy who sits on the bench watching my team.

That would be all I’d do – Only a madman would send me out to pitch.

Ethos aside, I’m not happy with John Lackey as a Red Sox pitcher. I wasn’t happy when we signed him in 2009 – He’s always been expensive in terms of his ERA and WHIP and while you can argue that his 2011 was an outlier, nobody can disagree that it wasn’t that far off the centre of the bell curve for John Lackey.

Despite all of this unhappiness I still want him to do well every time he steps up to the mound with that Sox cap on.

Which is why I’m not capable of giving an open assessment of Bobby V. The man wears a Red Sox uniform and it’s the Manager’s duds to boot. As I’ve written before, I believe that this is a position to be treated with respect, if only to honour those who went before. So I’m trying hard to observe and hoping like hell that the man works out and that we turn the page on 2011.

That’s proving very difficult.

If Bobby V had been silent, had taken time to settle in then it would be easy to sit here and tell the doubters to give him time. That’s not for the new Red Sox Manager though. Bobby V is everywhere and commenting on everything. Sure the media circus around the Sox has gotta make it a fishbowl but there’s being a fish that’s comfortable ducking into the ornamental castle for quiet time and then there’s being a fish that likes to puff itself up in bright colours out front 24/7.

Bobby V is a brightly-coloured fish – Dorey from Finding Nemo. If you’re a big fan of the ocean it’s difficult to single out that 1 fish for criticism. Dorey does mean well after all.

It doesn’t help that some of what he says is sensible. Bobby V, not the fish voiced by Ellen.

Early on in the piece he was questioned over why he was putting his starting pitchers through batting practice whereby they were showing bunt and then slashing away. His answer was framed around an incident where Colby Lewis had failed in laying down a bunt in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. If he’d swung instead of laying down the bunt into a double play maybe that play might have turned into a ring-winning 1. Maybe not as well given it was the 2nd inning but Texas did lose that game in extra innings and then dropped Game 7 as the Cards took home the chocolates. Bobby’s premise seemed to be that even small details matter and on such details hangs success. It’s hard not to be impressed by that thinking.

But then, out comes a knuckleball – In a similar vein to the Colby Lewis reference Bobby V took aim at Derek Jeter and the Yankees over a play from 2001. Jeter intercepted a throw and backhanded it to the plate for an out. Poor positioning says Bobby. You don’t practice for that, the Yankees wouldn’t have practiced for that and Jason Giambi would have been out even if Jeter hadn’t intercepted.

Yeah, ahhhh…No, no and no.

By Bobby’s logic on the Colby Lewis bunt you should practice for this kind of stuff – It’s yet another detail that maybe wins a game. It turns out that the Yankees agree – They came out and said they had practised it. Which is good because Giambi would not have been out if Jeter hadn’t got involved – No way. In fact Giambi might have been safe anyway if he had slid into home but hardly anybody locks on to that.

Let’s be honest though, nobody cares about that 2001 play except maybe Jason Giambi and Bobby Valentine. So why the 2012 Red Sox Manager felt the need to comment on it is the mystery here. If you’re on ESPN then sure, by all means, it fills all of 5 minutes of airtime and maybe Giambi throws a rubber brick at his TV. I bet though that it generates no more interest than that. Make that comment now and the story becomes Bobby V. Again.

This kind of approach has a multiplied effect around the Red Sox – The media have so many more column inches to fill than for pretty much every other team. Playing into that, the 2011 Red Sox talked a lot, although in that media market and this day and age it’s hard not to I guess. But contrast the fallout for Atlanta post-September as opposed to the Red Sox – The Braves were only narrowly shaded by the Bostonians for the worst collapse of the year, yet they received comparatively little media follow-up and as such have quietly gone about righting the wrongs.

I think.

It’s hard to tell because you can’t hear much out of Atlanta over the furore that keeps following Bobby Valentine and the Red Sox.

The upshot of all of this is that I still don’t know what we’re getting this year. It promises to be something to notice – There will be something from Bobby V. In some ways he’s like that concept of 1000s of monkeys in a room pecking away on typewriters. Have at it for long enough and there will be some gold in there. Maybe even some Shakespeare. It’s just that there’ll also be some gibberish that make no sense as well.

Well anyway, the season is here now and the talk counts for nought. I guess what I’m hoping for here is some Shakespeare out of Bobby V. Not just written, but acted out too:

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

And sisters.

Go Red Sox.

You Think That’s Where It’s At But Is That Where It’s Supposed To Be?

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