Claremore Daily Progress

Sports Columnists

April 17, 2012

LITKE: Bobby V. doesn't do peace and quiet

BOSTON — Nobody hires Bobby Valentine expecting peace and quiet.

That's not the way he did business in the past, and as his latest run-in with struggling slugger Kevin Youkilis demonstrated, Bobby V. is not about to turn over a new leaf now.

Whether it meant needling opponents, umpires, his players or even his boss - Valentine rarely lets an opportunity pass without reminding everyone who is the smartest guy in the room. That explains why he was so welcome in TV studios and broadcast booths, but perhaps also why Valentine hadn't managed in the big leagues for 10 years until the Red Sox gave him an office last winter. So if nothing else, a culture clash was inevitable.

Boston was coming off an historic collapse in the final month of last season, the last few days of which have been portrayed as a baseball production of "Animal House.'' Terry Francona, who preceded Valentine in the job and won two World Series titles in his eight seasons there, conceded he'd left it to the players to police the clubhouse themselves and that by the end, a few devoted more time studying takeout menus than lineup cards. Even after leaving, Francona was reluctant to name names. That won't happen with Valentine, who calls things as he sees `em the moment he sees `em.

So those who think he went hard after Youkilis just a few games into the season should remember when Valentine was managing the Mets and Todd Hundley, arguably his best bat, went into a slump in late August 1997. Instead of extra batting practice for Hundley - or as in Youkilis' case, a show of more emotion - Valentine prescribed an entire lifestyle makeover.

"Todd needs to change his ways,'' Valentine said at the time. "He doesn't sleep enough. He's a nocturnal person and he needs to get more rest. He has a tough time getting to sleep after games.''

That dig - especially the part about Hundley being a "nocturnal person'' - might be a little more personal than the usual motivational fare managers dole out. But what makes Valentine's critiques even more unnerving is that unlike the diamond - where he was often several moves ahead of more-celebrated rivals like Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox - even Valentine doesn't always know where the endgame is off the field. He was fired abruptly after one very successful season with the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan following a tiff with the general manager, then got fired during a second stint there in 2009 despite winning a pennant and a popularity contest against the club's president.

Much of Valentine's tenure with the Mets was no picnic, either, including a stunt in which then-GM Steve Phillips fired his coaching staff and practically dared Valentine to stay on. He did, but lost that job eventually, too.

So all those teammates who stood up for Youkilis, saying they've "got his back'' and "that's not the way we go about our stuff around here'' would be wise to watch their own backs. Because that's exactly the way Valentine goes about his "stuff.''

He might have singled out Youkilis to get his teammates rallying behind him, or planting the seeds for a trade. Either way, once his comment about Youkilis - "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason'' - produced exactly the kind of manufactured controversy he specializes in, Valentine said he was simply answering a question. He then denied trying to motivate his third baseman, apologizing in one breath and then hinting he might not be done in the next.

"I'd be surprised if Kevin didn't know I was totally behind him,'' Valentine said. "We're big boys. I think he'll get it. If not, I'll talk to him a lot more.''

No doubt. At this rate, unless Boston gets better in a hurry, Valentine will have talked to - or about - every one of Youkilis' teammates by the All-Star break, apparently with the blessing of his higher-ups in the organization.

Not that it matters much. When he took the Red Sox deal, rather than focusing on why it took him so long to get back to the majors, Valentine said he was never "consumed with what I'm not doing. When I had a job, I wasn't thinking about another job.''

What's going to make this more interesting going forward is that the Red Sox, even coming off disappointing back-to-back seasons, are probably the most-talented team Valentine has ever been handed. They've made the playoffs six of the last nine seasons. If they fail to do so again, thinking about another job on a big-league bench is an option he won't have to worry about.


Text Only
Sports Columnists
  • COLUMN: McDermott gets last shot to leave mark on the game

    You never know when a great basketball story is going to peak, so keep an eye out for Doug McDermott. If college basketball's power brokers get their way, you'll be seeing plenty of him over the next few weeks.

    March 18, 2014

  • COLUMN: Michael Sam bravely comes out. Now what?

    Michael Sam could've taken the - well, not the easy, but certainly the easier - way out by staying mum on his sexual orientation, at least until after the NFL draft.
    Instead, one of the nation's top college football players bravely decided to speak now, to tell the world he is gay at a time when NFL teams are grading the guys they'll be picking in a couple of months.

    February 10, 2014

  • COLUMN: Sherman wins the games, then loses his mind

    The bookies in Vegas reported a rare split picking the early favorite for the Super Bowl. At least there's no question about who's going to steal the show.
    That would be Seattle's supremely confident Richard Sherman, who's already staked a claim to being the NFL's most quotable cornerback since Deion Sanders. Fresh off making the game-saving play in the last minute of Sunday's NFC championship, Sherman gave America a taste of how juicy things could get over the next two weeks if his coach, Pete Carroll, doesn't clamp the equivalent of a ''Denver boot'' on the mouth of his All-Pro first.

    January 20, 2014

  • COLUMN: Petrino says he's changed; yeah, right

    Bobby Petrino insists he's a changed man.
    Not the scoundrel who secretly interviewed for someone else's coaching job without telling his bosses, who abandoned the Atlanta Falcons with three games left in the season, who wrecked his motorcycle with his mistress aboard and lied about the sordid affair as long as he could.
    We're supposed to believe he's not that guy anymore.
    Yeah, right.

    January 11, 2014

  • COLUMN: A nation grieves and the NFL plays on

    Americans grieved in front of their television sets on a brutally grim Sunday afternoon 50 years ago as a horse-drawn caisson took the body of President Kennedy from the White House to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

    November 24, 2013

  • COLUMN: Fitting ending in cards for final BCS

    The Bowl Championship Series is in its death throes, and few are mourning its passing.
    Come next season, the path to the national championship will go through two playoff games, and a blue ribbon panel will pick the lucky participants. It's hardly a perfect system because invariably some worthy school will get left out, but it is a major step toward deciding the title mostly on the field instead of inside somebody's basement computer.

    November 6, 2013

  • COLUMN: Hard to imagine another chance for Tebow

    There was never any real reason to dislike Tim Tebow, who never pretended to be anything he wasn't. Blame him for the Tebowing craze, if you will, but even that was worth a few laughs in a league that doesn't always embrace fun.

    September 2, 2013

  • COLUMN: Time for baseball to really clean up act

    Of all those penalized in baseball's biggest doping scandal, at least Nelson Cruz had a good story to tell.
    No, his drink wasn't spiked with testosterone in a bar one night by a Texas Rangers fan desperate for a World Series win. That would be a bit hard to believe now, wouldn't it?

    August 6, 2013

  • COLUMN: Bruins stir OKC hockey memories

    Seeing the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals brings back some childhood memories going back to the days of the original Oklahoma City Blazers, who were a Bruins farm club from 1965-72.

    June 22, 2013

  • COLUMN: Perfect ending to OU's championship run

    Really, that’s about right.

    On the day Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso saves the nation’s best pitcher for a possible winner-take-all national championship game, the nation’s best pitcher’s back-up tosses a shutout and the nation’s best pitcher rips a three-run home run and drives in all four Sooner runs.

    June 5, 2013