Kevin Youkilis is returning to Fenway Park tonight. And even though most Red Sox fans agree that he probably had to be traded, there is still a strong undercurrent of support and appreciation for the man who brought a Paul O'Neill attitude to the corner infield, who won a Gold Glove at first base then was willing to move to third, who was an associate member of the 2004 World Series winning Red Sox and a very full member of the 2007 World Series winning Red Sox.
Everyone seems happy to welcome Kevin Youkilis back, especially the promotions people in the Red Sox ticket office. Everyone except Bobby Valentine.
It doesn't seem like Valentine and Youkilis saw eye-to-eye. It's not difficult to figure out why. Valentine sees himself as an Alpha. Youkilis is always grumbling and gritting his teeth. He's a dissenter. It was natural for these two to tango.
Even now, when April is a distant memory, Bobby Valentine is still harping on how his ex-player reacted to stuff that he told the media months ago.
Before I discuss this further, let's remember that Youkilis is gone. He's a member of another team in another city in another division. He is no longer the charge or responsibility of the Red Sox or of Bobby Valentine. He's out of here, absent, long gone. He's an opponent now, and his time as a member of the Red Sox is very much in the past. It is long since time to move on.
So why is Bobby V talking about him in the present tense? Everyone, including Youkilis, seems to have moved on. So why can't Bobby V say "he was a good player but the circumstances dictated that we do something because we had too many players for too few spots in the lineup." Why can't Bobby V implement worn-out, yet honest lines such as that?
Instead, Valentine placed all responsibility for any player-manager relationship strains on Youkilis: "I think the comment I made early, he made a big issue out of, and I don't think he ever wanted to get over it... I have no idea. It was whatever he wanted it to be."
So Valentine is saying that the ex-player who has been traded and played well for his new team couldn't get over something? Seems to me like Valentine can't get over Youkilis.
In retrospect, it doesn't seem like Valentine was ever a big fan of Youkilis. Valentine has been diplomatic and defensive when discussing all the other injured players on the Red Sox. With Youkilis, Valentine publicly questioned his work-ethic and his commitment to the team.
There are plenty of players on the Red Sox whose commitment and work-ethic are worthy of scrutiny, Why did Valentine pick Youkilis'?
Maybe it was because Youkilis was alleged to be the so-called "snitch" that leaked information to the media about Josh Beckett and friends getting liquored and chickened up in the clubhouse.
Did Valentine target Youkilis? Did he think he could rally the disjointed Red Sox clubhouse and unite them against a common enemy?
If not, why is Valentine still talking about it? Since being traded, Youkilis has fed the media the standard lines. He appreciated his time in Boston but he's focused on the White Sox now. Any and all Youkilis-driven clubhouse drama ended when Youkilis left the clubhouse. Why is Valentine still trying to isolate Kevin Youkilis and attack him?
Why is Kevin Youkilis a major issue for Valentine? I thought the point of trading Youkilis was to prevent him from becoming an issue.
But I guess Valentine wants to try to unite his team around a common cause. Valentine feels the need to be responsible for everything. That's why he blames Youkilis for creating a strenuous clubhouse atmosphere. And now Valentine wants to be the one who gets credit for getting Youkilis out of here and allowing that atmosphere to calm. Valentine's remarks simply provoked the beast into acting like a beast. And Valentine helped remove the beast. Bobby V wants credit for the tranquility he's helped create in the Red Sox clubhouse.
Well be careful what you wish for, Bobby, you just might get it. You seem hell-bent on being responsible for what happens with this team, and in the end, you likely will be. Don't worry. I'm sure Francona will get a job managing a baseball team and ESPN will be looking for a loud-mouthed, opinionated, frequently incorrect jerk to help boost ratings. Bobby V is the Skip Bayless of baseball managers.