In many ways, Bobby Valentine and Joe Maddon are similar. Before a spring training game against the Rays, the Red Sox skipper acknowledged as much, rattling off the characteristics that he admired about Maddon.
“I think his gamesmanship is real good, his in-game housekeeping is good,” Valentine said. “And I like a little bit of his banter, whatever his act is. I kind of like it.”
That last quality –– banter –– embodies Valentine’s persona. When the Red Sox open at home Friday against the Rays at 2:05 p.m., Valentine will meet his managerial match in Maddon, the Rays skipper.
Both are unpredictable, constantly undertaking risks and shuffling their lineups or player positions. After working alongside Maddon in 2008 and Valentine in spring training, Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar can attest to the comparisons.
“They’re both, to me, outward thinkers, out of the box,” Bogar said. “They’re always trying to find a better way to play the game, a better way to use the players that you have to your advantage.”
But as alike as Valentine and Maddon on the surface, the personnel on the roster dictate some differences. In Boston, Valentine has to manage superstar athletes. In Tampa Bay, Maddon is responsible for molding young talent into budding stars.
As a result of the disparity, Valentine has seemingly been more aggressive with team regulations. Based on the clubhouse woes that plagued the Red Sox last season, Valentine opted to hold his veterans accountable and ban booze from the premises.
To continue perpetuating the laissez-faire environment in Tampa Bay, Maddon has permitted his club to drink without issue. That’s merely one of the discrepancies that Carl Crawford –– who played five years under Maddon –– has noticed behind the scenes.
“They’re a little different in [managing the clubhouse], where I think there’s a lot of rules here,” Crawford said. “Over [in Tampa Bay], it’s really more like free. It’s just a really free atmosphere over there. It’s a lot more rules here.”
As the Rays catcher from 2010 to 2011, Kelly Shoppach participated in Maddon’s gimmicks. Per the skipper’s request, Rays players donned wacky outfits for road trips, sporting anything from cowboy shirts to hockey jerseys to pajamas.
The attire would typically depend on the location of the opposing city. Although the custom was off the wall –– Shoppach called it “goofy” –– the veteran catcher grasped the logic behind Maddon’s idea.
“What he tries to do is keep it loose,” Shoppach said of Maddon. “There’s so many young players there, that they depend on to be impact players, that it’s important for those guys to feel comfortable at a young age, virtually as soon as they get there because competing against this division is a challenge.
“His No. 1 focus is to make sure those guys don’t feel like it’s a big pressure stage. He brings that into the clubhouse, so we’re nice and relaxed all the time and having fun.”
Valentine has organized creative outings, too. During spring training, the Red Sox manager rented out the local Bass Pro Shop for a team dinner, where players also performed karaoke in front of one another.
But his tricks likely won’t reach Maddon’s standards. Since taking the Rays job in 2006, the skipper has dyed his hair multiple colors and famously rocked a mohawk during Tampa Bay’s historic playoff run in 2008.
“Bobby’s personality is a little bit stronger than Joe’s in the fact that Bobby likes to be in charge,” Bogar said. “That’s who he is. Joe’s obviously in charge, too. But it’s just a different way of getting that stuff across. Joe, he talks a lot individually, personally, with a lot of the players about certain things. Not that Bobby doesn’t, but it’s just related a little bit differently.”
In the heated American League East, Valentine and Maddon will showcase their quirky personalities and creative styles regularly. It remains to be seen what affects those tactics will have over the course of the season.
“That’s a real young team over there,” Crawford said of the Rays. “It’s a little more business here now with Bobby here. It’s a little more taking care of business type of mentality right now.”