Bobby Valentine Knows Baseball, From Beanballs to Walk-Offs, and Red Sox Respond

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Bobby Valentine Knows Baseball, From Beanballs to Walk-Offs, and Red Sox Respond

Editor's note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine's words. Each game day, we will select a Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.

Say what you will about what transpired Friday night between the Red Sox and the Rays.

The plunking, the brawl, the accusations, the explanations — no one is going to say what really happened, because what really happened is of secondary concern to the desired result.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine got his desired result. It came in the form of a 3-2 walk-off win on Saturday night.

Baseball is a cyclical sport, powered by streaks and slumps, hot batters and in-the-groove pitchers. Players and coaches will tinker with mechanics and adjust approaches to influence the ebbs and flows of the game, but very little else can be done to change a contest.

There are no timeouts, no halftime locker room speeches — there are barely even off days. To get a team going without another player's performance sparking it, managers often have just one or two tactics.

One tactic is the old ejection ploy, where a manager gets worked up beyond his own good with the intention of getting tossed. It's obvious, but it often has a magical effect on the team, fueling players who couldn't do anything before the hat-tossing shouting match.

The other method is another kind of fight, one that is trickier to foment because the manager can't be in the thick of it. He wants to get his guys worked up against the other team, but he has to do it through strategy and game-planning.

This is where the beanballs come in.

Friday night's plunkings were part of the classic payback culture of baseball — retribution for the last time the Rays and Red Sox played each other. But the payback seemed to loop toward the level of farce when it was the Rays' Luke Scott on the receiving end late in the game. That's why Valentine is being accused, but that's also why Valentine is smiling.

Whatever happened in that situation, the result was an on-field gripe, and the Red Sox were duly fired up.

On Saturday, they backed an excellent performance by Josh Beckett with a resiliency that eventually got them the win, as they finally punched through in the bottom of the ninth on a pinch-hit home run.

Valentine could care less about plunking and payback — he was in this one for the result, and he got it on Saturday. Finally, a quarter of the way through the season, he has a club playing .500 ball. His players are going at it like professionals. They look good. They're having fun.

"It looked great. It really was a scene — I saw that scene before. This was a happy scene," Valentine said. "Last night might have brought them together. Maybe we’ll have that reunion at home plate a few times this year."

Fights at home plate, reunions at home plate — all fine by this manager. It's just another page in his managing book.

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