It was a bizarre sight (and sound) at Fenway Park.
Just Monday afternoon, Red Sox owner John Henry‘s hand was basically forced into sending an open letter to the media giving a public show of support to his manager, Bobby Valentine, as the cries for his job became too loud to ignore. By Tuesday evening, Fenway Park was chanting Valentine’s first name as the skipper argued with the umpiring crew in support of just-tossed second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
To be sure, the call that started it all — first-base umpire Paul Nauert‘s third-strike check-swing appeal — was a horrendous one, and Pedroia had every right to be frustrated. The fact that he was allowed to stick around the game so long and argue so vehemently was essentially a tacit admission by Nauert and the umpires that it was a blown call.
But when Pedroia wouldn’t let it go and continued to chirp at Nauert after David Murphy was hit by a pitch while nearly offering at it, the ump wouldn’t have it anymore, and Pedroia was ejected. Reading Nauert’s lips, you could see him telling Pedroia, “You’re a better ballplayer than that.”
Then it was Valentine to the rescue, appropriately rising to the ocassion and protecting one of his most fiery players by raising his own stink. Valentine tried his hardest, but no matter how hard he protested, he couldn’t seem to get himself tossed in sympathy with Pedroia.
“I was pretty angry and supporting my guy and probably said more to [Nauert] than I’ve said other times I’ve been thrown out,” said Valentine after the Red sox 6-3 loss at the hands of the Texas Rangers. “He wasn’t going to throw me out unless I made a complete fool of myself or punched him or something.”
Nonetheless, credit Valentine for protecting one of his team leaders, and credit the Fenway Faithful for recognizing it and — for once — giving a public show of support to its club’s manager. It was a nice show by both Valentine and the fans, and hopefully a bridge to repairing a clearly fractured relationship between fans and field management.
All that being said, a loss is a loss, and moral victories and nice moments don’t mean much at this point. The best that can be said is that hopefully it’s an opportunity to bring the clubhouse closer together — assuming you buy into the theory that a chummy clubhouse is a requisite to winning baseball games.
Of course, it was just July 30 when we were talking about another Valentine blowup — an actual ejection, in this instance — possibly bringing the club closer together, and that appears not to have been the case.
So who knows what the future brings, but, for one night at least, there was a little solidarity from the fans to their manager, and that was a positive thing to see.