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.
It was another day, and another decision that Bobby Valentine would have to explain to everyone else after the Red Sox lost 5-0 to the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon.
During the top of the seventh inning, with two out, Red Sox third baseman Pedro Ciriaco singled, and stole second while Jose Iglesias was at the plate. With a 2-2 count, manager Valentine decided to pinch hit for the light-hitting shortstop — Daniel Nava promptly bounced back to the box, ending Boston's chance to break a 0-0 tie and get a win on behalf of starter Jon Lester.
When Valentine spoke after the game, he cited both a cutthroat desire to win, and a compassionate desire to secure a "W" for Lester, who had an otherwise stellar outing amid a difficult season. Nonetheless, it was obvious to all that Valentine would need to further explain his rationale.
"Just trying to get a run for Jon, obviously," said Valentine after the game. "Told Daniel if [Ciriaco] steals second, you’ve got it. Otherwise, I
was all set to play defense. I was pinch-hit for with
the bases loaded, 3-2 count, and it didn’t ruin my confidence. I talked
to [Iglesias]. He’ll get over it. He said, 'Whatever's right for the
When hearing it put like that, it actually sounds like a plausible explanation for a eyebrow-raising move. However, the problem isn't so much the rationale behind it, but the fact that it's a move that will indeed evoke uneeded attention.
The truth is, Valentine is absolutely right on several levels. He's right to want to make any move possible to make a nice geasture for Lester. He's right when he says that the move shouldn't affect Iglesias' confidence — if it does, he probably wasn't big-league material to begin with. And Valentine is even right in the very strategy of the move, as whether Ciriaco is at first or second does make a huge difference in how the at-bat should be approached.
"I don’t think it was a make-or-break situation," said Valentine of Iglesias' confidence. "He'll
have an opportunity to get some hits. It’s not kindergarten here. You
don’t think it was a good decision. So what? I think it was the right
thing to do to try to win a game for a [pitcher] who’s busting his butt
The problem is, it doesn't really matter whether Valentine is right or wrong at this point. The longtime manager has never, ever been one to eschew the duty of being a lightning rod, but some of his decisions lately — hitting Scott Podsednik third in the batting order, his usage of Alfredo Aceves, the now-infamous "weak roster" comment — is unduly inviting attention upon the ballclub, and it seems largely unfair to have the current roster have to answer for July's incarnation of the clubhouse.
Regardless, Valentine is what he has always been, someone who's going to be the focal point of the media's attention, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It can bring down unwarranted wrath upon a team, but it can also shield its individual players through a veil of responsibility.
In this case, however, Valentine is riding a fine line between shielding a player and exposing him.