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 the best Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.
Bobby Valentine is at least a little bit crazy.
Have no doubt about that. This is, after all, the same man who once returned to the bench wearing glasses and a fake mustache after being ejected from a game during his New York Mets tenure. That incident probably solidified Valentine’s reputation as being one of the more, well, let’s just say “offbeat” managers ever to grace Major League Baseball.
However, one thing no one has ever questioned about Valentine is his baseball acumen. Then again, sometimes you have to go with your gut, and that’s the only reasonable way to explain Valentine’s decision to bat the struggling Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the cleanup hole Saturday night. Coming into the game, Saltalamacchia had two hits in his last 26 at-bats, so the decision to bat him fourth ahead of Will Middlebrooks and Adrian Gonzalez might seem a little bit, ahem, crazy.
Of course, it seems like just yesterday Saltalamacchia was being talked about as a potential All-Star behind the plate, as he had finally earned a regular starting role after being labeled for years as a top prospect who never quite arrived in the big leagues. Then again, even with his recent slide, the 27-year-old was still sporting a .512 slugging percentage, which would be second-best among catchers in either league if he had enough at-bats to qualify (he’s about 20 short).
So, what prompted Valentine to see Saltalamacchia as an option in the cleanup role Saturday? Well, even Valentine, it would seem, recognizes that his strategy may be a little bit crazy.
“Sometimes crazy times ask for crazy measures,” the Red Sox skipper said.
Truthfully, the move is a defensible one, and it makes sense in the context of trying to jump-start a talented hitter by putting him in a position where he’s likely to see better pitches. With Middlebrooks and Gonzalez hitting behind Saltalamacchia, opposing pitchers do have a lot of incentive not to give him a free pass.
But it’s still a move which takes a certain amount of guts — a disposition not to be confused with trusting one’s gut instinct. Maybe Valentine just had a feeling Saltalamacchia was ready to break out. But maybe it was a move made without motive — blind trust in a talented hitter to come through.
Valentine was certainly rewarded for his craziness Saturday, and the Red Sox had better hope his insanity is a form of genius.