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.
We finally learned what Bobby Valentine has to do to get a standing ovation around these parts, and it apparently involves his removal from the game.
Valentine was tossed on Sunday after arguing a clearly blown call at first base on a ground ball by Dustin Pedroia that Kansas City Royals third baseman Tony Abreu bobbled, his throw subsequently pulling first baseman Eric Hosmer off the bag.
"I didn't try to get kicked out there," said Valentine. "I didn't really get upset until I did get kicked out. Just sharing an opinion. We all have them."
As he calmly walked off the field, hands at his side, Valentine received a rousing ovation from the Fenway Faithful, but we're really not sure why. Was it a sarcastic cheer for in support of Valentine's removal? Possibly. Was it a genuine show of public support for the manager? Maybe. Was it just that the fans were pumped up to have something so exciting happening on the diamond? That remains a distinct possibility.
Whatever the reason, and however you interpret the reception, the argument itself was just another instance in which Valentine has done well to publicly protect his players, begging some questions why he's been so maligned in a Murphy's Law kind of season.
"Bobby was pretty upset, because I didn't even turn around and he was already out of the game, it was pretty funny," said Pedroia after the Red Sox' 8-6 win. However, if you think the incident spurred the Red Sox on to victory, the second baseman had a little sarcasm to share. "Yeah, sure, we should just get thrown out of the game all the time."
Despite the five times Valentine has been thrown out of games protecting his players, despite all the kind words he's shared with the press for struggling players and all the times he's taken personal responsibility for a player's failings — see: Alfredo Aceves against the Angels on Thursday — it does feel like the players, and perhaps the press, have focused on too many of the negatives.
Valentine did probably handle the Kevin Youkilis situation poorly, and Pedroia was quick to point that out. However, it also feels like too many players just refused to buy into Valentine's approach from Day 1, and too much is made of instances such as his offhand sarcasm to Will Middlebrooks. In that case, worse things are said by bad Little League coaches to 10-year-olds every spring, so is everyone concerned with a little negative reinforcement at the major league level?
Beyond the Youkilis and Middlebrooks incidents, we don't even really know much about the specifics as to why the Red Sox held a meeting in July to air concerns about the manager. There, apparently, were "communication issues," but aside from with now-fired pitching coach Bob McClure, we really don't know what that means.
When players do communicate with Valentine, it's apparently just to slam his office door. However, until we know more about the concerns of the players, why all the animosity against Valentine? Here are the facts:
This is a team which, almost as constituted throughout 2012, was universally perceived as dysfunctional in 2011.
Valentine has managed the bullpen brilliantly, building a sometimes-dominant unit from scrapheap pieces and converted starters.
The Red Sox were 18-29 in games started by Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, their supposed aces, before Saturday's big trade.
This is a team that was never able to put its projected lineup on the field once in 2012, suffering an absurd amount of injuries throughout the course of the year.
Valentine has suffered as much as anyone throughout the course of this disappointing season, and it's unfortunate that there haven't been more instances of public support. Instead, press release emails from team management have had to suffice.
It remains to be seen if Valentine will be a part of the new guard in Boston going forward, but either way, he certainly hasn't been part of the problem in 2012.