Fans are quick to pin this year's problems on him. Members of the team have disliked or discouraged him. Analysts and pundits will talk about everything he's done wrong.
But, for all the vitriol that can be sent Valentine's way, he remains untouchable in one area. No one can fault this man for the raw fire, passion and intensity he brings when he feels this team has been slighted. Valentine will fight for the Red Sox — and that's saying something this season.
Call it pink hats, the start of the football season or traffic on the Mass Pike, but plenty of people have decided they won't put the same emotional investment into the Red Sox this season as they have before. The team is undeserving of their time or praise, they say. The results have doomed them, and "tomorrow" is the best word to hold high.
But Valentine — who, of all people, has the most reason to shake his head at the craziness of this season — not only remains involved but is also campaigning hard for this team down the stretch.
Valentine won't give any ground to those who call for his head, saying he's the manager now and plans to be in the future — statements that tell this team to stay focused on the here and now, and to do what can be done to start winning immediately.
He juggles the lineup, plays with the bullpen, takes the expectations no matter the results.
And, as he did so eloquently Wednesday night, he gets freaking ticked off and fights as hard as he can for his team's fortunes.
Valentine was ejected for the sixth time of the season Wednesday night — a single-season record for any Red Sox player or manager. (It was also Valentine's 43rd ejection of his career.) That's six times he's wheeled around and gone at it with the umpire for more, six times that he's found his best vocabulary to tell Major League Baseball how he thinks the Red Sox have been short-changed, six times that he's fired up his teams by letting them know that he cares and they should, too.
Valentine will take his lumps as manager, but he's fulfilled one part of his job description more than well. He's shown the fire that this city loves from its stars, the fight that is necessary to lead a Boston sports team.
Without the wins, of course, Valentine is just a man going off. But it's no coincidence that his biggest ovations in Fenway Park have come on days when he's had it out on the diamond with those who undercut the Red Sox after they've fought so hard.
Valentine's status with the team will certainly be evaluated after this season, and he will always work from a disadvantage to win over those who don't think he has the personality, skills or people-handling abilities to manage (whether it be in Boston or elsewhere in Major League Baseball).
But when fans and critics start pining for another skipper for the first-base dugout, they should also remember that few come with a resume with the one thing Valentine has mastered this season: the ability to fight, scream, tug and kick for the Red Sox, no matter how bad it gets.
Keep those ejections coming. That's Valentine at his best.
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