Many predicted instant combustion. Most figured it would be a rocky season at best. Some thought Valentine could find success as a manager again — if he could somehow woo the highly paid stars who made up the team.
Valentine certainly did a bit of due diligence before the season, reaching out to different players, including slugger David Ortiz. But when it came to the volatile Josh Beckett, Valentine now admits that maybe he didn't do enough — after being told quite clearly that Beckett was the key to the Boston roster's heart.
Former New York Mets pitcher Al Leiter, now a broadcaster with the Yankees, apparently told Valentine to work hard on his relationship with Beckett early on.
"I love Al Leiter, and I have for a long time," Valentine said during a radio interview on the Michael Kay Show on Friday. "… If I listened to him on some advice he gave me over the winter, I'd probably have been better off this year."
Valentine didn't go into details about that advice, but when he was done with his turn on Kay's show, Leiter — whose presence in the studio was what caused Valentine's original comment — was happy to fill everyone in.
"The advice was that he had to make sure that he had Josh Beckett," Leiter said.
Leiter said it was important for Beckett to be on "Bobby's side" going into the season, "because Josh could be difficult."
Beckett and Valentine were already somewhat at odds because Valentine had criticized Beckett while an analyst for ESPN, calling out the length of time it took Beckett to throw his pitches. Leiter said Valentine went to see Beckett in Houston in the offseason to try to get the two on the same page.
Leiter wasn't convinced, however, that it ever happened, considering the chemistry issues the team dealt with all season, leading to a deal where Beckett was happily traded to Los Angeles.
"Josh could be difficult, and he was, and it was a divisive kind of scenario, and I don't know if [Valentine] … really got it done," Leiter said.
After a season where Valentine has spent most of his time patching over miscues or trying to make up for not laying the proper groundwork, here's guessing that Leiter's advice will be fully received next time.
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