MLB — 27 April 2012

The Boston Red Sox have been an American League powerhouse for the past several years, but a (5-10) start to the 2012 season has Boston Nation in panic mode. It should be noted that the Sox dug themselves an early hole last season with a 4-10 beginning, but Boston fans were not as concerned as they are right now. Why?

It’s simple; Terry Francona was at the helm last season. Francona had been the Red Sox manager for eight years and during that stretch he captured two World Series and two pennants. Fans developed a great deal of faith in him, but he isn’t standing at the top of the dugout anymore, Bobby Valentine is.

Valentine, who spent eight years with the Texas Rangers and seven years with the New York Mets, didn’t start his stint as the Red Sox manager the way he wanted to and it’s entirely his fault. In the heat of the large media market of Boston, Valentine had some very critical feelings about the play of his struggling third basemen, Kevin Youkilis.

“I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason,” Valentine said Sunday. “But [on Saturday] it seemed, you know, he’s seeing the ball well, got those two walks, got his on-base percentage up higher than his batting average, which is always a good thing, and he’ll move on from there,” Valentine expressed.

In a market like Kansas City this comment would have blown right over, but remember, we’re talking about Boston- one of the largest media markets in the world. And it didn’t take long for his teammates to respond, specifically Adrian Gonzalez and Youkilis’s longtime teammate, Dustin Pedroia.

“Everyone here knows I go out and play with emotion,” Youkilis told reporters in the Red Sox clubhouse, before Valentine said he had apologized. “The only time there has ever been a question is because I’ve been too emotional.”

Dustin Pedroia came to his teammate’s defense after hearing about Valentine’s comments.

“I really don’t know what Bobby is trying to do,” Pedroia said Monday. “That’s not the way we go about our stuff around here. He’ll figure that out. The whole team is behind Youk. We have each other’s backs here.”

Pedroia was also asked if Valentine was trying to use his comments as motivation, and he had some harsh words directed at his manager.

“Maybe that works in Japan,” Pedroia said, referring to Valentine’s successful stints as a manager in that country.

Adrian Gonzalez also chipped in about the situation.

“We all know Youk does give 110 percent every time he’s out there, that’s my reaction to it,” he said after the game. “Youk’s a team player, we all love him, we’re all behind him,” Gonzalez said.

It’s clear that Youkilis’s teammates have his back which is good for him, but bad for Valentine. Apparently Youk and Valentine met and the manager apologized, but that doesn’t come close to curing any of the Sox’s problems.

The Sox started off very slow last season and were arguably the best team in baseball during the dog days of the summer, but this led to a late season collapse in which they failed to reach the postseason.

In a competitive A.L. East division, can the Red Sox Rebound? Only time will tell…

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Jake Dal Porto

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