Credit the Braves for this: They didn’t hire Bobby Valentine

A regional cover of this week's Sports Illustrated.

A regional cover of this week's Sports Illustrated. Rather evocative, eh?

Even as the Braves tease/torment us with the possibility (remote though it would seem) of another Epic Collapse, we can take solace in this: As frustrating as they can be, they’re not the Red Sox. Because the Red Sox took their own E.C. of last September and proceeded to destroy themselves.

They changed general managers. More to the point, they changed managers and hired the absolute worst man for the job, and not a day passes that Red Sox Nation isn’t given a new reason to realize that any organization that employs Bobby Valentine is doomed.

A manager must be able to lead men in the pursuit of a common goal. Bobby Valentine can only lead men to want to get as far from Bobby Valentine as possible. If there’s a bigger phony in the world, it’s only because this is a mighty big world.

He cannot bring himself to shut his month, and whenever he opens it, trouble follows. Valentine defenders — actually, the plural could be incorrect; I only know of one — insist that his keen sense of humor isn’t always appreciated by us dimmer bulbs, but what Valentine sees as wit is only the ongoing quest to make himself seem smarter than everyone else alive. Which he demonstrably is not. As a man who covers baseball for a living gleefully notes, Valentine has still never  finished first with a team in the Western Hemisphere. (He did manage the trick in Japan.)

From the day the Red Sox chose Valentine to succeed the affable and able Terry Francona, you knew it wouldn’t end well. You knew because Valentine makes everything about Valentine, and anyone who has spent any time around the Sox — except, perhaps, for the idiotic men who hired Valentine as their manager — grasps that this club’s many fans take a proprietary interest. They don’t just follow the team: They agonize with it.

New Englanders are good at suffering, less good at humor. Valentine’s little jibes have never played well with this constituency, and they’ve played less well in his clubhouse. He angered Kevin Youkilis (since traded) and Dustin Pedroia, by midsummer the respected Adrian Gonzalez was asking to meet with management — other players came along, too — about their differences with this manager.

Management responded by dumping Gonzalez, who still had more than $100 million left on the famous contract he signed with the Sox, and Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers — essentially quitting not just on this season but on the next few. That’s how bad things can get when you employ Bobby Valentine: Every flaw is emphasized, every nit picked. Not so long ago, players wanted to play for the Red Sox, who paid well and won big and had Francona to placate the ravenous media. Now nobody wants to be there.

Valentine is still in place, but that can’t last much longer. His team just finished a 1-8 Western road swing, and along the way the manager seemed not to know (or care) why the banjo-hitting Scott Podsednik was batting third on his lineup card; showed up less than three hours before a game (he was picking up his son at the San Francisco airport and traffic got tangled); had a breakfast summit with team owner John Henry and complained about the fare, and threatened to punch a Boston radio man who asked if Valentine had indeed “checked out.”

Valentine claimed he was kidding about the punching part — he always claims to have been kidding about something — but the same Valentine had responded to a question after the lost series in Oakland by saying, “What difference does it make?” He also pointed out, apparently incorrectly, that Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon routinely arrives at the ballpark even later than Valentine had that one night. This prompted the arch Maddon to Tweet: “Apologies to the writers for being late to today’s pregame session. My pedicure appointment ran a little late.”

So now we know that Joe Maddon is like almost everyone else in baseball: He can’t stand Bobby Valentine, either.

Some Braves fans who were so disenchanted with the user-friendly Fredi Gonzalez last September that they took to AJC.com message boards to lobby for a hard nose with a flair for tactics — a man, in sum, like Bobby Valentine. Trouble is, nobody who plays for this “tactician” can ever be troubled to do as he asks: They’re all too busy hating their manager’s guts.

The Red Sox serve as both case study and object lesson: They failed spectacularly last season and overreacted, and today they’re one game out of last place in a five-team division and have taken to selling off assets in the hope they might get a little better somewhere down the road. The Braves stayed the course and are again positioned to make the playoffs. Sometimes we around here criticize the Braves for being too passive, but whenever we look toward Boston we should be reminded that motion for motion’s sake is never a good idea.

The Red Sox thought it’d be a good idea to throw the smarmy Bobby Valentine into a combustible clubhouse, and today the flagship team of New England is in ashes. And we learn yet again that actions do have consequences.

By Mark Bradley

131 comments Add your comment

Nacho Cheese Sauce

September 6th, 2012
9:01 am

First Oatmeal?

Ostrich Racer

September 6th, 2012
9:01 am

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Mark Bradley

September 6th, 2012
9:02 am

Kudos, Nacho Cheese.

Stank Wren

September 6th, 2012
9:03 am

Fire Freddi and hire Francona

GTT

September 6th, 2012
9:14 am

Yeah, thank goodness for that. Fifth!

Name Changed to Avoid Moderation

September 6th, 2012
9:17 am

Who cares about baseball anymore. Football season is here to save us from the Braves. The only thing remotely compelling about the Braves is the whole Chippers last year thing.

I might watch his last game, but this “team” has nothing left in the tank and I’m done.

GTT

September 6th, 2012
9:19 am

No, you have nothing left in the tank and good riddance.

dick whiskey

September 6th, 2012
9:20 am

damn you guys are fast with a much coveted FIRST

MitchC

September 6th, 2012
9:23 am

Mark, you know I like you, but.. I have two problems with your article.

I despise Valentine, and have ever since he managed the Mets. However, with as much as you taunt the Siox, they still have more championships than the Atlanta Braves. (Two to our one

I’m also uncomfortable given the Braves recent shaky play, and their upcoming trip. Yes, the Mets aremt great.. but.. they can be a pain in the butt to us in NY. I live here, and am probably going to one of the games this weekend, which means the Braves will probably lose that game.

I want to believe the Braves will make the playoffs, but, given what they put us through last season at the end, even though you and others say they are a different team, I dont trust it.

So, let me ask you, Mr Bradley, my friend. If the Braves do collapse, and again fail to make the playoffs, can we blame you?

Arthur Redding, Jr.

September 6th, 2012
9:28 am

After watching Valentine with the Mets, I can’t understand why anyone would hire him. Pitchers arguing with Valentine on the mound about being taken out . . . when I would see that I’d think, “No pitcher would ever treat Bobby Cox that way.” If your players don’t respect you . . . .

(GTT, I agree.)

Arthur Redding, Jr.

September 6th, 2012
9:28 am

After watching Valentine with the Mets, I can’t understand why anyone would hire him. Pitchers arguing with Valentine on the mound about being taken out . . . when I would see that I’d think, “No pitcher would ever treat Bobby Cox that way.” If your players don’t respect you . . . .

(GTT, I agree.)

Keith

September 6th, 2012
9:38 am

Fabulous blog, Bradley. :)

I was actually thinking about this the other day. You know what they say about great minds.

My analysis on Bobby:

He’s great for TV because of his opinions and statements and even antics at times. Seems like he’s always saying something for a reaction, doesn’t it?

But that does not a good manager make.

Remember the other Bobby? #6. He was voted by baseball players as the main manager they would like to play for. Wonder where V would rank. Probably near the bottom.

I am satisified with the job Gonzalez has done but at times like this reading about Bobby V…makes me miss the other Bobby and how he handled all of this egos.

Go BRAVES! :)

Keith

September 6th, 2012
9:39 am

Oh, and I meant to say…despite my “fairly satisfied” assessment of Fredi, I do think that if they don’t make the playoffs this year, he will probably be let go. Which i would say I couldn’t blame them if that happened…

Weyman C Wanamaker Jr, (A Great American)

September 6th, 2012
9:40 am

And say this for the Falcons, they didn’t hire Marion Campbell.

Your point is, Mark?

Weyman C Wanamaker Jr, (A Great American)

September 6th, 2012
9:42 am

Of course… Marion Campbell is dead… but that point is less relevant than Mark’s.

Gene

September 6th, 2012
9:43 am

I don’t expect a collapse like last year, but the test will be a one-game playoff with the nemesis Cardinals. If the Braves get through that, I think they might give a good account of themselves at the next level. Fredi appears to be a slow learner, but eventually the wheels turn ever so slightly.

Paul

September 6th, 2012
9:44 am

Bill Simmons on Grantland.com – - a tireless Boston supporter – - saw those trades as a boon for the Red Sox and a path to greater days.

Valentine is hubris defined.

Sonny Clusters

September 6th, 2012
9:49 am

Here’s some comments after last night’s game. “You know what? They put a crooked number up against us and we hit the ball hard but right at somebody and we hated to get that L but what you gonna do? Gotta tip your cap.”

Sonny Clusters

September 6th, 2012
9:52 am

Valentine did a game on tv last season and pointed out for everybody what light hitting Dan Uggla was doing wrong. Shortly after that light hitting Dan Uggla went on a tear and hit in 30 games.

Weyman C Wanamaker Jr, (A Great American)

September 6th, 2012
9:54 am

Doesn’t “Epic Collapse” denote that the Braves must be in a position from which they must fall?

Right now they’re 7 1/2 games back in the NL East and even in the Wild Card race.

Not exactly the neighborhood from which an Epic Collapse can take place.

LostCause

September 6th, 2012
9:54 am

Was this really an option? I hope not. Fredi is proving this week he is the guy for the job. It has got to be hard to bench a fiend making like $15M/year. He can’t go out their and hit for them.

On a Red Sox note, if they will go back to growing their own talent … and using it … they will be fine as well.

Benjamin

September 6th, 2012
9:56 am

Just FYI, MB, the “complaint about the fare” link is pointing to Bobby V channeling his inner Triple H with the radio host in Boston. [I only know this because I was curious to read whether or not Valentine was photographed/videoed TMZ-style by threatening to punch out an 18 year old kid while Henry buried his face in his hands. Wouldn't mind reading that full story, as well.]

Either way, you’re right. Atlanta did an excellent job in comparison to Boston this offseason, and the steady hand is a much better guide than one, well, like the one Valentine possesses. Good read.

Jack G.

September 6th, 2012
9:56 am

Mark—-dont care about Boston and Bobby Valentine—–This is not a big deal with Braves fans.

Lets do a similar scathing report on Fredie Gonzales

Sonny Clusters

September 6th, 2012
9:57 am

We was already filtered! We was thinking Martin Prado ought to get to play somewhere besides Atlanta. He is one of our favorite Braves but when he was coming up Bobby wouldn’t play him in favor of Kelly Johnson. When he got to be second baseman he was an All-Star. They took 2B away from him and gave it to light hitting Dan Uggla. Then, they moved him to left field and over to third and some short and some 1B and some more left field and then one day Fredi says, “Prado is our second baseman and light hitting Dan Uggla is going to back him up.” Three days later light hitting Dan Uggla is at 2B and Prado is at SS and then moves to left. Prado is a great player on this team and when Fredi said “he’s my second baseman” it should have been more than 3 games.

Paul in NH

September 6th, 2012
10:01 am

John Henry fired Kenny Dalglish after a little over a year as manager of Liverpool – the closest analogy in the US would be firing Larry Bird as coach of the Celtics.
Valentine will be gone before the World Series.

Pippa's hiney

September 6th, 2012
10:06 am

Most baseball people have known for years that BV is an a-hole. Except owners of Red Sox apparently.

BoatDoc

September 6th, 2012
10:10 am

The great Lombardi was caught in an awkward moment and he always regretted later that so much had been made of his off-hand comment: “Winning is everything… it’s the only thing.”

Lombardi knew what other great men and women know: that the outcome of a sporting contest – or even an entire year of such contests – is never as important as the more desirable human qualities of courage… and humility.

Sports teams who CHOOSE representatives of proven low character, they absolutely deserve the results. For this I have almost always supported almost every decision by Braves’ management. (J.D. Drew comes to mind as an obvious exception.) Losing with honor will ALWAYS hold a dearer place in my heart and memory than winning without honor.

Mark – your article is dead on. All the more pity for Boston and their fans – the infamous year of the first Red Sox win since the Ruth era – the year of Big Papi and Bloody Sox, this was a team of characters – and even the likes of Manny Ramirez and Curt Schilling were embodiments of honor.

Battle-Ax, Rossy, B-Mac, J-Hey, Huddie, Martin, Bournie, Med… even the famously struggling Uggla still play the game with intent to give their all and win every single game.

I hope my Bravos can send Chipper out in style – but they’re still my team, no matter what. Also kudos to Frank Wren for assembling a team of honor that still competes at a substantially lower payroll than the imploding Sox Rouge.

Kudos, Mr. Bradley.

GSU Eagle

September 6th, 2012
10:11 am

What Braves fan in their right mind would have wanted Bobby V? Terry Francona maybe.

Skram30082

September 6th, 2012
10:17 am

@Weyman:

Marion Campbell says “I’m not dead yet!”

He’s old, but not dead

Sonny Clusters

September 6th, 2012
10:24 am

“Going with the hot hand” may mean something else to Fredi than it does to us. We was thinking when they bring out a number 11 at our favorite mexican restaurant the server always tells us, “hot plate” and we suddenly realized that must be a “hot hand” carrying the “hot plate” … and if that is true maybe what Fredi was saying was he was going to play somebody with a real hot hand instead of somebody who is hitting and producing and winning ball games. Well, at any rate, the streak is over and light hitting Dan Uggla is back in the lineup and Prado is jumping from position to position and not complaining a bit.

Kentavo

September 6th, 2012
10:26 am

I really do not now how the Red Sox braintrust thought Valentine would be a good idea.

ChillyMutt

September 6th, 2012
10:29 am

Who didn’t see this coming. His Mets gig was a train wreck.

Weyman C Wanamaker Jr, (A Great American)

September 6th, 2012
10:30 am

Well.. then… the fact that Marion Campbell’s alive makes my point even more relevant than Mark’s! :-)

Joel K. Jones

September 6th, 2012
10:38 am

The problem with the Braves is the Manager. I don’t know if he can manage his own household. But, it is not just the Manager. It is the other parts of the staff. There is a pretty decent pitching coach, but there is not a batting coach. If there was, he would be telling the playes what they are doing wrong. the reason that he is not doing that is that he doesn”t know how to bat himself. The Braves have the personnel to make the playoffs, but they just don’t have the management in just about every department. It is time to clean house.

Nevada Roy

September 6th, 2012
10:38 am

Not that we would want someone like Valentine but sometime I wonder if the Braves place too much emphasis on managers who are player-friendly and players who are good in the clubhouse when we need managers who will build a fire under their players and players who are show more emotion on the field.

Lucky P

September 6th, 2012
10:39 am

Yeah, thank god we don’t have the Red Sox management. How many World Series have they won in the past decade or so?

(Oh, yeah.)

Another homer article written to make us feel blessed by the stunningly mediocre decisions of Frank Wren.

Can Of Corn

September 6th, 2012
10:44 am

ANOTHER FAULTY HIRE

Truthfully, it’s really not saying a whole lot that Wren didn’t hire Bobby Valentine.

For he did hire Fredi, who has been a woefully weak manager for most of his Braves tenure — and falls far short of Bobby V. from a tactical standpoint — in spite of Bobby V’s other more apparent flaws.

There are much better choices out there than either Bobby V. or Fredi.

And I’d certainly like to see the Braves “find one” for next season.

Up and coming manager and Hall Of Famer Ryne Sandberg would be one top flight choice.

Mister Frisky

September 6th, 2012
10:50 am

Wish Braves had Bobby V,that would mean they have no Fredi G.

Johnny Bravo

September 6th, 2012
10:50 am

Fredi is so much better than Bobby. He will actually sit an overpaid prima dona or move him down in the lineup. Bobby NEVER did that and was so predictable it was stupid. Good riddance to chipper, he’s been phoning it in for eight years. I won’t deny his talent but he is as soft as any athlete that ever played.

ActuallyWatchesGames

September 6th, 2012
10:59 am

@Wayman C. Wanna(be)maker, Jr. – we’re not “even in the wildcard race”, dufus. We’re 3 games up on St. Louis. Ignore the stupid dashes and do a little math.

Semper Fi Braves Fan

September 6th, 2012
11:00 am

Johnny Bravo

September 6th, 2012
10:50 am
riddance to chipper, he’s been phoning it in for eight years
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Could have sworn he won a batting title around 4 years ago.

Lt Col Razorback

September 6th, 2012
11:02 am

Dawg Haus

September 6th, 2012
11:05 am

The only happy ending to this story would be if Tito comes to ATL!

Brown

September 6th, 2012
11:08 am

Yeah, the Red Sox have fallen mighty far and I wouldn’t want Bobby V as Braves manager. But it doesn’t make me feel any better about the Braves this year. This offensive funk is awful – thankfully there have been some good pitching performances lately that they didn’t have to get more than a run or two.

Brown

September 6th, 2012
11:09 am

What were the Sox thinking firing Tito anyway. Dumb, rash decision

Sonny Clusters

September 6th, 2012
11:11 am

Small crowds with the season winding down and some players are taking notice. Chipper, for instance. We was wondering if he noticed how many fans came out to see him on Labor Day and he didn’t play? When we go to the Ted and spend our money we want to see the best players playing as hard as they can and we like to see winning baseball. Is that too much to ask? Now, some little fella is going to say, “but they are among the top 5 teams in baseball” and we’re going to say, “winning baseball is winning enough games to beat the other guys to the playoffs and then to beat them in the playoffs and then to win the World Series.” This organization likes to tell us winning baseball is making the wild card and gettting dusted. They should be thinking about what the little flag in the outfield is going to look like if they play-in and get dusted. Wild Card Loser Championship!

Name Changed to Avoid Moderation

September 6th, 2012
11:13 am

All I’m saying is that the Braves are not a compelling product anymore. They have some great players (Chipper is on top of that list), but they play with no heart. Fredi is second guessed by everyone (including himself) and there is no direction for this team.

At least with the Falcons, we see change for the better in players and coaching.

But… let them lose a few games, and the blogs will be calling for someones head on a stick!

Heisenberg

September 6th, 2012
11:14 am

Bobby V has succeeded in leading of men in the pursuit of a common goal. The common goal of getting rid of him.

Sonny Clusters

September 6th, 2012
11:23 am

We was watching some video of the 1991 season and was noticing the players up on the dugout steps and wearing rally caps and cheering for each other and didn’t see anybody hugging or fanny patting or sitting there in the dugout with their heads down. Hmmm . . .

Zing

September 6th, 2012
11:33 am

Does the SI jinx work in reverse? Bobby V is on the cover at a time when everyone is criticizing him and his team is collapsing. Will they come roaring back now? Or next season?