Bobby Valentine is not just a baseball genius. He is a public relations genius.
The new manager of the Boston Red Sox has wasted no time going after the New York Yankees ever since getting the gig back in November. Valentine understands that a big part of his job is stoking the simmering flames of the Rivalry and reigniting the passion Red Sox Nation has for its underachieving team by unifying the Nation against the Evil Empire. And he is playing that role to perfection.
Valentine pointed a bull's-eye at two large Yankee targets: Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. ARod has become everyone’s favorite punching bag so it’s no surprise that Valentine would insult him by saying that retiring Saux catcher Jason Varitek beat him up, even if it isn’t actually true. Sure, Varitek got his shots in, but he didn’t beat ARod up and didn’t have the guts to take off his mask to make it a fair fight.
But the bigger and more surprising insult was Valentine’s dismissive attitude toward Jeter’s “flip play” in the 2001 playoffs against the Oakland A’s, a key defensive play in the Jeter lore. The Yankees Captain will have almost a day before he reacts to the news, but I expect him to deflect the attention with some light humor because that’s his way. Yankee fans will not be so forgiving. I wonder if Bobby V will next find a way to disparage Mariano Rivera, which would really get peoples’ blood boiling. And when I say people, I mean me.
Valentine’s move was brilliant from a public relations standpoint. Can you think of a better way to deflect unwanted attention over former Red Sox manager Terry Francona’s dismissive comments on Valentine’s alcohol ban? Francona labeled the move a PR stunt, which has some truth to it. But I think it was in large part a move by Valentine to rein in his clubhouse, which Francona apparently let get way out of control. I thought Francona unfairly took too much of the blame for the team’s September freefall, but he definitely shares the responsibility for that epic collapse so he does not have a leg to stand on in criticizing Red Sox current management.
But Valentine got exactly what he wanted: he changed the subject away from the ugly mess that the Red Sox have become right back to the Rivalry. And it’s only February. Imagine what Bobby V will say when the games actually start to count.
Thanks to the US Consulate General - Osaka for the Bobby V photo.