Kevin Youkilis, his bat has come to life here in the last two games, but he was off to a surprising start for Kevin Youkilis. Seven games, seven strikeouts, has only walked twice. Very un-Youkilis-like. What are your eyes telling you?Bobby Valentine:
The walks came yesterday. He's had a couple of big at-bats where he's really gotten into it. I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason, but yesterday it seemed like he's seeing the ball well. He got those two walks, he got his on-base percentage up higher than his batting average, which is always a good thing, and he'll move on from there.Youkilis hit only .195 in spring training (with one extra-base hit) and went 2-for-20 on the season-opening six-game road trip. He is now 6-for-30 (.200/.265/.233). He did not play on Monday.
I'm more confused than anything because everyone knows I go out and play the game as hard as I can. It's just my style of play. I was never blessed with the raw tools and I've always had to use playing the game hard and with full effort my whole life.Joe Bick (Youkilis's agent):
I will not dignify [Valentine's] quotes by responding to something that is so far off base on so many different levels.Youkilis:
Everyone here knows I go out and play with emotion. The only time there has ever been a question is because I've been too emotional. ... I go out every day and play as hard as I can -- take every ground ball in the morning, take every at-bat like it's my last. I don't think my game has changed at all. I still get upset with myself. I still get mad.Dustin Pedroia:
Youk plays as hard as anyone I've ever seen in my life and I have his back and his teammates have his back. We know how hard he plays. I don't really understand what Bobby's trying to do, but that's not the way we go about our stuff around here. I'm sure he'll figure that out soon. [Could Valentine's comment be motivational?] Maybe in Japan or something, but over here in the US we're on a three-game winning streak and we want to feel good and keep it rolling. We feel we have a good team and we just got to get each other's backs and play together, because if we don't do that, I don't care what sport you're playing, you're not going to win. This game is hard and Youk's a great player and he works his butt off and we all know how hard he works.Valentine:
That wasn't meant to motivate. That's not the way it's done. [Pedroia] took a little part of something and thought that he understood what went on, and that's not what went on.Valentine:
Kevin came in this morning and I thought it was about his groin. I thought he was going to tell me how his groin was, and I said, "Hey, how's the groin?" and he said, "Well, all right, but what's going on?" When he told me that people called him and told him that I said things that he didn't like, I totally apologized. I said the last thing in the world I want you to think is that I'm doing anything to criticize you. I was giving an answer to a question and I should've been more specific and said your physical was about your swing and your emotional was not being happy when you don't hit a ball off the wall. I don't know if he accepted my apology, but it was very sincere. The last thing in the world is that I didn't want him to think that this was anything but an answer to a question that seemed to be jabbing at him. I was just trying to smooth it over and I guess that I didn't.During Monday's game, I saw a clip on NESN of some of Valentine's press conference and his explanation of his initial comments (some of which is in the above, though without the pauses and verbal stumbling) was rambling and unconvincing.
If I was Kevin this morning and saw that, it would've gotten my attention, so I think an apology was appropriate.Cherington:
As with many things in baseball and life, the more you get a chance to talk about it, the more you get a chance to understand what people's meanings were and how people perceive something that allows you to get past it. We had a chance to do that this morning. Kevin and Bobby spoke, I spoke to Kevin, I spoke to Bobby and there were other conversations. I think what needed to be said has been said and we'll go forward. ...Valentine, on any lingering effects:
I woke up and saw the quote. I was surprised for a couple of reasons. That's not something Bobby had expressed to me and we've all seen Youk play for a long time, never wondered if he was into the game. ... I think he hadn't seen the same player on the field that we've all seen in the past so he acknowledged that first of all, he acknowledged that the way he expressed that was not the best way to express that. He told the same thing to Kevin and apologized and had a chance to explain what he meant. ...
I think Bobby wishes he had expressed the sentiment to Kevin first and I would agree with him. That's normally the policy. ... I don't think there is a blanket policy on whether a manager should ever criticize a player publicly. I think every situation is different. There are times that can be a great thing to do. I don't think you should say it never should happen or always happen.
Oh God, come on. We're big boys and I'm sure he's going to get it and if not, I'll talk to him a lot more and figure out what it takes but I'd be surprised if Kevin doesn't know that I'm totally behind him, in good times and bad. ...Adrian Gonzalez:
At the end of the [meeting], I said, "I don't know what the reason is because I haven't been here long enough. I don't know why his swing isn't exactly the way he wants it to be and why he isn't throwing as many helmets." I thought it was rather innocuous. As a matter of fact, it seemed like they were trying to [criticize] him and I think I started it by saying how good his at-bats were [Sunday], his two walks. ...
Until people want to understand what it really is, instead of making it up what they want to be, then there'll be confusion. I think eventually everyone will want to understand what it is. I like guys to give their best everyday and enjoy the fact that they're prepared and ready to go.
We all know Youk does give 110 percent every time he's out there, that's my reaction to it. Youk's a team player, we all love him, we're all behind him.Valentine:
I talked to him during the game. [Is everything fine?] It is what it is.Youkilis:
We're fine.Pedroia met with Valentine and GM Ben Cherington:
We talked about it. We're good. ... It's between me and him, man. I'm not going to sit here and talk about what me and Bobby talked about. We're all grown men and everybody involved in this organization, this team, we're here to have everybody's backs, in the worst times and the best times. We all pride ourselves on that and make sure that happens.Valentine:
[Pedroia]'s cool. He says he gets it. I think he was asked a question in a dubious manner. I told him what happened, he said "OK I got it."
Valentine's description of his comments as "innocuous" is understating it a bit, but what he said - when taken in full context - is not that big of a deal. (It is beyond stupid, however, to speculate on a player's commitment based on how many helmets he's thrown.) But everything Valentine says is going to be picked over by the media and anything that can be construed as negative will be pounced upon. In the interest of running a smooth ship, Valentine should somehow learn to talk less often (and say fewer words when he does speak), but I'm not making any wagers that he will. The phrase "in-house" appears to be a foreign one to Bobby the Fifth.
But Pedroia's mildly shocking (yet still entertaining) comments are more troublesome. His statement "that's not the way we go about our stuff around here" is immediately contradicted by his wisecracks about how things might be done in Japan and saying that Valentine will no doubt get the hang of his job soon. Players calling out the manager after only nine games - that is not how the Red Sox do things, either. Here's the big question: Is Pedroia be busting Valentine's chops like he used to do with Terry Francona or is one of the team's leaders so fed up with the manager that he doesn't care about openly disrespecting him to the media? (It seems too early for the former and I'd rather not contemplate the possibility of the latter.)
One more possible angle: This could be the first step in paving the road out of town for Youkilis in favour of Will Middlebrooks (if not true, it might still be how Yook perceives it). The Red Sox have an option for 2013 of either a $13 million contract or a $1 million buy-out.
Or perhaps it's best not to make too big a deal over this. The story blew up and was "settled" in well under 24 hours. And, besides, we may have more eruptions after another nine games.