April 17, 2012

Kevin Thomas: What was Valentine trying to say about Kevin Youkilis?

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

He experienced a couple of rough days in the workplace, but Kevin Youkilis' job performance had improved.

Next thing Youkilis knows, however, his boss openly questions Youkilis' ability and desire.

Youkilis, naturally, says he is confused.

Can you relate to having a boss like that?

Maybe you can, even if your paychecks don't total up to $12 million a year, like Youkilis, the third baseman for the Boston Red Sox.

And your boss is not as visible as Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, whose comments were made on local Boston television and then relayed across the nation, via Twitter, blogs and national sports shows.

Valentine said some positive things in a taped interview with WHDH Channel-7, but also commented that "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason."

Emotionally?

Youkilis, 33, has always shown his emotions, a trait Sea Dogs fans saw when he played at Hadlock Field in 2003. He did not accept failure easily.

As Youkilis told reporters Sunday morning in Boston, "the only time my emotion has ever been questioned is because I've been too emotional about stuff.

"I'm more confused than anything. Everyone knows I go out and play the game as hard as I can."

When Valentine tried to explain his comments about Youkilis' emotions, he sounded silly. "I haven't seen him break as many helmets as I saw him break on TV," Valentine told the media Monday morning. "He just seemed different."

Different? Really? A player doesn't throw his helmet as much as he used to, and there's a problem with that?

Maybe it's a sign of maturity.

I was not among the media gathered at Fenway on Monday, but I did talk to Youkilis three weeks ago in Fort Myers. We chatted about how he liked his time in Portland, what position he prefers, and how he is thrilled with life in general.

"I really enjoy my time now. Getting older and realize a lot more stuff," he said. "It doesn't matter (what position I play) -- third base, first base, DH, or whatever.

"Go out and do your job, and do it as well as you can."

This spring, Youkilis worked on adjustments to his swing. He began the regular season with no hits and no walks in his first three games.

Youkilis' swing is what Valentine said he was referring to when talking about the physical aspect of his game. But Valentine didn't make that clear until Monday morning.

That swing, by the way, has produced six hits in the past five games, as Youkilis has gone 6-for-18.

Valentine's comments about Youkilis -- based on a small sample of his work, along with the fact that he throws his helmet less -- sounded like some uninformed callers to a talk show, not the words of a major league manager.

As noted baseball journalist Peter Gammons said on NESN, "Bobby has to think about this more."

Valentine said he "totally apologized" to Youkilis, but "I don't know if he accepted my apology."

There is a very appealing side to Bobby Valentine, the man who came to Portland last January for a benefit dinner for the Maine Children's Cancer Program. Valentine seems genuine, a man who does a lot of good for a lot of needy causes.

But then there is the Bobby Valentine who just talks and talks, without a lot of thought to what he is saying.

This is what the Red Sox got when they hired Valentine to replace the manager they forced out, Terry Francona.

Francona, considered a "players' manager," never criticized players in the media, saving those talks for behind-the-door meetings in his office.

But after eight years, even Francona admitted that his voice was being tuned out by many in the clubhouse.

So the question is: How many have already tuned out Valentine? (See Dustin Pedroia's comments in Tom Caron's column in today's sports section.)

For Youkilis, he will just move on. He knows he doesn't have the same job that you and I have. He lives in the fishbowl of being a Red Sox player.

"You can't complain about not having a life that is normal," Youkilis said last month in Fort Myers. "We're not normal here with the money we make and who we are."

But you can expect your boss to talk to you, before going on television with comments that seem to question your skills and commitment.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

 

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