Much has been made of Bobby Valentine's new methods. Compared to former manager Terry Francona's laissez faire approach, Valentine may seem hands on in the extreme, but that characterization only works when compared directly to his predecessor. Still, to be fair, Valentine does have some interesting methods. For example, the first press conference Valentine gave after the team had assembled in Fort Myers gave was a bit odd.
Reporter: Bobby, we've heard your methods can be somewhat unorthodox. Can you elaborate?
Valentine: I feel that it's my job to get the players ready to play baseball to the best of their abilities. If they fail, then I fail. So I focus on the fundamentals.
Reporter: The fundamentals? Can you give an example?
Valentine: Sure. It's important for pitchers to get a feel for the game. So I like them to actually throw during fielding practice. To increase their in-game awareness I also have them field during throwing practice then I glue pudding to their faces and whack them with reeds the most important thing is repetition. Getting the feel of fielding the ball in your hands and throwing it to the base. Your brain needs to have that experience so it can understand and replicate the motions necessary when the time comes.
Reporter: Did you say you glue pudding to their faces?
Reporter: I'm pretty sure you did.
Valentine: Of course not. That's ridiculous.
Reporter: How do you glue pudding?
Second Reporter: What does that even mean?
Third Reporter:: And how does that help...
Valentine: Next question, please.
Fielding drills under Terry Francona had been straight forward but Valentine had some different ideas.
Valentine: [holding bat] OK, men. Welcome to our first infield practice. We're going to start by correcting a common mistake that lots of fielders make. When the ball is hit to you, what ever you do, don't assume the runner is going to go to first base. That's just old thinking. Be prepared for him to head straight to second base. Now, yes, that's a longer run, but it'll remove the force out so in that situation we have to be thinking tag. OK, we're going to practice this scenario. Petey? Where's Petey?
Pedroia: Right here, coach!
Valentine: Great. OK, Petey here is going to be the runner. Now remember, gentlemen, Petey could run to any base after hitting the ball so your task is going to involve four steps. The first is to field the ball. The second is to detect which base Petey is running to. Third, and this might be the most crucial step, you must maintain your composure even if he's wearing a bikini and coated in peanut butter, and then fourth you'll need to throw him out.
Pedroia: Wait, what?
Rest of Team: Wait, what?
Valentine: OK, just let me fire up The Thong Song here and we'll get started.
* * *
Still later that day...
Valentine: OK, outfielders. We're a team and because we're a team we all need to support each other. So, here's what we're doing. I'm going to punch Sweeney here in the face...
Sweeney: OW!! You punched me in the face!!
Valentine: Now, did you all see what happened?
Sweeney: You punched me in the face!! I'm bleeding!
Valentine: Yes, good. Now, what didn't happen?
Valentine: The answer is protected Sweeney. Nobody protected Sweeney. You all just sat there passively while I assaulted your teammate. You see, gentlemen, we're a team here, and teams stick together. So if someone kicks one of our own in the balls, like this
Sweeney: OW... MY... GOD... [falls over] [pukes]
Valentine: ... then someone has to have his back. This is vital. If nobody has ol' Sweeney's back then, well, he's liable to have something else bad happen to him [drops bowling ball on Sweeney's knee]
Sweeney: AAAHH!! MY LEG! WHY!!
Valentine: And we don't want anything like that to happen, do we?
Ellsbury: Hey coach, where'd you get that bowling ball?
* * *
The scene was no less unconventional in the locker room.
: Why is this TV only showing a video of a third baseman picking his nose on continuous loop? That's weird.
: Not more weird than this one which seems to be a video camera of the drive thru at a McDonalds.
: This one over here has Tin Cup starring Kevin Costner playing over and over. I think this is the fourth time I've seen it today. I'm starting to feel dizzy and my head hurts.
: This TV has a video of what looks like a bear giving birth. And it's inside a plastic cube so I can't turn it off. I'm scared.
* * *
Even the local businesses have had an adjustment period.
Pizza Guy: Hello, Fort Myers Pizza.
Valentine: Hi, I need a large pizza delivered.
Pizza Guy: OK, sure. What do you want on it?
Valentine: Uh, how about pepperoni, mushrooms and decapitated squirrel heads.
Pizza Guy: What?
Valentine: I want a large pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms and decapitated squirrel heads delivered to the following address...
Pizza Guy: I don't do prank calls, buddy. You better cut it out or you ain't getting a pizza.
Valentine: This isn't a prank. I really need mushrooms on the pizza.
Pizza Guy: Ha ha, Buddy. Look. We don't have decapitated squirrel heads, OK? So order a normal pizza or I'm hanging up the phone.
Pizza Guy: OK. Fine. So, you want a large with pepperoni and mushrooms.
Valentine: and ghost monkeys.
Pizza Guy: [hangs up]
In the end though, the methods Valentine uses, if anything, will improve the team on the margins. However, that is no small deal for a team that missed out on the post season by a game. So here's to throwing in pitching drills, here's to coating your star second baseman in chocolate, and here's to squirrel pizza. But most of all, here's to winning in 2012.