There was an episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza, having been offered a job by the Mets, went about trying to get himself fired by the Yankees. His plan: to eat strawberries in Babe Ruth's old jersey and drag a World Series trophy behind his car in the parking lot while hurling abuse at the front office. It didn't work, but I can't help but wonder if maybe Bobby Valentine is taking a page out of Costanza's playbook.
Through ten games, Bobby Valentine has a 4-6 team, a laundry list of questionable in-game decisions, and one massive media circus to his name. So it's been an eventful couple of weeks.
I won't bore you by retreading all of the decisions. If you missed our run-through from last week, "The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Bobby Valentine", you can find that here. A few wins helped to turn the heat down, but over the last couple days we've had his fatally late removal of Daniel Bard and the Kevin Youkilis fiasco.
I think at this point it's going to take me a while to be dissuaded of the idea that Bobby Valentine is simply a bad in-game manager. The choices he's been making are not ones that are born of a competent baseball mind. Bad pitchers for big moments, bunts that would be bad enough if they led to big bats that actually turn the big plate appearances over to weak ones, Nick Punto in the leadoff spot, the Grady Little imitation yesterday...these are not decisions that a good manager arrives at unless his whole thought process is off.
That he's already had to offer a pair of meae culpae is bad enough, since managers probably shouldn't be making two mistakes large enough to draw significant media attention in just 10 games to begin with. What's worse is that he doesn't seem to really be learning from them, either. If you remember, the first one involved the use of Justin Thomas in a big situation--something Bobby admitted didn't make a ton of sense. But then what happens against the Rays yesterday? In a 0-0 game, Bobby Valentine has none other than Matt Albers and Justin Thomas warming up behind Daniel Bard.
Even if we accept that Thomas was a last resort with Morales unavailable, why was Matt Albers warming up instead of Vicente Padilla? He'd only thrown 15 pitches on Saturday. Why didn't Bobby consider that he'd have to rely on Justin Thomas to get a big out if Daniel Bard couldn't get Longoria? What the hell is going on? Bobby didn't end up getting burned by the decision, so he won't really take heat for it, but it's the process that matters in evaluating managerial decisions, not so much the outcome. Yes, you probably should use Justin Thomas against the lefty, but Justin Thomas is a liability, and the goal is to avoid the situation where you have to bring him in.
What really supports the Costanza Plan theory, though, is the Youkilis situation, because this just makes no sense whatsoever. What was the goal there? To motivate Youkilis? If there's one man on the team who never seems to need anyone to tell him that he needs to do better, it's Kevin Youkilis. Every fly ball out, be it to the track or just past the infield, seems to almost be taken as a personal insult.
The only thing other possible motivation I can think of--aside from the Costanza Plan--is that he was trying to galvanize the team. We heard all the stories about the toxic environment late last year, and now we have perhaps the closest thing this team has to a captain right now in Dustin Pedroia standing up for Youkilis against his manager. If this is part of a master plan to get everybody hating him and uniting because of it, well, at least there's an idea there, though I'm not sure it's a great way to motivate a team to make you look good by winning.
If that's not the case, if he just went and opened his mouth when he shouldn't have like he has a reputation for doing, then again, I have to question what it is he's here for. Not good for the clubhouse, and not good in-game?
But if he's trying to pull a Costanza because there's a better job out there, then it all makes sense.