Bobby Valentine: Baseball’s Michael Scott

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 30: "Somehow I Manage", by Bobby Valentine is due in bookstore sometime in 2013. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Actually, they just don't get very much work done when I'm not here… That's not true. I know how to delegate, and they do more work done when I'm not here. Not more. The same amount of work is done, whether I am here or not….Hey, everybody, listen up. This is what we're gonna do. You sit tight, until I return. Sound good? Doesn't matter, it's an order. Follow it blindly. – Michael Scott, The Office

Earlier today, David Ortiz and his reaction to Buster Olney’s article had Brendan thinking about Bryce Harper and his "clown question" response. Now following another piece on dissension in the Boston clubhouse, Bobby Valentine has got me thinking about Michael Scott, the hopelessly incompetent but somehow effective manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton on NBC’s The Office.

This latest, more detailed look into the chemistry problems in the Boston clubhouse from Ken Rosenthal is far more clear on exactly what is causing these issues.

"The moment they hired Bobby Valentine as manager, they rolled out the red carpet for drama, spread it across

Yawkey Way
and pointed it straight toward their clubhouse."

Rosenthal appears to believe Beckett and Ortiz when they say that the players get along well, and posits that Bobby Valentine is the source of nearly all the internal conflict. He cites Pedroia’s defense of Youkilis back in April and his absence from a mound visit more recently when the team was in Chicago. Rosenthal also believes that the bigger conflict is actually between Valentine and his coaching staff (especially Francona era holdovers Tim Bogar and Dave Magadan) and general manager Ben Cherington, furthering the narrative that the owners forced the bombastic Valentine on first year their GM.

So, Valentine and his endless search for a microphone has rubbed players the wrong way? Ben Cherington was forced to hire the polarizing skipper and can’t get on the same page with him now? The people closest to former manager Terry Francona resent his showboating replacement? Next you are going to tell me that leasing a sports car is a bad investment or that St. Petersburg is a poor location for a baseball stadium!

What actually is surprising is that this dysfunctional, embattled team is not falling apart at all. They are getting by. They might even succeed. They might even land a wild card spot. And that is why Bobby Valentine is baseball’s Michael Scott.

On The Office, manager Michael Scott is anything but a steady hand at the wheel. He frustrates his employees with endless streams of meetings that serve mainly to feed his hunger for attention (Michael Kay Show anyone?). He frequently enrages his corporate management team with behavior that puts the company in a tenuous legal position. He is largely oblivious to the implications of his actions and far more focused on being an entertainer than on doing anything that resembles his job.

Yet, for all of that, he is somehow an effective leader. Is it because he is a mad genius that understands business in a deep, intuitive way? Probably not. Is it because the people under him are talented and hard working? Maybe. Whatever the reason, it is next to impossible for Dunder Mifflin to replace Michael Scott because, almost in spite of himself, he more or less succeeds.

So it is with Bobby Valentine. He clearly doesn’t have the respect of a significant portion of his players, but they are still playing hard. Can anyone really accuse Dustin Pedroia of not playing hard, slump and all? Though he may be a Todd Packard-style pariah in some fan’s eyes, when he has been on the mound, Josh Beckett has been the best starting pitcher on the team. With injuries to key players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney, Valentine has gotten production from players like Daniel Nava, Scott Podsednik, and now Ryan Kalish. Of course, if you want to give him credit for those guys, you have to hold him responsible for the career worst performances of Jon Lester, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis.

So, at least for now, the Red Sox players at least may have learned to live with Bobby Valentine, working around his wacky antics, but the real test of this uncomfortable work environment is coming- downsizing. As much as his moderate success might protect him from the wrath of his players and management, Bobby Valentine will be given enough rope to hang himself in the next month.

The Red Sox players and fans have been looking forward to the return of players like Andrew Bailey, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford nearly all year, but their return is also a potential landmine, especially for Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine. Valentine has done a decent job finding time for Kevin Youkilis and Will Middlebrooks, even if it has meant the cringe worth defense of Adrian Gonzalez, starting right fielder, far too often. However, now, he will have to find ways to fit Carl Crawford into the lineup while Daniel Nava is hitting 68% better than league average and still play Cody Ross, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Ryan Sweeney (when he returns). He will have to choose between keeping his current closer, Alfredo Aceves, in the role he has been so good at for the six weeks and force Andrew Bailey to setup (displacing Vicente Padilla or Scott Atchison?) or change Aceves’ role to keep Bailey in the role he knows best.

These are the issues type of decisions that Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine are likely to disagree on. Historically, this is the type of situation where Bobby Valentine grabs his gift-baskets and makes a very public spectacle of his distain for management. As they Red Sox try to find a way to deal with 25 spots for 28-30 players, the possibilities for a truly epic blow up will grow exponentially. Expecting baseball’s Michael Scott to handle things in thoughtful, mature way is just unrealistic.

If you think it has been hard up to now, just wait until the rest of the guys get back.

That’s what she said.


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