It's been a long while since I last logged on, so I am not too sure if this is a tired subject or not, but I wanted to chat a little about Bobby Valentine. Honestly, is there any better candidate for AL Manager of the Year for 2012? Just a small glance at the "best" managers thus far:
Joe Madden of the Rays, considered the best manager in all of baseball now that Tony La Russa isn't around, has been exceptional so far in 2012. As always he commands his bullpen well and seems to make the right moves at the right times. He has had to deal with numerous injury issues to key players (Longoria, Farnsworth) but has kept ahead in the standings and has helped his team stay upbeat through it all.
Buck Showalter of the Orioles has been a big surprise so far this year. An outside candidate for AL MoY, his biggest argument is that he is managing a team that has finished in last or second-to-last place every year since 2005 and has managed to lead them to a .569 winning % through June 24. It is no doubt a feel-good story for the Orioles, but Showalter could also simply be the recipient of a lot of good luck, seeing as through the first two months of the season 7 hitters were having career years. The Orioles will likely finish with a sub-.500 record for the umpteenth straight season, and the once feel-good story will probably be long-forgotten.
Robin Ventura is a very interesting story. Coming in to manage the White Sox, he was faced with the immediate challenge of replacing Ozzie Guillen, and has done so with zen-like patience, allowing many of his players who had been around with Guillen to relax and just play ball without having to worry about a psychotic Venezuelan yelling at them. He has helped the long-beleaguered White Sox play up to their potential. Resurgences from stars like Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and Jake Peavy have helped a ton, as well.
Then there is Bobby Valentine. Right now Bobby V is sitting with a 38-34 record, not a very encouraging total for candidate of Manager of the Year given that he is with a team with such a high payroll. But when you put all of the pieces together, I would consider Valentine not just a candidate but the favorite and the obvious choice to win the award. Just a few key reasons why (so far) I like Bobby V:
1.) They might as well be called the Boston Red Cross Sox. Injuries to some of the team's best players (Ellsbury, Crawford, Youkilis, Pedroia, Buccholz, Beckett, Bailey, etc.). Other, less instrumental but still key players have also been down (Ross, Matsuzaka, Lackey, Sweeney, etc.). So many players have been down that by now it seems routine to wake up in the morning and see on DirtDogs that another player has been placed on the DL.
2.) Aside from injuries, Valentine has had to manage through terrible inconsistencies from his most reliable players. Pedroia, Gonzalez, Lester, Bard, Youkilis, Aceves, Melancon...the list goes on. We have so far seen ERA's reach double digits from guys who used to be considered the game's greats. .260 is the new .300 it seems for some of the Sox' best hitters.
3.) Every night there seems to be a new lineup. Valentine has mastered lineup shifts, giving some players the chance to step up big in huge moments. For example, last night Cody Ross hit two home runs and collected five RBI while hitting out of the cleanup spot for the first time this year. He seems to know who should go out at the right times.
4.) As expected every season in Boston, the players have had to deal with a barrage of sleazy media stories and accusatory articles (Can anyone over there shut Dan O'Shaughnessy up? I mean, does this guy know how much people hate him?) David Ortiz has vocalized his frustrations. Youkilis ended up being forced out. But Valentine just has the guys playing ball, taking the blame after losses and handling the media quite well.
5.) Look at what he is dealing with right now. He has an outfield made up of rookies and castaways (not to mention a dude who was playing in the independent league three years ago). Felix Doubront is the number two starter right now. Scott Atchison is the set-up man. It has been this way for a while now and the Sox have won 9 of 11 and are four games above water. Sure, guys are stepping up big time, but you gotta give credit to Bobby V for how well he has managed the team.
Anybody care to argue?