Talkin Sox with Dan

Where baseball fans gather for commonsensical, opinionated Red Sox banter.

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Patience is Key to Bard’s Success

Daniel Bard is going to give up a lot runs over the course of not-so-many innings in 2012.

Get used to it.

It is not easy to transition from dominant reliever to starter on a team that carries lofty expectations like the Red Sox. Nothing goes under the radar. Everything is magnified. And that undoubtedly makes change of any kind more difficult in a hotbed like Boston.

Media and fans will always be around to question the choices made on and off the diamond by management. That’s part of the fun, after all. In turn, however, management must remain steadfast in the decisions they make. After announcing that Mike Aviles, not Jose Iglesias, will begin the season as the starting shortstop, it would be unfair to both parties for GM Ben Cherington or Bobby Valentine to state that Opening Day is still a week away and a lot of things can happen between now and then. It would represent doubt and a lack of resolve. The decision-makers on Yawkey Way would look rather fickle.

So it is curious that reports out of Fenway South last week indicated that Bard would be heading back to the bullpen when the Red Sox break camp. The news broke the day after the tall right hander threw five innings against the Blue Jays, allowing three runs on three hits. He walked three and fanned two.

Bobby Valentine was not impressed. According to CSNNE’s Sean McAdam, Valentine cited the low number of changeups thrown by Bard, his lack of control, and his poor efficiency with regard to the high pitch count over just five frames.

Valentine is anything but stupid. He knows that the process of a reliever transitioning to starter is not one that is generally smooth. There are roadblocks. Instead of listing Bard’s struggles in his outing a week and a half ago against Toronto as natural obstacles that are bound to occur, he used them in a way that made it seem like he was positioning Bard for a demotion to the bullpen.

And I can’t say I blame him.

Valentine is not making Fenway Park his permanent residence. This is a two-three year lease, max. So if Valentine believes that he can squeeze more productivity out of Bard The Reliever than Bard The Starter in the short term, why wouldn’t he try to make him his closer or stud set-up man?

I would.

Success for Valentine will not be measured in how the 2016 or 2017 Red Sox fare. He needs to start accumulating wins now, not later. Despite that, Valentine will realize, if he hasn’t already, that some decisions even transcend Bobby V.

Bard’s move from reliable reliever to middle of the rotation starter falls into that category. You can make a valid argument that Bard belongs in the bullpen. His repertoire is conducive to late inning, high leverage situations. He was miserable as a starter early in his professional career. I get it. But the Red Sox and Bard made the collaborative decision to give him a chance as a starter.

So what has changed since then?

The answer, in reality, is nothing. Sure, Bard has had an exceptionally mediocre spring, but that certainly should not preclude him from receiving the fair chance he was promised before pitchers and catchers reported. Bard will not be asked to be an All-Star. Instead, he will have the responsibility of being a middle of the road starting pitcher.

Let’s take a look at the projected fourth starters among the expected contenders in the American League:

Blue Jay-Brett Cecil

Indians-Josh Tomlin

Rangers-Yu Darvish

Tigers-Rick Porcello

Yankees-Ivan Nova

Rays-Matt Moore

Angels-Ervin Santana

You would be hard pressed to make a case that Bard does not compare favorably with the majority of these starters. Will he be as productive as Darvish in 2012? Probably not. Can he out perform Porcello? Absolutely. Does Bard have the type of ceiling that Moore possesses? He might.

The Red Sox brass as well as Valentine should treat Bard like Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz. Is there any chance that either of them winds up in the bullpen? No. The same should hold true for Bard.

He is a starter now.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe summed it up well.

“Everyone knew converting Bard from set-up man to starter was going to require patience. To pull the plug now wouldn’t be fair to Bard”

Aces Up

I don’t care if it is July, September, October, December, or March–when one of my front line starting pitchers tosses a gem like Jon Lester did on Monday afternoon against the Phillies, I get excited. Maybe not as excited as Tim Tebow during his presser in New York yesterday, but still pretty damn excited.

Lester threw seven innings, allowed two hits, and struck out 10 batters. I first read that line at work and had to embarrassingly wipe up the puddle of drool that had accumulated on my desk.

And I hadn’t even gotten to the best part.

The tall left hander was especially thrifty yesterday in Clearwater, Fl. He needed only 88 pitches to get the job done. Lester did not give out a single free pass. He went to a three-ball count on one hitter. One.

Bobby Valentine certainly liked what he saw.

“I don’t have to describe it. You saw it. It was outstanding. That’s what he was aiming to do. The fact that he was ahead on the count, he was happy. He was throwing offspeed pitches down in the zone, his fastball explosive, that’s pretty good stuff.”

If Lester is able to replicate this type of performance consistently throughout the regular season, especially late in the year, he will finally elevate himself to the status of being a true ace. As I have written in the past, Lester is not an ace. Instead, he is a veteran pitcher who happens to be  starting the first game of the 2012 season.

Erik Bedard also shares that same honor in Pittsburgh.

The 28 year old Washington native needs to command his pitches during the regular season in the same fashion he did yesterday. When he is not throwing cutter after cutter after cutter, Lester can dominate a ballgame. However, he has exhibited a strong willingness to rely heavily on the aforementioned cutter, a lethal weapon when harnessed properly. A pitcher who leans heavily on a cut fastball is bound to hit a batter or three from time to time. It is not uncommon for Lester to put a few guys on first base by way of the walk or HBP during the course of a start. Naturally, this causes his pitch count to balloon earlier than anticipated. A true ace finishes his start by going seven solid or even pitching into the eighth inning on a consistent basis. Simply put, Lester has not been a horse.

Over the course of the past three seasons, CC Sabathia has averaged just shy of 235 innings per year. Sabathia, a Clydesdale, was in pinstripes all three of those seasons, facing the same cast of hitters that Lester opposes. Conversely, during those same three years, Lester averaged just south of 201 innings per season.

Lester is in the meaty part of his prime. Throughout the regular season, he will be expected to put up similar lines to the one he put up on Monday afternoon in Florida. As the season moves towards late August and September, the focus will be on the top half of the rotation to avenge the bed wetting performance put forth last year. Even if Lester is not a legitimate ace, he is the leader of a talented staff. It’s only March, but his performance yesterday offers a glimpse of what Red Sox followers could should see throughout the season.

Monday’s Red Sox Notes

We are just a little over ten days away from Opening Day in Detroit. Bobby Valentine and the Red Sox have a few roster decisions to make over the course of the next several days. I believe that the choices are relatively obvious, but let’s take a closer look.

Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront will be the fourth and fifth starters, respectively, to open the season. I’m only touching on this because it is a hot button issue around the team. In reality, the first 2-3 weeks of the regular season only calls for four starters. The games are spread out enough for a team to use a four-man rotation. Nevertheless, Doubront has pitched well and deserves a shot. I just hope he is able to exhibit good command and keep his walk totals down.

–The “rift” between Valentine and Cherington has been vastly overblown. Front office members and managers should disagree. It’s healthy.

–In order for Jose Iglesias to have won the Opening Day starting shortstop job, he needed to have a good spring, while Mike Aviles had a poor one. Aviles, although not as defensively gifted as Iglesias, has put together a quality spring. He scorched a couple of balls in the afternoon game yesterday against Toronto. Unless there is some sort of injury between now and Opening Day, Aviles will be playing shortstop in Detroit on April 5. If given a dose of truth serum, I’m sure Valentine would choose Iglesias, but Aviles has made it tough for him to make a case to GM Ben Cherington as to why the Cuban phenom should open the season at shortstop.

Alfredo Aceves belongs in the Red Sox bullpen. He would likely be a welcomed starter on many teams, but his value to the Sox is undoubtedly in the bullpen. Ace has shown an ability to pitch in high leverage situations late in games. That is extremely valuable.

Your Fifth Starter Pitches Tonight

As the Red Sox enter the dog days of spring, two questions still remain for the team that totes around quite a bulky payroll: Who will be playing shortstop on Opening Day and who will be the fifth fourth and fifth starters when the season begins? Jose Iglesias would almost certainly be readying himself to begin the year in Triple-A Pawtucket if such a large personality was not the at the helm of the club, but with Bobby Valentine as the skipper, anything is possible–even if it is not what GM Ben Cherington would prefer.

The latter question does not possess a firm answer. Throughout the course of a 162-game season, injuries occur, rotations become jumbled, and teams rarely use the same five starters. Who begins the season at the tail end of a rotation is often not nearly as important as the individuals who finish the season in those slots.

The 2012 Boston Red Sox may begin the season with Felix Doubront and Alfredo Aceves (or Daniel Bard) as the fourth and fifth starters, but neither of the pitchers will likely finish there. Instead, it certainly sounds like  Daisuke Matsuzaka will be ready sooner rather than later as he is being tabbed for a June return time. Say what you want about the buzzkill from the Eas, butthat’s good news. Two words: Contract year. The second piece to the second half of the rotation puzzle will be taking the mound this evening at Jet Blue Park as the Red Sox take on the Yankees.

Aaron Cook will certainly not be ready to suit up on April 5, but he has the opportunity to be a serious, summer-long contributor to a staff that is thirsty for someone to step up and provide valuable innings from the back end of the rotation.

If he is healthy and receives an opportunity, Cook is a guy that fans, teammates, and coaches will really enjoy.

According to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, in his two starts this spring “he has thrown 5 ⅓ innings without giving up a run.” Even better, the 16 outs that Cook has recorded, “eight have come on ground balls.”

Giddy up.

The downside to Cook is two-fold. First, he is not on the same pace that the other candidates for the rotation are on. Early reservations about the strength of Cook’s shoulder prevented him from getting on the mound in a timely fashion. Second, the righty inked a minor league deal with the Sox which allows him to opt out of his contract on May 1. The guy is a veteran who does not want to toil in Pawtucket for the majority of the season, waiting for a spot to open via injury. If he feels as though he can contribute on the major league level and the Red Sox are not giving him a shot, he should have the opportunity to explore greener pastures. However, as long as he continues to progress, the Red Sox will likely give Cook a chance to start.

For the Red Sox sake, I hope the 33 year old stays healthy and builds up his endurance. That would at least put him in position to be given an opportunity. He is a sinkerball pitcher who would slot nicely into the back end of a rotation that, for all of the criticism it has taken this winter, is actually quite good.

And Cook would be a welcomed commodity.

“I’m pitching to contact. I’m trying to get guys out of the box as quickly as possible and get our offense back on the field.”

Bard in Limbo

According to a report from CSNNE’s Sean McAdam, Daniel Bard could be heading back to the bullpen to begin the 2012 season.

Recently, it has seemed like Alfredo Aceves would be the one boxed out of the Red Sox rotation. McAdam’s report contradicts that belief entirely.

“One Red Sox staff member has told others outside the organization that, when all is said and done, Alfredo Aceves and Felix Doubront will have spots in the rotation, with Daniel Bard returning to the bullpen.”

Hmm. What happened to giving Bard a chance to show his mettle as a starter? Throughout the winter and spring, it has not seemed as if there was even a question as to whether the hard throwing righty would be in the rotation or the bullpen. Sure, there was competition for fifth spot in Boston’s rotation but certainly not the fourth–that was Bard’s. Times have changed, I guess.

Has Bard put together an exceptionally good spring? Not at all. But heck, the guy has thrown less than 13 innings. Is that enough to formulate an opinion? WEEI’s Lou Merloni certainly does not believe that is the case.

So for now, we will wait and see what happens. In a perfect world, Aceves and Bard would serve as cogs in the Red Sox bullpen (that would be one solid ‘pen) because John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka would be the bottom half of the rotation. However, that is simply not the case. Pragmatically speaking, one of the two will have to occupy a spot in the rotation.

If I’m choosing, it is Bard. Aceves is versatile and has an arm made of rubber. I’m pretty sure he pitched in every game from August 1 of last year until the final game of the season, or at least it seemed that way. Ultimately, I believe Bard will stick in the rotation, but we will keep you updated.

Always Fun to Forecast

We are now firmly entrenched in the latter half of March. Eight days from today the Athletics and the Mariners will square off in Japan to officially open the 2012 season. Many people, like myself, have already made a handful of different predictions involving the Red Sox this fall and winter. As we begin to stare spring in the eyes, let’s take a look at some of the issues on this ball club and make some semi-educated guesses.

Alfredo Aceves, regardless of how well he pitches during the rest of Spring Training, will be in the bullpen. It’s too bad because I’m all about meritocracy, and Ace has tossed well enough to round out the rotation for the Red Sox. Nevertheless, his value as a member of the ‘pen is greater than it would be as a tail end of the rotation starter. Does Aceves deserve the chance to start? Yes. Will he get it, at least right away? No.

Mike Aviles will be the Opening Day shortstop for the Red Sox. Yeah, yeah–I know I had said that Jose Iglesias was a good spring away from nabbing the position. Iglesias has had a good spring, but Aviles has played exceptionally well too. Iggy is the better shortstop between the two. He plays better defense and is just downright intriguing. The Cuban defector needs to show that he can handle the stick a bit better before GM Ben Cherington and company gives him the keys to the convertible. It is an integral year for Iglesias–at some point, the Red Sox will have to decide whether he is the shortstop of the future or not. I believe he is. A solid 300+ at-bats in Pawtucket will go a long way in confirming that belief.

Rich Hill will eventually prove to be an important piece in Boston’s bullpen. As Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe points out, the Milton, Mass., native is progressing nicely as he attempts to return from Tommy John surgery. I know that many of us choose to forget the miserable start the Sox had last April, but Hill was one of the few bright spots. The guy was deadly out of the ‘pen on left handed hitters. From Robinson Cano to Carlos Pena, there are a bevy of dangerous left handed hitters that call the AL East their home. Hill, if healthy, is a tricky southpaw who offers a sidearm delivery that works to neutralize tough lefties. When he is right, Hill throws strikes. It’s easy to find a lefty who comes out of the bullpen. It’s tough to find a guy who gets the ball over the plate, while using a deceptive delivery. And

Felix Doubront will begin the year as the fifth starter, but Aaron Cook will ultimately assume that role. I like sinkers. I like quick innings. I miss me some Derek Lowe. Maybe Cook will make me miss Lowe a little bit less.

Carl Crawford will continue to disappoint. Make no mistake about it–I will be rooting for CC the whole way, but I just don’t see it. He has begun swinging again, but he will not even be close to ready for Opening Day. He has a wrist injury. And that’s never good. It is likely that Crawford will come back in late April/early May and begin hitting in the latter half of the lineup, where he is notably uncomfortable. Fenway Park simply does not play to his strengths. I wasn’t a huge fan of the signing when it happened last winter, and I really don’t like it today.

Bobby Valentine will struggle to get a handle on the bullpen. Is it just me or does the Red Sox ‘pen seem a bit disorganized these days? Andrew Bailey is the closer. Mark Melancon is the set-up man. I think. Or is it Aceves? I know that there is still plenty of time left this spring to sort things out, but I think it is time to start making some decisions. Doubront, Aceves, and Andrew Miller are in a sort of purgatory between the rotation and the bullpen. If Bailey struggles early on or suffers some sort of injury, things could get ugly. I believe it is important for Valentine to begin to designate at least who will be where (rotation, bullpen). Every move he makes will be heavily scrutinized, so he needs to be sure he has the right guys in the roles that are best suited for them to succeed.

Remaking an Identity

Whether it was used in the context of consolation or with connotations of projected failure, one point has remained consistent since the end of the 2011 season: The 2012 version of the Boston Red Sox will look extremely similar on the field to last year’s team.

And that is largely true. Let’s give the diamond a once-over. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be the starting backstop again. A healthy Kevin Youkilis will be stationed at third base. Shortstop has a statistical doppelganger to Marco Scutaro in the form of Mike Aviles. Dustin Pedroia is primed for another super solid season at second base. To Pedroia’s left is the ever-smooth Adrian Gonzalez. In right field, a platoon of the defensively astute Ryan Sweeney and soon-to-be fan favorite Cody Ross will make everyone really hate J.D. Drew. Jacoby Ellsbury will again roam the real estate in center field. Eventually, Carl Crawford will be back in the shadow of the Green Monster.

The starting pitching staff? Love ‘em or hate ‘em–the main pieces are still in place.

However, the bullpen, the special teams of baseball, has undergone a makeover. Every other aspect of the 2012 Red Sox looks extremely similar to the 2011 version. The guys sitting behind the fence in right field, on the other hand, are quite different.

Over the course of the past couple of years, fans had gotten used to the end-of-the-game routine. Eighth inning-straight gas from Daniel Bard-Ninth inning-a steady dose of fastballs and splitters from Jonathan Papelbon-Postgame-“I’m Shipping Up to Boston”. No matter how last season ended, no matter what you think of Papelbon in the wake of his comments about the intelligence of Red Sox fans–things were good. Really good.

Bard has traded the grittiness of being a bullpen guy for the routinized schedule of a fourth starter. Papelbon will close down games for the Phillies in the National League, and “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” will cease to play at the culmination of the ninth frame.

Instead, Mark Melancon, a former Yankee who was once deemed a potential successor to Mariano Rivera, will slot into Bard’s old role. Andrew Bailey, a two-time All-Star who was acquired from the Athletics, will be the new closer of the Red Sox. Bailey, a Jersey kid, will not have the Dropkick Murphy’s belting out lyrics for his entrance song.

Things are starkly different.

Alfredo Aceves has been downright dirty in game action this spring. Officially, he is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. In reality, he will be in the bullpen serving as a guy who can flat get guys out. Michael Bowden is out of options and seems to have developed a nice relationship with manager Bobby Valentine as well as pitching coach Bob McClure. Oh, and he’s pitched pretty damn well. I’d expect him to earn a spot in the bullpen to begin the year. Vicente Padilla is a guy who is similar to Aceves. A bit hot headed? Sure. Tenacious? Oh yes. Versatile? You betchya. Let’s not forget about our old friends Franklin Morales, Andrew Miller, Felix Doubront, and Matt Albers.

The bullpen will undoubtedly appear much different than it was last year. Bard and Papelbon have had their spots replaced by Melancon and Bailey. However, the construction of a bullpen remains the same. For a general manager, like Ben Cherington, building a bullpen is a lot like playing the lottery. Sure you can pick the numbers you play, but the majority of your success depends on luck. Just as with all major league bullpens, there will be moving parts. What the Sox begin with, will not be what they end with.

In the end, it will be up to the kid from Jersey who grew up rooting for the Phillies to make fans forget about the guy who is now pitching in Philadelphia. It will be up to the guy who was once looked at as the heir apparent to the Rivera Regime in the Bronx to validate the decision that moved Bard to the rotation. It will be up to the rest of the guys to contribute when asked, throw strikes, and record outs.

After all, that is what being in the bullpen is all about.

Observations on the Red Sox…and some other stuff

This tweet by WEEI’s John Meterparel  is silly. I just hope no innocent reader heeds his advice.

It seems like longtime 4-A Red Sox farmhand Michael Bowden has a real shot at breaking camp with the (Boston) Red Sox. As Red Sox fans, we are used to see Bowden’s face at a game in Rhode Island or in the middle of a blowout in Boston. He is young (25) and throws a heavy ball. Look for him to be in the bullpen with the big boys.

Hall of Famer and one of my personal favorites, Carl Yastrzemski is a firm believer in tipping back a few cold guys on a flight. As long as the Red Sox players have the opportunity (which they will) to have a couple of beers while traveling by plane, Yaz sees no issue with the alcohol ban in the clubhouse.

I hate these play-in games for the NCAA tournament. They may be competitive or even entertaining (see BYU coming from 25 points down), but it’s not for me. I’m sure someone far more educated on this issue like Jay Bilas could explain it better, but why the hell are two 12-seeds playing in a play-in game? South Florida and California will square off tonight–I don’t get it. Wake me up when it’s Thursday afternoon.

I don’t know where the Red Sox will be when game 162 comes to an end, but I promise you that they will be better prepared for game 1 this year than they were last year. It’s not a knock on Terry Francona. It’s a fact.

Same Guy, Different Location

I’m not going to go too deep with this one, but I still feel the need to touch on it. Essentially, Jonathan Papelbon, in a radio interview, said that Phillies fans are smarter than Red Sox fans. If you would like a more in-depth recap of what was said, Peter Abraham of the Globe has it for you here.

Before getting too angry at Pap, let’s make sure we are all on the same page with a few things.

  1. Papelbon, regardless of uniform, is the same guy.
  2. Papelbon will not be splitting any atoms in the near future.
  3. Papelbon feels disrespected by the Red Sox.

Now that that is out of the way, don’t we all feel a little bit better about his comments?

Papelbon is an individual. He decided that he wanted to close games instead of start them. He forfeited the opportunity to make significantly more money because his heart was that of a closers’, not a starters’. I respect that.

Papelbon is not the most cerebral guy around. That’s really all that needs to be said there.

Papelbon believes that Boston should have pursued him a bit more this winter: “The Red Sox didn’t really come at me the way I was expecting them to come at me in the off-season.” Come on, Pap. You and the Sox have been going year-to-year since the Clinton administration. There was no long-term, big money deal at the end of the tunnel. You knew it. I knew it. My cat knew it. The Phillies screwed up big time by offering you such a ridiculous contract ended up giving you the deal that you had always longed for. Good for you. Seriously.

Personally, Papelbon’s comments did not offend me because I have an understanding of the hamster that runs on the wheel inside of Cinco-Ocho’s brain. Here is the part that troubles me the most: If you’re an athlete who not only experiences success in Boston but thrives here, like Papelbon, why would you not go out of your way to be sure your legacy remains intact? Leave, but don’t slam the door on the way out.

I mean, you won a World Series in Boston. For God’s sake, how many people walking around the planet Earth can say that?

Papelbon is simply attempting to endear himself to the fans of Philadelphia, a city he will be spending a great deal of time in over the course of the next four years. I get it. I just hope he realizes that he has a lot to accomplish there in order to measure up with what he did in Boston.

Unlike Papelbon, we will not forget what he did for us.

This is Only the Beginning

Bobby Valentine has taken the Red Sox, Fort Myers, Jet Blue Park, and the month of February by storm. Sparring through the media with former Sox manager and current ESPN analyst Terry Francona, jabs at Derek Jeter over a play that happened over a decade ago, compliments to Jason Varitek for placing his catcher’s mitt into the middle of Alex Rodriguez‘s face almost eights years ago, and receiving blame for Carl Crawford‘s recent setback regarding his rehabilitation from wrist surgery. I’m out of breath.

It’s amazing what can unfold in a matter of weeks.

Despite all of the seemingly unwanted turmoil, it has actually been smooth sailing for the new Red Sox skipper. So far. Larry Lucchino Ben Cherington looks like a genius for hiring Valentine. So far. The media has taken quite a liking to Valentine. So far. Players, including the oft-irritated David Ortiz, have given their stamps of approval for the new manager. Fans of the Old Towne Team who generally possess a well-deserved affinity towards Francona (two World Championships will do that sorta thing) have also reluctantly nodded in the direction of Valentine.

So far.

As Talkin Sox With Dan discussed almost exactly one month ago, I firmly believe that if Francona had to be sent packing (and he did), Valentine was the best choice. It is natural to juxtapose Francona and Valentine, and after the way 2011 ended, it is super-easy to draw the conclusion that Valentine’s methods are better. However, I do not believe that is necessarily the case.

Are Francona and Valentine different? Certainly. Valentine is like a parent who is always around, always trying to make their son or daughter the best possible person he or she can be on that given day. Sure, that parent can be irritating, sometimes even annoying, but in the back of your mind, you know that he or she has only the best intentions. Francona was more like a caring parent who just wasn’t constantly checking with their kid. He trusted his children to be respectful and responsible without having to be constantly reminded of exactly what that meant.

Are Valentine’s methods better than Francona’s? I’m not sure. Francona’s philosophy relied upon being ready and healthy for the end of the season and, presumably, postseason play. If that meant applying less pressure to the throttle early in the season, so be it. It was the ends that mattered most, not the means. For Valentine, the ends still matter, but he is determined to change the means by which their achieved. More hands-on, more fundamentals, more work. However, it is less about Francona and Valentine and more about the buttons they push.

For eight seasons, Francona applied pressure to the same set of buttons. For seven and half seasons, the buttons worked. Late last season, the players stopped responding, and when that happens, change is necessary. Valentine represents that change.

As of today, Valentine seems like the perfect medicine for a Red Sox team that had grown complacent. He is an active teacher. He enjoys the spotlight. He can work a crowd. The guy will be working on Yawkey Way, but he belongs on Broadway.

So what does this all mean?

It means that I hope the fans who have fallen in love at first sight with all that is Bobby V this spring know what the expect this summer. He will shake things up. Baseball fans are a lot like its participants. They like routine. They cling to it. Valentine does not believe in a set lineup. Kevin Youkilis leading off? Probably not something I would do, but Valentine might. Daniel Bard getting the ball on Opening Day in Detroit? It is not out of the realm of possibility. Change is certainly on the horizon.

Just like it did with Francona, there will come a time when Valentine’s message grows stale, when the buttons he is used to pressing cease to work. I know what I’m getting myself into by advocating for Valentine. There will be more than one instance this summer when the guy leaves me at a loss for words, bewildered by whatever decision he has made on or off the field. This season, let’s make a concerted effort to not juxtapose Valentine with his predecessor. Let’s give him the season to show his mettle.

I am a believer in Valentine.

So far.

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