The Bobby V. Apologist


The Bobby V. Apologist

By now, I assume everyone's up to date on the latest controversy surrounding Bobby Valentine. I think people are calling it "Pinch Hit Gate," but that's just an educated guess.

If you haven't heard: Yesterday afternoon, the Sox and Jays were tied 0-0 in the seventh inning. Pedro Ciriaco was on first base with two outs and the light-hitting Jose Iglesias was up at the plate.

With the count at 1-and-2, Ciraco stole second (the pitch was a ball). So now, the Sox had the leading run in scoring position, with perhaps the worst hitter in baseball (including pitchers) at the plate. At this point, Valentine shocked the world by pinch-hitting Daniel Nava for Iglesias in the middle of the at-bat. The manager later said that the move was a ploy to get some run support for Jon Lester, but in the end it didn't matter. Nava grounded out.

The Sox lost 5-0.

The reaction to Valentine's decision has been predictably sour. He's been accused no longer caring about the development of his young players and once again turning this season into his personal side show. Ever the Valentine apologist, I don't see it quite the same way.

First of all, I don't buy into the argument that Bobby V.'s decision will prove to be some crippling set back in Iglesias' development. Sure, there's a chance that he could have picked up a hit, driven in a run and maybe built a little confidence. But let's be honest, there was a much, much better chance by the numbers, about a 90 percent chance that the shortstop would have come up short. What's that do for him?

Furthermore, it's not like Iglesias is just in a slump. It's not a matter of him picking up one hit and getting into a groove.

He literally can't hit at the Major League level. Not yet, at least. And regardless of whether he knocked in a run or was called back to the dugout, he'll have to work just as hard this offseason to have any chance of playing in the big leagues next year..

In the slight chance that being pinch hit for in the middle of an at-bat ultimately does derail Iglesias' progress? Then guess what: He was probably never going to make it anyway.

He'll have to withstand a lot more adversity than that to survive at this level especially if he plans on staying in Boston.

And yeah, it was an unconventional move by Valentine. It was a move that most, if not every other manager in his position would have resisted. BUT, can you really argue with the logic?

How can you constantly criticize a manager for not caring and then jump on him for making a move that indicates that he cares?

With the season all but over, and his future foggier than John Henry's rec-specs after hotly contested squash match, Valentine could just as well spend these last few games daydreaming about his years in Japan or thinking up new concepts for the winter menu at his restaurant. Instead, a move like yesterday's shows that, at the very least, he's still engaged. He's trying to win. And not even for himself, but for guys like Jon Lester.

So, what's the problem again?

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?


EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

On this episode of The Ex-Pats Podcast...

0:10 - Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen give their takeaways from the Patriots win over the Falcons including the defense coming up strong against Atlanta but New England still taking too many penalties.

2:00 - Why it felt like this game meant more to the Patriots, their sense of excitement after the win, and building chemistry off a good victory.

6:20 - Falcons losing their identity without Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and their bad play calling and decisions on 4th downs.

10:00 -  A discussion about Matt Ryan not making the throws he needed against the Patriots and if he has falling off the MVP caliber-type player he was last season.

14:00 - How and why the Patriots secondary seems to be playing better without Stephon Gilmore and why Malcolm Butler has been able to turn up his play as of late.

Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study


Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

If your team makes a goal-line stop in the fourth quarter, but you can't see it on the All-22 tape, did it even happen? 

Bill Belichick said the fog that hovered above the Gillette Stadium turf on Sunday night didn't impact the play on the field, but it did make its imprint on the game in other ways. First of all, spotters and coaches up at the press level had some difficulty relaying information to coaches on the sidelines. Video on the hand-held tablets for sideline use -- as well as the old-school still-frame pictures Belichick prefers -- was also obstructed. 

Then on Monday, as coaches tried to digest the film, the fog butted in on the process again. 

"It affected us a lot this morning because it’s hard to see the game," Belichick said during a conference call. "The fourth quarter is – I don’t know – pretty close to a white-out on the sideline film. The sideline cameras are at the top of the stadium, so that’s a tough shot.

"The end zone cameras are a little bit lower and they get a little tighter shot, so the picture is a little bit clearer. But, on that shot, a lot of times you’re not able to see all the guys on the perimeter. It’s kind of an in-line shot.

"Yeah, the first half, start of the third quarter, it’s all right. As they get into the middle of the third quarter and on, for those of us with aging eyes, it’s a little strained to see it, and then there’s a point where you can’t really see it at all, especially from the sideline. So, yeah, it affected us."

Belichick re-iterated that the fog didn't do much to the product on the field (other than maybe making life difficult for kick and punt-returners), refuting Julio Jones' claim from late Sunday night. When it came to digesting the film, though, that was another story.

"It was more, I’d say, just tougher for, whether it be our video camera or the fans that were sitting in the upper deck. It’s just there was too much interference there," Belichick said. "It was probably hard to see the game. I know when we tried to look at the pictures in between series – you know, I don’t look at the tablets, so I won’t get into that – but the pictures, it was kind of the same thing. It was hard to really be able to make out exactly what you were seeing."