It's only March, but new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine is already in midseason antagonistic prick form. The latest controversy? A stupid spring training game, because the Yankees and the Red Sox can't even play a simple spring training game without being children.
The Red Sox came back to tie the game with a suicide squeeze in the bottom of the ninth, a play that apparently rankled Joe Girardi. Since Valentine played for the tie, Girardi told him he could have the tie. When the inning ended, Girardi pulled his players off the field and told the umpires that the game was over—in spring training, extra innings are only played if both managers agree to keep going.
The Yankees' scheduled starter left when his wife went into labor, and they cobbled together five relievers to get through the nine innings. Girardi cited a lack of pitching in quitting the game, though he had five minor league call-ups traveling with the team in case of emergency. But the Yankees have two afternoon split-squad games today, so they probably just wanted to get home and get some sleep.
Valentine's anger was on behalf of his own pitcher, Clayton Mortensen, who had already began his warm-ups on the mound when the game was called.
"It was regretful that Mortensen warmed up though and then we were told that they weren't going to play extra innings. I didn't think that that was very courteous. The umpire came over and said we couldn't play. I don't care about not playing. Why do I have to warm up my pitcher who's trying to make a team? Come in in a tie game against the Yankees and maybe help him make a team, and instead he has to walk off the mound and take a shower. That's just not very courteous.''
Girardi certainly had his reasons for cutting things short—a two-hour bus ride back to Tampa, and a short night before having to be at the park in the morning—but there was more than a little gamesmanship involved. But whence Valentine's sudden regard for Clayton Mortensen, who's only made three appearances all spring and has zero chance of making the opening day roster? There's method to his madness. Anyone who criticizes the Red Sox for hiring a lightning rod of a manager is missing the point. The Red Sox are always going to have controversy, and Valentine's brilliance—he did this with the Mets too—is bringing that controversy on himself instead of his players. The various insane things Valentine will say and do will give him the back pages in Boston, instead of, say, an extra-doughy Josh Beckett or a struggling David Ortiz. If a merciless Boston media is threatening to damage Carl Crawford's fragile psyche, Bobby V will in effect yell "Hey! Look over here!" and insult Derek Jeter or start a beanball war or something.
So maybe a tie game in spring training isn't the biggest controversy. That's why it's spring training: Valentine's just warming up.
Valentine blasts Girardi [Boston Globe]