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Dan Shaughnessy

Latest controversy came out of left field

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Staff / July 29, 2012
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NEW YORK — Saturday was eventful at Yankee Stadium.

Carl Crawford, the man with the $142 million contract, was not in Boston’s lineup against CC Sabathia. Crawford said he was embarrassed and ready to play. Sounding defiant and dubious, Bobby Valentine said he was just following orders. Bobby finally seems to be telling us that if he’s going to go down, he’s going down on his own terms.

Terry Francona visited the Sox clubhouse and hung out for a half-hour, swapping stories with some of his former players. One of Francona’s favorites, Jon Lester, pitched better than he has in recent outings, but let a 6-1 game become a 6-4 game when he walked a pair and surrendered three runs in the fifth.

Loco righty Vincente Padilla, who hates Mark Teixeira with the power of a thousand suns, coughed up a tying, two-run homer to Teixeira in the bottom of the eighth inning. Teixeira, who hates Padilla the way Bill Belichick hates Eric Mangini, ran the bases with gusto while beleaguered Bobby came out to get his combustible righty.

The Sox won it (8-6) with a pair in the ninth after Yankee center fielder Curtis Granderson twisted himself into a windsor knot and fell on a phony “triple” by the immortal Pedro Ciriaco.

All in all, just another goofy day in the wacky world of the 2012 Boston Red Sox.

“We were good tonight,’’ said Valentine. “And we were lucky.’’

Early Saturday, when Valentine was asked why Crawford wasn’t in the lineup, Bobby announced that a policy (which has never been mentioned before) of four days on and one day off for Crawford. Bobby said the program was designed to help prevent damage, and promote “building up” Crawford’s left elbow, which we all know is destined for Tommy John surgery.

When it was pointed out that Crawford played six straight games after coming off the disabled list, Valentine said, “They told me he wasn’t playing and I did the old veto power . . . I did a managerial no-no. I went against what I was told to do. Never to be done again. I’d like to have him every day, but I understand his situation now.’’

Wow. Valentine later explained that he’s getting these orders from Red Sox medical personnel (and NOT general manager Ben Cherington), but it was clear that he disagrees with the policy and more clear that he doesn’t mind us knowing about his dissatisfaction with the way the Sox do things.

Good. Let’s see a little more of the old veto power. This is the Bobby we thought we were getting when he was hired by the Sox after ownership rejected Cherington’s candidate, Dale Sveum. This is the Bobby V who ripped Kevin Youkilis at the start of the season. This is the Bobby V who doesn’t think lineups and managerial strategy should be governed by an off-the-rails stat geek locked away in Lawrence, Kansas.

The manager may have been protecting Crawford. Sensitive Carl is a .319 hitter in 69 career at-bats (22 hits) against Sabathia. He termed his day off “more embarrassing than anything,” but given the way he’s performing, particularly against lefthanders, Valentine probably spared Crawford embarrassment. Crawford has one hit in his last 22 at-bats and looked particularly feeble against lefties in Texas last week. Physics and geometry will tell you that from where Crawford sets up in the batter’s box, and where he finishes, it is physically impossible for him to make contact with a ball thrown by a lefthander to the outside corner.

A polite, soft-spoken fellow, Crawford somehow always seems to be in the middle of weird stuff around these Red Sox. Think it was a coincidence that the 2011 train wreck season ended on a flyball that Crawford could not handle? I think not. That’s baseball karma.

Nobody wants to take credit/blame for bringing Crawford to Boston. John Henry and Larry Lucchino blame Theo Epstein. Theo blames the nefarious “Monster” that forces baseball ops to make decisions against its better judgment.

Crawford had wrist surgery after a horrible 2011, and has come back this year looking like a latter-day Dwayne Hosey. He says he’s more comfortable in the No. 2 spot in the order, but he looks uncomfortable everywhere. He’s hitting .222 with one extra-base hit in 10 games. He has one walk and 10 strikeouts.

“I came here ready to play, like I always do,’’ he said early Saturday. “Found out this morning I wasn’t playing. So, that’s it pretty much. Could I play? I could play today, but like I said, they’re following that method right there, and I’m just going along with how the way things are.’’

“He always wants to play,’’ said Valentine. “I love that.’’

Here’s Crawford on the prospects for his throwing elbow: “I figure one day it’ll blow out, and when that happens, time to go. The later I wait to get it done, the more time I’m going to miss. I guess you guys can do the calculation on that and see how that works. I definitely know that at some point of my career I can’t keep playing with this ligament in my elbow like that.’’

Great. A left fielder with zero confidence is telling you that his elbow is ready to explode.

Meanwhile, Bobby V gets kookier by the day. He probably wasn’t thrilled to hear that Francona, enjoyed a half-hour bull session with Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Nick Punto, Cody Ross, Clay Buchholz, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the Red Sox clubhouse three hours before the scheduled start of the game. Francona is in the booth for ESPN tonight and it’s customary for the network’s “talent” to spend a little time around the teams featured in each week’s broadcast.

Think Bobby is feeling the heat? Here’s how he started his answer when he was asked why Lester has been so bad this year: “It’s got to be the manager he’s playing for.’’

Bobby V was kidding, folks.

Lester didn’t help himself much Saturday. Staked to a 6-1 lead, he walked the leadoff batter in the bottom of the fifth, then surrendered a two-run homer, and another run before pitching out of the inning. He was lifted after six with a 6-4 lead 101 pitches.

That left us with the epic Padilla-Teixeira matchup in the eighth, and Ciriaco’s winning triple in the ninth.

“I believe in my players,’’ said Valentine. “It’s a good team and a good group of guys who believe they’re going to go on a run.’’

The Sox can get to .500 if they win tonight.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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