Today’s Q&A with Bobby Valentine

DALLAS — Bobby Valentine sat down with reporters earlier today for about 30 minutes. MLB provided a transcript of the interview, so why not pass it along?

How do you view Bard and how do you see his role this year? “Well, Daniel Bard is an extremely talented pitcher from everything I’ve been watching on video, things I’ve seen statistically and everything that I’ve watched on television or live. Electric stuff. And talking to him on the phone, he seems like the guy everybody wants. ‘I’ll do what’s right for the team. If you need me to close, I’ll close. If you need me to start, I’ll start.’ That’s the greatest thing in the world, and it could also be the worst thing in the world because I don’t think it’s fair to him to put him in that position.

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“That being said, we’re going to put him in that position, and we’re going to see how things come to pass as the winter meetings close, as the winter goes on, as we add to our roster, and as spring training develops. I wish I had a good answer. I know he’s a real talented pitcher.

How important is the closer and can the team be good without a good one? “Well, we all watched St. Louis win a world championship last year, and of course they had a good closer who wasn’t closing for about three months, and developed into that role.

“I was just talking to Joe Maddon, and I respect Joe, I love what he does and I respect the other 28 guys who are in that room who do what I’m going to try to do here for Boston. I think most of the guys who make out the lineup card believe the closer is very important, that the outs get tougher as the game goes on, and that it’s important.

What can you update us on in terms of the coaching staff? I know you’ve had some conversations with guys who are still under contract. “Right. I’ve talked to the four coaches that were under contract. We talked about ability, about passion, and about commitment, and there’s no question that everybody is very competent at their jobs. Tim Bogar and Dave Magadan and Gary Tuck, who I got to talk to finally yesterday, are all ready they continue their passion and their commitment is I believe their commitment is at the same level it’s always been.

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“I’ve also talked to DeMarlo Hale, who comes with as great a résumé as anyone on our staff. I’ve never really met him personally. I’ve shaken his hand. But when we talked about his role on the team, which was uncertain at this time, and I had to be truthful with him that it would be uncertain, other than he’d be on the coaching staff, and we talked about his commitment at this time to another manager and the old organization. He felt that it would probably be best if he brought his talents to another team, and I understood that totally. I told him that when you come to work that you have to look around and you’ve got to know that everyone there is just as happy to see you as you are happy to be there. If there’s any question about that, and it wasn’t necessarily about my looking at him, but he wasn’t a managerial candidate, and I get that. If you’re a manager in waiting and you’re not a candidate when I wasn’t thought to be a candidate in some places and I was kind of sitting out there wondering if I’d ever really get a job again, I didn’t really like those guys who didn’t put me on the list. Some were even friends, and I couldn’t figure it out, why it wasn’t.

“So we talked about that, and I think he’s made a very good decision for him and his family. So now we’re in the interview process for someone who will be a bench coach, someone who will be a first base coach more than likely, and someone who will be a pitching coach. And the pitching coach, I think of the three mentioned, is the most important, and we’re probably going to take a lot of time to decide. I don’t mean months, because I need that guy yesterday to start talking about what we’re going to do. But we’re going to try to get the best possible guy, and it’s going to take a while to weed through that. Ben has a list, I have a list, we’ve been making calls, we’ve been setting up appointments.

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So you are confirming that Bogar, Tuck and Magadan are coming back? “Absolutely, and more than likely in their same role. And the only one who might change their role is Tim.”

How much say should a manager have in picking his staff? “When I was a baby manager, I was graced with a guy coming into my office to welcome me to this community. He was managing a team that was called the Dallas Cowboys, and he happened to be a friend of a friend of mine from Staford, Connecticut. Tom Landry came in and shared an hour and a half, maybe two with me on I believe it was a Saturday afternoon before a Saturday night game. When he left he reached over to pick up his hat, and he looked over at me, and he said, “Bobby, the only bit of advice I’m going to give you is make sure your coaches speak your language.” And I think, again, everybody who was just being interviewed in that interview room, all those managers understand that their staff has got to be able to say your message in stereo, that they have to be part of your baseball world.

“And the first thing that’s necessary is quality, and I think that the three guys we have here are being picked by me because there is quality in Tuck and Bogar and Magadan. And the next three, I’ll have some say in.

Last week you were saying that one of your priorities will be to get in touch with the players. How has that been going? “I’ve reached out to a lot. I haven’t gotten Daisuke, who’s on the disabled list, Lowrie there’s about five guys including Carl Crawford that I haven’t been able to reach. I just went to the text because I decided I really wanted to have my voice be the first communication. But I haven’t been able to get through.

“I texted him and I want to meet him if he wants to meet me before Spring Training, and that would mean leaving here, going there, leaving Boston, going there, him being somewhere where I am, something like that, where we could just do a little face to face. I think that he deserves my reaching out to him, and I’m trying to do that.

“Everybody else on the roster now, I haven’t talked to Jason Varitek because his name really wasn’t on the list of telephone numbers that I got, and I just realized I haven’t talked to him because I had the active roster, and there is two or three other relievers that I haven’t gotten to yet. But they’ve gone all right. The conversations have been, you know, phone conversations, you’re talking on the phone, and we’re just making it happen.

“You know, I did reach out to Josh [Beckett], and he didn’t want me to say anything so I’m not going to say anything other than after he got through telling me how pissed off he was, we had a really good conversation. I’m not going to say anything about it.”

[Valentine later said that Beckett was upset about Valentine criticizing him on ESPN last year, not that he was the new manager].


How important is it for your team to be in a little better shape this season than last season? “Well, again, I’ve taken a lot of my knowledge from other sources, so it’s not firsthand knowledge. But I’ve met with trainers and all the front office staff. I’ve read everything I think you guys have had to write about the Red Sox because I’ve been able to do that on planes. It seems like they let it get away or some of the guys let it get away. I think they understand that. I’m not going to have to have them do extra sprints in spring training. I think that these are great athletes, world class athletes, mature adults who get it and understand.
“After talking to some of them on the phone and leaving other messages, I’m sure that if they didn’t agree with the message or didn’t agree with the conversation, they would say, everything was perfect and we’re just going to do it again the same thing. I don’t think anyone thinks that’s the way it’s going to happen.
Carl [Crawford] bounced around the batting order last year. How much would you like to see him settle into one spot and just sort of keep him there? “You know, when I talked to Adrian, he mentioned how hitting in one spot in the order wasn’t important to him. And so different guys have different strokes. But I can tell you that in the thousands of games that I’ve managed, I never made out a lineup card thinking about one guy. It’s always about the group and how you fit in kind of together for the whole lineup. Hell’s bells, I’d love to have one lineup and use it for 162 games, but it’s more than likely I’ll use 162 lineups than one lineup. So there’s going to be lots of moving parts. I’ll talk to Carl about that.
“If someone has a thing … I remember when Mike Piazza came to the Mets, and he said, ‘I can’t hit unless I’m batting third’ and he batted fourth and had some of the greatest years of his life playing for the Mets. Sometimes they get over it.”
When you look at the lineup, is there anything, any players that you say, well, they typically have hit here, but I could see him hitting somewhere else?
“I mean, I could see Ellsbury hitting third, I could see Pedroia hitting third, second. He performed pretty well when he hit fourth. I’m not there probably the last thing in my mind is the lineup. I think there’s so much more to cultivate before we get to Detroit and that thing that’s posted on the wall as what we’re doing battle with Game 1. That’s way down the line.”
Will you have a team captain? If [Jason Varitek] is not back, I doubt that. Maybe. But I don’t know. I haven’t given that a consideration, and it hasn’t been a priority thought for me. … I believe in a lot of liaisons, and to try to designate it to one person that it’s his job to do something that is really everyone’s job to do, I think is sometimes unfair to that person. Sometimes there’s that guy who earned a stripe, who happened to be in that group so long that they kept pushing him forward, that he was the one that would be volunteered for that ugly duty, because there’s really no benefit to it. You know, there’s a reputation and extra work with the same pay. I don’t think it’s necessary. I’d like to have communication lines with a lot of the guys, you know?”
What are your expectations for Daisuke this season? “For him to get healthy first. He’s in a real weird situation being it’s the last year of his contract, he was injured last year, things didn’t go well, the team didn’t win the championship, I’m sure he feels a lot of responsibility. But he’s also looking at the calendar, he knows when opening day is, he knows when May 1st is and June 1st, and we have to be careful to not let the calendar dictate his recovery process. I expect him to be healthy, and after that we’ll take it from there.
Will you talk about your rivalry with the Yankees? “No, I hate the Yankees. I don’t want to waste this valuable time talking about the Yankees. This is too valuable. I told Joe Girardi I used to love them, but now I hate them.”
What are some of the things that you think make Yu Darvish successful in the Major Leagues if he came over here? “I have no idea if his talents will translate at the Major League level if he came here, but he’s a quality pitcher. He has size, quality, velocity, breaking balls, very good hands. He makes the ball do a lot of crazy things on its way to the plate. Great competitor. If those things translate into another uniform, whether it’s another uniform in Japan, who knows?”
What do you think of the Rays and the job Joe Maddon has done? “From afar, I’ve been in awe of the job they’ve done. I’ve admired the work of Joe Maddon and his team. If I was a broadcaster answering that question, I would say that everyone would rather have an expert team than have a team of experts, and I think that they strive to have an expert team and have succeeded in doing that.”
So as the manager of a team that now has to beat them out, how do you view them? “A challenge, a real challenge.”
Discussing Daniel Bard, obviously you have this uncertainty surrounding him. What are the challenges of the idea of having a pitcher potentially taking a reliever and putting him in the rotation? “The challenges?”
Yeah. “Well, that the unknown of durability is going to remain with anyone, whether it be Feliz or anyone who transfers from the bullpen to the starting staff. You can judge his pitches in spring training and you can judge his success, but it’s very difficult to project the endurance of that success throughout a game. So that’s a challenge. And then developing the pitches, of course, having, as we’ve talked, having more than two pitches that I know are extremely hard to hit. That third pitch is a necessity. Of course he does a good job of holding runners, and I think he’d have to improve his fielding a little”
In terms of the challenge of making an evaluation in spring training about his fitness, what is that like for a manager? “Very, very difficult. I don’t think there’s a formula that those guys fit into, and once they solve the A plus B, it works. We have to remember Spring Training is a very deceiving part of the season. Not only are they day games, but it’s not always A lineups. As you’re trying to get guys to develop new pitches, often it doesn’t come with success. Sometimes guys will pitch their 28 innings or 30 innings in Spring Training and not have the kind of success you want, but still, you believe that they could be a quality starter. I think it’s all the stuff about experience that helps make those decisions. But again, it’s going to be individual, unique.
Is it more difficult to project how a middle reliever or setup man would translate as a starter versus how he would translate as a closer? “How he, because he wasn’t the closer, would translate as a starter rather than translating as a closer? Again, commitment is always part of the equation, okay. And if he’s totally committed to being a starter, I think he’ll be successful. I think if he’s totally committed to being a closer, he’ll be successful. Because I think he has extreme talent. But that idea of commitment, I think right now, because he’s in this position, he doesn’t know which way to go. He doesn’t know if he’s fish or fowl. I told him to commit his conditioning program to be a starter because it takes more on the conditioning side. But when we get to spring training, he’s going to have to mentally commit to doing whatever it is that we decide for him to do.
Do you look at Aceves as being in the same boat right now as Bard or are you leaning one way or another on him? “Same, from all the meetings and everything I’ve read statistically and everything I’ve seen, I think he’s right in the middle there. Both, neither, I don’t know what it is.
Can you have too much of that in camp, too many guys with undefined roles? “Well, right now we have 33 games, so that means we have 297 innings, and if we’re playing at home, that means you don’t have a ninth inning ten games. And two of those games, it’s not really 297 because two of the games are seven inning games. So take off two more, it’s 293, so we’re down to 283 innings.
“To get four starters at 30 and two starters at 25 and get your seven innings for those other seven guys, and then we have I think another 18 guys in camp that at least you want them to pitch an inning, well, we’re using up 282 innings, probably 279 innings in that. The stuff you don’t have is innings, and for a lot of these guys they have to be quality competition innings, and I don’t know if B.C. and Northeastern qualify there, and sometimes these split squad games don’t necessarily qualify, and sometimes the fifth inning through the ninth inning don’t qualify. So we’re really down to a tough situation.
How great a voice do you have right now in some of the roster decisions that are being made by Ben, particularly in player acquisition? How big a voice do you have at the table? “These five days there’s been a lot of inclusion, and I’ve been one of the guys that has been included in the conversation. That’s right where I want to be. I don’t think he’s bothered me at 2:00 in the morning when he comes up and he’s staring at the ceiling and comes up with some idea, but it’s been very structured and very educational, a little, for me, because it has been so structured. But we have our morning, afternoon and nighttime closing meetings, and any thoughts that he has, he’s shared with the room. I’m in the room.”
Are you going into spring training with any uncertainty, and what’s your philosophy in terms of figuring out who the best guy would be in those situations going forward? “You know, I think often, if it’s just competition in spring training, all that stuff is made for you, the players determine it. They show you what it is. You know, the weird selections in spring training are the last guy in the bullpen, the 25th man on the roster, the utility player, if you’re going to keep the extra catcher, those are tough decisions because they’re not defined. Competition is usually presented.”
Have the last few weeks been energizing? “Absolutely. I mean, I feel like in the last two weeks, my life has been in such a whirlwind, wonderful pace that I count my blessings. I’m saying, ‘I can’t believe I just did that.’ It’s been really neat.
There are baseball people who say that the worst time to evaluate a player is September and spring training. What are your thoughts on that? “I agree totally, yeah. If you’re evaluating on results. Now, again, that experience thing is the thing that keeps you from evaluating on results. When I tried to allude to, what I said and I wasn’t very clear, if a guy could give up runs in his 30 innings and still be part of your stuff because you evaluated him not on the results but on his ability to develop those pitches that you see some endurance, you see that commitment, and you say, yeah, this is a guy and hey, guess what, mistakes are made out of spring training, and that’s why we play 162, so we can continue to make adjustments.
“My little soap box, you’ve maybe heard it before, but it’s still my soap box, is that the roster should be extended in April and not in September, and if it was extended in April, we’d see these guys under the lights. We’d see someone playing at Fenway. OK, we’d see someone in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium in the first month, and now we’ll understand a little more about them than you could possibly understand in Fort Myers.”