No question the first part of the comment is the most damaging. Some, or most that read the quote, will take that as Valentine questioning Youkilis' commitment. I find it odd, because in spite of me not following the day to day vibe of the Boston Red Sox, I see Youkilis as an intense and emotionable player. Last year was a disappointment for Youkilis, who made the full time transition from 1B to 3B for the first time in his career. He has had some injuries over the past couple of season, including a sports hernia he had operated on last season.
Last season, he had a career low batting average, of .258, in 120 games with 17 HR and 80 RBI. He only played 102 games in 2010, but hit .307, after hitting .305 and .312 in 2009 and 2008, respectively. So, while he is coming off a down season, it is important for him to get off to a good start. He is just 6-30, with 3 walks, but I think it is too early in the season to say he is a bust. It is also too early to start questioning a player's commitment.
I don't see Youkilis as being a player who needs that type of psychology, if that is what Valentine was aiming for. We all know Bobby V is a very good disciplinarian, and is not afraid to upset somebody with comments through the media. Even Valentine backtracked after his first statement, making the rest of his comments about what Youkilis was doing better. He says he apologized to Youkilis, though Valentine said, "I don't know if he accepted my apology. It was sincere."
Youkilis was surprised and confused about Valentine's comments. He said, "Everyone knows I go out and play with emotion. The only time there has ever been a question is because I've been too emotional." 2B Dustin Pedroia questioned Valentine's motives saying, "I don't know what Bobby is trying to do. That's not the way we go about our stuff around here." There is no question Valentine was brought in here to change the culture and make the players accountable, but at this point its Valentine that looks bad. He has thrown a wedge between one of his more popular players, one who does not have a history of having his commitment questioned. The team has started the season without OF Carl Crawford and recently lost CF Jacoby Ellsbury to an injury that may have him out for a while.
I think Valentine was the right hire for Boston. While I don't think he should have gone after Youkilis to the media like this, I don't think he meant to say what he said. But, knowing Valentine's personality from his days with the Mets, he is not known for saying things he doesn't mean. He meant to be critical of Youkilis, but perhaps did not want to question his integrity. But, with the Mets, he would have worded it the way he intended to. If he didn't in this situation, there has to be serious questions about whether Valentine is losing his edge.
Remember despite a return to the Japanese managerial ranks, he has not been a MLB manager since the Mets let him go after the 2002 season. There has been 9 full MLB seasons since Valentine has been behind the bench. I understand how he has to be heard, and maybe what he said worked with the Red Sox winning the next two games. Youkilis is out of the lineup today while the game against Tampa Bay starts at 11 am EST, but is available to pinch hit if needed. For those who have witnessed Valentine, we all know this is not the last we have heard from Bobby V that will be controversial.