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Buster Olney on M&M: Bobby Valentine has ‘got to worry about the players’ more than media

04.18.12 at 1:35 pm ET
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ESPN MLB analyst Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni Wednesday afternoon to discuss the numerous high-profile incidents surrounding the Red Sox, as well as some other news around the major leagues.

No story for the Red Sox has been bigger of recent than Bobby Valentine‘s public criticism and questioning of Kevin Youkilis and his effort and commitment. While Olney said that he doesn’t think Valentine meant exactly what he said, he did say that Valentine should be more worried about the reaction of his own players rather than that of the media.

“He referenced in his press conference, he said, ‘€˜Because of my past, basically media members look at something like this and make more of it,’€™ ” Olney said. “I disagree with that. He’€™s got to worry about the players more than he’€™s got to worry about idiots like me. Clearly, given the response we saw from Youkilis and from [Dustin] Pedroia, they’€™re aware of the history.

“We know when he first became a candidate with the Red Sox, there were players who were really unhappy about that. That’€™s why I thought he would go so far in the other direction, almost to the point of being criminally bland, and he hasn’€™t.”

With some of the headlines that Valentine has created lately with some of his off-the-cuff statements, Olney said that if Valentine tones down his outspoken nature a bit, it could go a long way toward helping his team and his tenure in Boston.

“I wonder if that’€™s something he should really strive to do going forward,” Olney said. “It’€™s not going to be great for media, it’€™s not going to be great for quotes, but I think in terms of him in this position this early in his time with the Red Sox, that might be the best thing. He’€™s got some work to do.”

Part of the friction that Valentine has clearly had with some Red Sox players relates back to his hire in the first place, according to Olney, as many players were set against Valentine from the beginning.

“Those comments tell you that, in some respects, Bobby was on double secret probation with these players when he started,” Olney said. “He had the first strike. And the fact that Dustin, who is so smart and so savvy in dealing with reporters, and although he’€™s very funny and outspoken, he also chooses his words carefully and for him to choose those words, it really says a lot to you about how comfortable the players are not with Bobby yet.”

Another early story for the Red Sox this season has been the pronounced struggle of newly acquired relief pitcher Mark Melancon, who sports a 49.50 ERA through four outings. Olney said that while with the Yankees, Melancon struggled with being on a bigger stage, something that may be the case in Boston.

“When he was with the Yankees, part of the equation when the Yankees were evaluating Mark Melancon when they called him up repeatedly was every time they brought him up to the big leagues, he struggled with his command,” Olney said. “Part of the reason why they came to believe this is he had some issues with the big stage. That was the first thing that popped in my head when the Red Sox got him from the Astros was, ‘€˜Huh, I wonder if he has outgrown that perception of him who might struggle on a big stage and be more comfortable in a place like Houston.’€™ ”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On any tension that still lingers from the Red Sox’ collapse last September: “There’€™s no doubt that I’€™ve heard a lot of stories about a lot of angry people. There’€™s certainly issues that went unresolved from the chicken and beer stuff in the paper.”

On what to do with Melancon going forward: “The biggest thing is just to keep his confidence level high because, as you say, they acquired him to be a big piece. The Red Sox are thorough when they do these player evaluations, and when they checked things out I’€™m sure they heard the same things about him in New York and they determined that he would be a guy they could rely on. Obviously, so far, it hasn’€™t turned out that way.”

On the Red Sox looking at acquiring Scott Podsednik: “I don’€™t know specifically about their level of interest in Podsednik or if this is a case of due diligence. I do know that the Phillies have been a team that’€™s been struggling for offense all spring and they had Scott Podsednik on their roster and they watched him play every single day and they also had Juan Pierre, and they chose Juan Pierre over Scott Podsednik. It would be interesting to see whether or not the Red Sox go one step further. One thing that’€™s a difference for them is that Podsenik, according to scouts I talked to, still can play center field. He may not necessarily be a Gold Glover, he may not necessarily have a good arm, but he would give you more flexibility if you needed someone to play center field for an extended period of time.”

On Jamie Moyer becoming the oldest pitcher to earn a win Tuesday night: “It’€™s unbelievable, it is to me, because I covered him in 1995, he was a member of the Orioles rotation. In August of that year, they dropped him out of the rotation and I did my due diligence as a reporter, you go up and you ask the player who’€™s been demoted how he felt about it. Jamie was very disappointed, but very optimistic in saying, ‘€˜You know, I’€™m working on some things, I’€™ve got some things I’€™m going to build on.’€™ I swear to you, this thought popped in my head, ‘€˜My God, Jamie, you’€™re delusional. Give it up, the baseball’€™s over for you.’€™ That was 17 years ago that thought happened. I stopped doubting whether or not Jamie Moyer can do things. It’€™s an amazing accomplishment.”

Read More: Bobby Valentine, Dustin Pedroia, Jamie Moyer, Juan Pierre
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