Bobby Valentine vs. New York Yankees: Game On

Bobby Valentine isn't shy, and Yankees fans are going to love to hate him. If they don't already.

It's impossible to know if Bobby Valentine will be a "good Red Sox manager" or a "bad Red Sox manager" or (most likely) somewhere in between. But what we've suspected from Day 1 has proven true: If nothing else, Bobby Valentine is going to be an interesting Red Sox manager.

First he banned beer in the clubhouse, which led to a wonderful little story when Terry Francona chimed in. And things got even more interesting when Valentine started taking tiny little plausible-denial swipes at the Yankees. Tuesday, presumably when asked to discuss Jason Varitek's legacy, Valentine couldn't resist throwing this in: "He was able to beat up Alex, all that stuff. He was exactly what he was supposed to be."

Now, this wasn't precisely what happened. Close enough, though, if one is trying to establish oneself as a Very Important Person in Red Sox Nation.

Better yet, Valentine took a little jab at the Very Importantest Person in Yankees Nation. I don't even understand how this came up, but somehow Valentine got to talking about The Flip -- Derek Jeter's play in Game 3 of the 2001 American League Division Series that might have turned the whole series around. As you probably know, the Yankees claimed the play was all in a day's work for Jeter, who had practiced it many times. You know. Jeter.

Bobby Valentine doesn't believe Jeter practiced it, and he doesn't believe the play even mattered so much. If you believe what he says, anyway.

"We'll never practice that,'' Valentine said. "I think [Jeter] was out of position and the ball gets [Giambi] out if [Jeter] doesn't touch it, personally.''

Valentine is in the minority -- perhaps a minority of one -- when he says the throw might have gotten to the plate without Jeter's intervention.

"If Jeter doesn't catch the ball, the ball hits me -- that's how far off the mark it was," said Oakland's Ramon Hernandez, the on-deck hitter who was signaling Giambi to slide, to no avail. "Jeter made an unbelievable, heads-up play. Then he makes a great throw to boot. Unbelievable. The play saved them."


"That was amazing that (Jeter) was there. I bet it's more amazing that he said he practiced it. I don't believe it.''

Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who was with Jeter in his early years, said that indeed was a play Jeter had practiced.

"That was a play we practiced in spring training," Showalter told Tom Van Riper of Forbes Magazine in an interview last year. "Derek was maybe 19 or 20, he was just a pup. We practiced that on a back field, it was taught. The reason Derek had to flip the ball was that he was actually a little bit late getting there."

Everybody's got their own agendas here, of course. But I don't see any compelling reason to doubt Showalter's memory. He was there, and he's now far enough removed from his time with the Yankees -- far, far enough removed -- that he's got no good reason to lie.

Meanwhile, if you're a Red Sox fan you have to hope that Bobby Valentine is sly rather than foolish. You have to hope that Valentine is merely trying to motivate his troops; that he'll say or do almost anything within reason to establish a powerful new us-vs.-them mentality.

The best part of all this? He's only just begun. This is only going to get better, sports fans.

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