Bobby Valentine fires back

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine apparently isn't impressed with the astuteness of ESPN analyst Curt Schilling.

Reiterating an opinion he's espoused over the last week or so, Schilling said Monday he doesn't think Valentine is the right guy to lead the Red Sox, predicting a rocky road if things don't start well in the regular season.

"I just feel like this is not going to go the way people had hoped," Schilling said in an interview on ESPN Radio's "The Herd with Colin Cowherd." "I thought there were different choices that could have been made here (to be manager), from a personality perspective, knowing some of the guys on this team. I'm not so sure that this isn't going to be an oil and a water mix early on, especially if they don't get out to a really good start."

Asked about Schilling's comments Monday after a 4-2 win over the Nationals that completed spring training in Florida, Valentine scoffed.

"I just consider the source when I read, hear stuff like that," he said.

Schilling said a manager's job has evolved from making calls on the field to managing personnel, and that Valentine is ill-suited for that duty.

"I know it's simplistic, but I think the day and age of managing 25 players as one unit are over," Schilling said. "The manager's impact of wins and losses I think has changed more in baseball than any professional sport. I think they have very little to do with the 9 innings and 3 hours of game play each night. I think their jobs have become, I'd say babysitting, but I think their jobs have become managing personnel. And Bobby is a guy that is interested in trying to making you understand how much he knows about the game."

Schilling said he thinks Valentine micromanages and relies on the rigid structure of the game in Japan, where he managed the Chiba Lotte Marines to the 2005 Pacific League championship, and that while his baseball IQ is high, that approach won't work in the Red Sox clubhouse or the Boston market.

"There's way more structure and discipline in Japan (where Valentine last managed) than there is in the United States. It's not even close," Schilling said. "And that to me is a big deal. Over here, one of the reasons (former Red Sox manager) Terry (Francona) was able to do what he did was because he didn't worry about the little stuff. And Bobby's entire life is caught up in the little stuff. Micromanaging bunt drills, I don't think that's a problem. I don't think that was ever a problem here to begin with."

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia believes Schilling has a right to his opinion. He also believes Schilling is flat-out wrong.

"I think Bobby's brought a lot of good things into this team," he said. "We're working on our game more than we did -- hit-and-run, stealing. We're doing a lot of things we haven't done in the past. It can't be anything but good.

"Is he different than Tito (Francona)? Yeah. He's not Tito. I thought Tito was awesome -- more of a quiet approach -- but I think Bobby has done a great job of keeping the guys loose, keeping the heat off us and kind of putting it on himself."

Schilling's comments coincide with ESPN's airing Sunday night of the shortened version of "The Zen of Bobby V," a highly acclaimed documentary of Valentine's 2007 season with the Chiba Lotte Marines. There's an interesting sequence toward the end in which Valentine and his wife are discussing his obsession with winning and his inability to turn off the switch.

As they speed along a straight stretch of road framed by a beautiful bay, she peppers him with questions and observations about the inherent joy of life that shouldn't be stifled by the outcome of a game. Most of them elicit a response of "yeah" or a repeating of the question.

This comes moments after she faces the camera in a direct interview and says: "When he loses, it's terrible. It is just terrible. It's like the worst day of the year. We've dealt with this situation for the 30 years we've been married. It's like, 'Can't you be more even-keel?' And he just can't."

And now, five years later?

"She's right," Valentine said. "I learned from that. Yeah, she was right."

How will this play out as Valentine returns to the big leagues? Will there be a problem with putting a loss in the rear-view mirror?

"There'll be a problem if I take 'em any differently than I ever took 'em," he said.

Outfielder Darnell McDonald doesn't anticipate any issues with a manager who hates to lose.

"I think we all have trouble dealing with losses," he said. "If you're a competitor and you put the uniform on, you play this game to win. I think we all feel the same. I'm not worried about it, man."

Said Saltalamacchia: "Not one of us is happy with a loss. The fact that our manager feels that way is awesome. That's going to trickle down. We're on the same page.

"In this game, there's constructive criticism. We're all grown men here. We know what we've got to do. Everyone's held accountable. So if we don't do it, we have to know we didn't do our job at the end of the day. I think Bobby's going to be able to do it when it needs to be done. I think he'll also be able to talk to a player and be soft with him."

Appearing on ESPN Radio's "The Herd" Tuesday, Boston Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said Valentine has come in "like a defibrillator" and helped players focus on the new season. He dismissed Schilling's strong comments doubting Valentine's fit in Boston and said he believes Valentine is "the right guy at the right time for this team."

Rick Weber is a special contributor to ESPNBoston.com.