This is not a “Mad Men” recap, per se, just the requisite details from this week’s “Signal 30” episode to help ease what may be a jarring (at least to some) comparison between fictional ad exec Pete Campbell and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.
Pete goes to driver’s ed, where he inappropriately hits on a teenager. Meanwhile, Pete’s wife bullies Don Draper into a night in the burbs. Don saves the day by fixing the broken sink, with his shirt off. Lane Pryce woos Jaguar as a client. Pete steps in and closes the deal, with the help of hookers. Hookers lose deal after gum found in inappropriate place. Pete attempts to emasculate Lane as he delivers this news, which leads to rolling up of sleeves and a fist fight.
"I know that cooler heads should prevail, but am I the only one who wants to see this?" Roger Sterling quips to my eternal delight.
This bit of Roger Sterling genius sums up exactly how I feel about this Valentine-Kevin Youkilis brouhaha going down in Boston right now. Cooler heads should prevail, yet I cannot be the only one who wants to see Valentine get a little of that smug knocked off his face by Youkilis.
I mean, really, what kind of genius verbally challenges the professionalism and want-to of a guy who once scrapped with Manny Ramirez about effort? And does so 10 days into a season?
Valentine, of course.
Valentine has a lot of Pete Campbell in him, minus the driver’s ed-class gawking and the whole hooker thing. Pete’s biggest problem is not that he does bad things. The whole show is filled with adultery and smoking and relentless drinking amid the sexist, racist debauchery that dominated Don Draper’s 1960s America. What makes Pete such a thoroughly unlikeable character is his smug arrogance as he screws around on his wife, who we just learned is actually kind of charming.
Pete thinks he is Draper, and his undeserved, entitled smugness is why we cheer when Lane whips his butt, leaving him bloodied and at least momentarily bowed.
Valentine thinks he is Joe Torre, and his undeserved, entitled smugness is why Red Sox Nation booed him on Opening Day. That kind of swag has to be earned in Boston. And what has Valentine won outside of Japan?
The Red Sox job is a gift — a gift with challenges, yes, but a gift nonetheless. This is one of the top 10 coaching jobs in all of sports. This is the big stage, and Valentine was lucky to get it. There were not a lot of people saying “You know who would be perfect for this? Valentine!” when John Henry and Co. scapegoated manager Terry Francona and the supposed scourge that was fried chicken and beer. Valentine almost universally was considered an odd choice, such a big personality in such a scrutinized franchise.
Media love him because he’s candid and always good for a quote. This was why he played so well in Bristol. He drops honesty easily and worries little about offending, which plays well on TV and less well in clubhouses. He is charming and wickedly smart. He also is not at all self-aware. He believes it is all about Bobby, which is also a throwback to that "Mad Men" era and seems to mesh poorly with a still-detoxing Red Sox clubhouse.
And Valentine has done nothing to soothe fears. Less than two weeks into this season, he already has a managerial crisis on his hands, a manufactured, totally-his-fault fight with a popular player about a mostly ridiculous charge of pulling a Lamar Odom.
"I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason," Valentine said of Youkilis in a TV interview before Boston’s 13-5 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday.
This is what Valentine does. He is always doing something to draw attention to himself. This is rarely a good idea and never, never, never a good one in Boston. The criticism is going to come anyway, and it did Monday when Valentine failed to pull his wilting starter in a timely fashion, leading to a loss and lusty boos from fans. So why invite it in early?
Of course, Valentine was apologizing by Monday morning, this coming conveniently after Dustin Pedroia torched him.
"I know he plays as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen in my life. I have his back and his teammates have his back,” Pedroia told reporters in Boston. “I really don’t know what Bobby’s trying to do, but that’s not the way we go about our stuff here. He’ll figure that out. The whole team is behind Youk.”
Yet, even Valentine’s apology had a smugness about it. He guessed Youkilis had not accepted his very sincere “I’m sorry.”
Valentine seemed startled his little Youkilis swipe had reached firestorm status. This was a little reminiscent of Pete Campbell, after getting his nose bloodied, butt beaten and ego bruised, going down the elevator with Don Draper complaining about how this was an office and they were supposed to be friends. Then he started to cry.
Cooler heads should prevail in Boston, but I cannot imagine I am alone in wanting to see this.