TAMPA, Fla. -- Bobby Valentine did not make a single comment about Derek Jeter's famous flip to the plate or Alex Rodriguez getting his face punched by Jason Varitek. He did not say he hated the Yankees, nor did he don a fake mustache. Valentine likely will add spice to the hot rivalry, but he needs time. It is only midway through spring training.
On Tuesday night, before his first Yankees-Red Sox exhibition game as Red Sox manager, he barely put his toe into the churning water.
He said he has seen the rivalry from close range, but added that it isn't like seeing it from the inside. He declined even to compare the intensity to the Yankees-Mets World Series in 2000. Instead, he said this:
"This is baseball at its finest. I remember the Subway Series, when the commissioner came in. He said, 'This is the showcase of showcases. New York against New York, playing baseball on our finest stage.' And I think of that every time the Yankees and the Red Sox play. It's an honor, it's great."
Later, when asked if this has become "his" rivalry, Valentine said that it belongs to the players. "They allowed me to be part of it," he said.
Of course, anyone who has followed Valentine, especially those who were around him when he managed in the Yankees' shadow at Shea Stadium, knows that temperance will not last forever. Give him time. He acknowledged being adept at creating a stir, as he did with his recent comment (since retracted) about Jeter.
"I don't know if 'amusing' is the thing, it just seems to be what it is," Valentine told reporters in the Red Sox dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field. "I've worked in your business, so any way I can make your job a little easier . . . I know how tough your job is. I'm just here to please."
As a matter of fact, he was fresh off his latest episode. A day earlier, as angry Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was ejected from a game against the Red Sox, Valentine waved to him. Valentine said it was just a "goodbye, see you in Miami" kind of wave.
Still, when he was asked Tuesday for his reaction to Guillen's profane retort about what Valentine could do, the Red Sox manager didn't merely wave it off. He smiled and said, "Isn't that his standard comment on everything?"
A person might infer that Valentine agitates on purpose. He disagrees.
"You know, I have found if you try to annoy people who have great talent, they usually have the last laugh," he said. "That goes back to the members of the press. [Tom] Lasorda always says you're not supposed to get in an argument with people who buy ink by the gallon. The same with talent."
Honestly, though, doesn't his mouth sometimes take pressure off his players?
"I think once in a while," he said, "you can cast an umbrella over the pouring rain."
Meanwhile, in the other dugout, Joe Girardi launched his own yearlong effort to avert all possible storms.
"My personality is pretty level, anyway," the Yankees manager said. As for the Boston managerial change, Girardi said, "I don't know what kind of spice it's going to add, but we're going to find out."