Bobby Valentine may not be the Red Sox manager anymore, but he’s not done commenting on his time in Boston. And it won’t be the last time, either.
Valentine went on “Costas Tonight” on the NBC Sports Network on Tuesday and stirred the pot, alleging that David Ortiz did not try to play once he saw the team was done for the year. You might recall that Ortiz suffered an Achilles injury that knocked him out until late August. He returned to the lineup and promptly went 2-for-4 with a double. That was his only game back, as he then shut it down for the year afterwards.
Take it away, Bobby:
“He realized that this trade meant that we’re not going to run this race and we’re not even going to finish the race properly and he decided not to play anymore,” Valentine said, according to ESPN Boston. “I think at that time it was all downhill from there.”
Valentine is of course referring to the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto the Dodgers, freeing up about a quarter-billion dollars and allowing GM Ben Cherington a blank slate with the team. It was also a white-flag trade, and the team stumbled badly the rest of the way to finish in last place. They were already on the outs, though, because the day Ortiz played, the Sox were 8 1/2 games out of the wild card. That’s pretty much a death knell, but to hear Bobby say it, Ortiz just didn’t want to play because the team wasn’t contending.
I can’t imagine this being the case at all. Neither can Fern Cuza, Ortiz’s agent:
It’s unfortunate that Bobby would be putting blame on David for the way this season has ended. Nothing could be further from the truth. David was having his best season since 2007 and has been one of the most durable players in the game. Based on the advice of the team doctor and his own doctor, resting and therapy was recommended for a complete recovery from this injury.
David loves to play this game and has never quit on anyone, and most important of all on this team that means so much to him. He has been a leader on this team and is disappointed in Bobby’s remarks.
I wouldn’t really call Ortiz one of the more durable players in the game. He doesn’t suffer injuries in large part because he doesn’t play the field. He gets to stay away from actions that would cause injury, as well as wear the body down and make it prone to injuries.
But that’s besides the point. The point is, there was no reason for Ortiz to shut his season down. The biggest reason why was glossed over by Cuza: he was having his best season since 2007.
Among all players with at least 350 plate appearances on the year (Big Papi had 383), Ortiz had the best slugging percentage in the game at .611, ahead of No. 2 Giancarlo Stanton. His wOBA — basically OPS, but with statistical jiggering to more closely approximate his value and scaled to OBP — was .425. That’s second in the majors behind Joey Votto’s .438. From Opening Day to July 24, the last time Ortiz consistently played, he was among the league leaders in home runs, batting average, RBI — whatever offensive statistic you want to look at, Ortiz had a beastly season.
Why would Ortiz, playing for a new contract and his own pride, shirk his duties? It doesn’t make sense at all. If he hadn’t gotten hurt and maintained his production the entire year, Boston would not be on the verge of signing him for two years and around $25 million. We’d be looking at a price tag north of $30 million, perhaps significantly north and with a team option tacked on as a third year. Other teams would be scrambling to get in on Ortiz’s market. Ortiz choosing to shut down does not make sense from a financial perspective — and neither a pride perspective. By all accounts, Ortiz is a man with immense pride, and has been quoted before relaying the importance of benchmarks, such as reaching 100 for RBIs. Are you telling me he wouldn’t have welcomed the chance to clear 25 homers and try to get to 80 RBI? Ortiz is at the stage of his career where 500 home runs is within sight, even though he has a very slim chance of reaching it. Say he hits 50 home runs over the next two years — he’s staring at 451 career home-runs. That number could have been over 460 without injury, then you’re looking at two years of reasonable production (for another team, if that’s what it took), to get to 500.
No. I’m not buying it. Ortiz wanted back on that field, and the fact Bobby decided that Ortiz just didn’t feel like playing is ridiculous. Not to mention that Papi was one of Valentine’s biggest public supporters. Talk about burning bridges.
That’s not all that Valentine had to say. In brief:
- Valentine made a mistake in not hiring coaches that were “his guys.” That’s fair — Valentine seemed to be trying to accommodate the organization in coaching in return for the chance to manage. But you can’t manage without effective coaches, and you can’t have effective coaches when there is friction and clashing with the manager.
- The “nice inning, kid” incident with Will Middlebrooks never happened, something WMB backed up on Twitter. So why did Valentine reveal the incident in the first place? It was him that brought it up and mentioned it in detail.
- Bobby V doesn’t understand the hubbub around tearing into Mike Aviles in spring training for running an incorrect drill. He could not believe that teammates — backing their teammate, mind — came and spoke to Valentine after the incident. ”
“Was I surprised that guys came in in that situation?” he said. “I think that’s unique to that group of guys. I don’t think it’s indigenous to all of baseball. I pray it’s not because it’s not functional. The tail is wagging the dog, and taking a vote every time you have to decide how to do things. A leader needs to lead. He leads by forming the path, padding down the path and other people following him. You can’t have the guy at the back of the line coming up and deciding which direction you’re going to go in.”I actually understand what Valentine is saying here, but here’s the thing — Valentine with his own philosophies tried to come in and change the team immediately. He seems to lack understanding that he inherited a situation in which people were used to certain things, and he didn’t try to adjust his modus operandi at all to make the transition smoother. Whether or not you believe in collaboration or a true Leader is irrelevant. What’s important is that one recognize the situation and understand that you can’t build Rome in a day. Valentine should have adjusted his strategies. If he wanted to move to more of a leader-structured society where people “follow” him without complaint, that’s fine. That’s his choice as a manager. But there were better ways to do it.
- Valentine was very complimentary of Red Sox ownership and didn’t mention GM Ben Cherington at all. Add that to Cherington’s unstated subtext when he mentioned the importance of having someone you can candidly discuss issues with as manager (which is why John Farrell was his man), and the obvious takeaway is that Valentine and Cherington did not work well together and continue not to care for the other. No wonder 2012 was such a mess.