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Bobby Valentine: Red Sox player complaints ‘unique to that group of guys’

10.23.12 at 11:02 pm ET
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Former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, in an interview on “Costas Tonight” on the NBC Sports Network on the same day that John Farrell was introduced as his successor, suggested that he remains “incredulous” that Sox players reacted badly to occurrences such as his suggestion that Kevin Youkilis was not as physically or emotionally invested in the game, his feedback on how Mike Aviles performed in a pop-up drill in spring training and his alleged quip after Will Middlebrooks committed an error.

“The thing with Aviles, it was absolutely mind-boggling. … We were going to have a discussion about it while we were running a drill,” Valentine said. “I just said, ‘Guys, on this matter, this is not a democracy. We’re doing it the way you do it in baseball.’ I did it in a loud voice. Guys came into my office and said, ‘Please, don’t yell at Mike like that.’ … I’m still incredulous.

“Was I surprised that guys came in in that situation [after he critiqued Aviles' work]? Yes. I think … that’s unique to that group of guys. I don’t think it’s indigenous to all of baseball. At least I pray it’s not,” Valentine continued. “It’s not functional with the tail 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 pack, patting down the pack and having other people follow. You can’t have the guy at the back of the line coming up and deciding which direction you’re going to go in.”

Valentine described the Youkilis statement as “benign” (agreeing with the assessment of host Costas). He suggested that the Middlebrooks incident — in which members of the Red Sox other than Middlebrooks expressed concern to front-office members that Valentine said, “Nice inning, kid,” to Middlebrooks after a pair of misplays, resulting in owners sharing those concerns to him — did not occur.

“Just because we’re in the fact-checking era,” said Valentine, “I don’t think the thing with Will ever happened. He told me he didn’t remember it, and I didn’t remember it.”

Of his dismissal, Valentine said that he was not surprised, and that he did not experience disappointment upon receiving the news that his tenure with the Red Sox had come to a conclusion after the first season of a two-year deal.

“I was relieved that I was not disappointed,” said Valentine. “It was a real trying season. By September, I knew. There was writing on the wall. We had to have themeeting. We had the meeting and made it official.”

As for where his relationship now stands with the team, Valentine chuckled, “They’d kill me. If I ever say anything, they’d send out a hit man. They’d whack me, and it would be all over.”

He then added, “I worked for some pretty good people. [CEO/president] Larry Lucchino treated me like you want to be treated, and [principal owner] John Henry and [chairman] Tom Werner are super people. it’s not like I would do anything to make their life any more miserable than I already made their life for a season. I think they died almost a hundred times last season.”

Valentine suggested that health was the chief factor in the season’s derailment, and expressed disbelief at suggestions to the contrary.

“[The injury epidemic that resulted in numerous players with All-Star resumes on the DL was] more than I had ever seen. I sat in a meeting one time and it was declared that injuries are not part of the problem,” said Valentine. “Well, they were actually part of the problem.

“I don’t think [the poor conclusion of the season] was destiny. I think it was a lot of lousy stuff happening,” he said. “Once it got rolling down the hill, I always think I can jump out of the bus and stop it in traffic. I couldn’t stop it after that trade.”

That said, he also seemingly accused DH David Ortiz of quitting on the season, suggesting that the slugger made the choice not to return from his strained Achilles injury after the August blockbuster with the Dodgers signaled that the Sox would not compete in 2012.

“David Ortiz came back after spending about six weeks on the disabled list and we thought it was only going to be a week. He got two hits the first two times up, drove in a couple runs; we were off to the races,” Valentine said. “Then 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. I think at that time it was all downhill from there.”

Valentine suggested that the team’s 69-93 season was his responsibility.

“I think it was all my fault, because I got paid to have that not happen and it happened,” he said. “So I’ll take the full blame or credit.”

Still, he suggested that he made missteps at the beginning of his run as Red Sox manager related to the selection of a coaching staff that he ultimately suggested had undermined him. Valentine relayed an anecdote about a social meeting with former Cowboys coach Tom Landry, at a time when Valentine was a 35-year-old who was starting his managerial career with the Rangers.

“When he was leaving, it was all social, he grabbed his hat and said, ‘I have some professional advice.’ I said, ‘Please, coach.’ He said, ‘Make sure your coaches speak your language.’ And here I am a gray-haired guy, 25 years of managing later, I should have heeded that advice and made sure that the coaches were going to be the guys that were my guys,” said Valentine. “You know what coaches are? They’re your communication line. Your attitude filters down through the coaches. … [And players'] attitudes, their questions, their times of distress filter up through the coaches. I just think we had some snags, that the lines were not flowing as they should.”

Though Valentine acknowledged that he was rarely a presence in the Red Sox clubhouse, spending most of his time when not on the field in his own office, he denied that was a sign of his disconnection from others in the organization.

“It wasn’t like I was [in the manager's office] alone. I was always there with someone from [GM Ben Cherington's] office,” he said. “One of the assistants is always in the manager’s office, before and after games, that was going on there. I felt in today’s world, and it seemed that it’s true, that that world is the players’ world. The clubhouse is their’s. It’s not the coaches’ or the manager’s.”

Valentine said that he remains available to talk to Farrell about players or matters related to the organization. He said that, when he was fired, he left three envelopes in his office for his successor.

“The first one quickly says, ‘If things go wrong at the beginning, just blame everything on me.’ The second one, if things are still going bad in July or towards the end of the season, open this envelope. When you open that one, it says, ‘Hey blame it on the system that we don’t have enough players, and if you get more players you’ll be able to win,’ ” recounted Valentine. “The third one says, in about a year and a half, if you’re still stinking the way I did, open this envelope. There it says, ‘It’s time to make out three envelopes.’ That’s all the advice I could give him.”

Valentine said that he heard from a number of players after he was fired.

“Most guys wished me well. Some of the texts I got, I actually teared up. It was good stuff,” he said. “This was a journey together. It wasn’t like I was sitting in the office and it was them and me. It was us. And we struggled. We struggled together. As I told hte guys at the end of the seaosn, and many of them texted me and replayed what I said, that they aren’t defined by this season, that they are good guys, good players and good human beings almost straight across the board, and that is what will define them.”

As for whether he will manage again, Valentine told Costas that he would like to do so, but at age 62, he couldn’t say whether or not he’d get another opportunity to do so.

“Depends on who’s hiring,” he said. “I’m sure that’s what they said about Jack McKeon or Davey Johnson.”

As for what he learned about himself during his year as Red Sox manager, and whether he looked at the number of people who reacted strongly to him and determined that he was at fault for the frequency of such reactions, Valentine said, “I’m short at times with people. I’m thinking there and they’re talking here and at times I don’t give them the undivided attention that some people want. …

“One guy said that he didn’t talk to me the entire season. He covered my team the entire season. He said he never talked because in spring training, when he came up and he talked to me, I said, ‘OK,’ shrugged my shoulders and walked away. And that wasn’t a good enough answer for him. That grates people. It is part of me. Yeah.”

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