Will Bobby Valentine Calling David Ortiz a Quitter Be a Career Death Sentence?
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Even after being fired as manager of the Boston Red Sox, Bobby Valentine can still stir up some controversy by opening his mouth. He truly has a talent for this.
Both the best thing and the worst thing about Bobby V is that if you put a microphone and/or camera in front of him, he will talk. Reporters love him because he will fill up notebooks with good quotes and thoughtful analysis. But team executives and fans of a team he's managing might not appreciate such candor.
On Tuesday night (Oct. 23), Valentine appeared on NBC Sports Network's Costas Tonight for an interview with Bob Costas. Of course, the subject was Bobby V's failures with the Red Sox, and he would presumably give his side of the story.
Unexpectedly, however, Valentine ended up criticizing designated hitter David Ortiz, who seemingly had no quarrel with him and was one of the bright spots of this year's Red Sox team when healthy.
In Valentine's view, as he explained to Costas, Ortiz decided to cut his season short—while recovering from an Achilles tendon injury—after the team traded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers and had fallen far out of contention.
"David Ortiz came back after spending about six weeks on the disabled list and we thought it was only going to be a week," Valentine said, as transcribed by the Providence Journal's Tim Britton.
"He got two hits the first two times up, drove in a couple runs; we were off to the races," Valentine continued. "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."
Saying that a player quit on his team is about as damning an accusation as anyone can make. For that to come from the player's manager at the time is especially alarming. Let's not overlook that Valentine was saying this about an extremely popular and productive player for the Red Sox.
Oh, Ortiz also defended Valentine during the season, when everyone in Boston wanted his head on a pike.
"I think Bobby’s doing great, man," Ortiz said to the Boston Globe's Peter Abraham on Aug. 18.
"He had to deal with so many things through the season, a lot of guys’ injuries," he continued. "I guarantee if we don’t have that many guys go onto the DL this year, history would be different this year, and all the talks and negativity that have come out against him, I don’t think it would be there."
By the way, Ortiz was on the disabled list at the time. Medically, he was unable to play.
On the Globe's "Extra Bases" blog Wednesday (Oct. 24), Abraham performed the public service of attempting to determine whether Ortiz could have played after the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers was made on Aug. 25.
As Abraham explains, Ortiz reinjured his Achilles tendon on Aug. 24—after being activated from the disabled list. He aggravated the injury while running out a double, the second of his two hits in that ballgame. Ortiz went back on the DL three days later. So even if he wanted to play, he couldn't have.
Abraham does point out, however, that Ortiz was eligible to come off the DL on Sept. 11. If he had pushed to be activated, he likely would have been. And if the Red Sox had been in contention by then, perhaps that's what would have happened. But Boston was 15.5 games out of first place in the AL East and out of the wild-card race by then, too.
Ortiz wasn't fully healthy at that point. By playing, he could have caused greater injury to himself. Even if he wasn't slated to be a free agent after the season, doing so might have put his career in jeopardy. And would he have really helped the Red Sox if he couldn't play at full capacity?
Following his dismissal from the Red Sox, the best thing for Valentine was probably to just keep quiet and help people to forget about his disastrous season in Boston as quickly as possible. The Red Sox and their fans were certainly ready to move on after hiring John Farrell as their new manager.
But Bobby V has either never taken the high road or just has no desire to travel that path. His ego apparently will not allow him not to defend himself for his failures with the Red Sox, even as he attempts to hold himself accountable by saying, "I think it was all my fault."
By taking that shot at Ortiz, Valentine may have also killed whatever chances he had at getting another managerial job in MLB.
Who would want to play for Bobby V, knowing that he could ridicule you publicly? What front office would take on the headache that Valentine and his frequent gaffes can cause? Perhaps no manager could have won with the 2012 Red Sox team. But Valentine certainly did not help the cause.
Perhaps this whole debacle—including the Costas interview—was a product of Valentine working on TV the past three years.
In an analyst's role for ESPN, Bobby V was expected to say whatever was on his mind and provided candid, insightful opinions. It can be difficult to go from that back into an environment where words have to be considered carefully, where clubhouse and front-office politics have to be deftly navigated. Instead, he just kept talking—and hasn't stopped talking.
Hopefully, for Valentine's sake, his next job will be one where his talking will be encouraged and accepted. But it's probably not going to be with an MLB team—unless he ends up in the broadcast booth.
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