The Bobby Valentine era in Boston will not be forgotten any time soon. And as long as Valentine has a mouth and someone willing to engage that mouth to action, the stories will just keep coming. Valentine has nothing to lose as he has to know that he will never get hired to manage again. So there is no need for him to be protective in what he says. And what he said about David Ortiz is explosive.
In case you missed it, here is the money quote:
"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 in an interview airing Tuesday night on "Costas Tonight" on NBC Sports Network. "I think at that time it was all downhill from there."
The Red Sox, who are actively trying to extend David Ortiz, of course have blasted Valentine for what he said. The linked article above quotes general manager, Ben Cherington, as saying that he wouldn't be trying to sign Ortiz if what Valentine said was true. But why IS Cherington trying to sign Ortiz? After years of one-year deals and hedging their bets, the Red Sox are suddenly interested in tying up an aging David Ortiz for two seasons? We'll talk more about that in a bit.
And most of the opinions read about what Valentine said have come out strongly against Valentine for saying what he did. But with nothing to lose, why would Valentine make something like that up? Doing so would be out of character for Valentine who has long been known for his honesty...an honesty that has gotten him in trouble.
Here is what this observer thinks: Bobby Valentine was a disaster as the manager of the Boston Red Sox. But that wasn't totally his fault as the players had a culture of entitlement that worked against Valentine from the beginning. It is the opinion here that Valentine was right about Kevin Youkilis but stupid to say so publicly. It is also the opinion here that he is probably right about David Ortiz.
That being the case, the question is, does the truth about Ortiz make him a bad guy here? No, it doesn't. Valentine is old school. In the old school, you played until your arms fell off. You played with concussions and you played with bad wheels. That old school thinking probably ended a lot of careers prematurely. Valentine had an old school player in Dustin Pedroia. "Pedey" would try to play if his head was only attached by a strand to his neck.
But is that way of playing and thinking the best thing for the team? Was the heroic Pedroia helping his team when he had an OPS of .538 in June? Nope. The little guy should have sat out a few weeks instead. But Pedroia is the old school that Valentine respects.
Ortiz took a different route. He saw the Red Sox had given up on the season. He saw that his heel still hurt and he knew that at least $25 million was on the line with the decisions he made. There is no doubt here that Valentine is correct in what he is saying. But what is being said here is that Ortiz did what was best for his long-term future and made the right decision. This is perhaps his last chance at a big payday. And if he comes back healthier for making the decision, his decision will be good for the Red Sox too.
Getting back to the Red Sox for a second, signing Ortiz for two seasons is a risk and yet a no brain decision. After the season they just had, they have to know it will take a season or two to rebuild that franchise. During that time, they will need to keep the fans engaged in the team. So despite the fact that Ortiz's value comes completely from his bat and despite the fact that the bat was worth the investment the past two seasons after not being so the three seasons prior, it is truly worth it for the Red Sox to keep the old hero around for the fans. They are doing the right thing considering where they are right now even with the risks involved.
And that is why Cherington is so adamant about blasting Valentine's words. But while Cherington and Ortiz's agent might take issue with what Bobby Valentine said, and while public opinion might be against Valentine, Valentine is probably right. Ortiz probably did pack it in for the season. But just because Valentine is right (despite the groundswell of opinion otherwise), doesn't mean that Ortiz's decision was wrong.