"Just because we're in the fact-checking era …" -- Bobby Valentine to Bob Costas Tuesday night.
You knew it was coming. There were murmurs that Valentine had been so quiet since his dismissal as manager from the Red Sox because a confidentiality agreement had been penned somewhere along the way. Well, if that is truly the case, wake up the lawyers or start reviewing the fine print. The airing of grievances this time didn't take place in Valentine's restaurant, as was the case when he got canned from the Mets job in 2002. It was in an NBC Sports studio across from an extremely sympathetic Costas.
That's fine. It's understandable that Valentine would want to start bearing his soul. But, true to form, the execution was botched once again.
For the former Red Sox manager, this was about setting the record straight. This version of the tale, however, was filled with wrong terms. And those who take Valentine's accounts as gospel are the equivalent of the Michael Scott character in "The Office" who drove his car into a lake after misinterpreting the directions given by his GPS.
Let's start with the incident that followed Valentine's "fact-checking" comment to Costas, a moment involving Will Middlebrooks.
Valentine to Costas: “I don’t think the thing with Will ever happened. He told me he didn’t remember it, and I didn’t remember it.”
That's funny, because this is what he told a gathering of media after volunteering the story of how a member of the Red Sox upper management had talked to him after a player had complained about Valentine's treatment of the rookie after in inning in Chicago:
"[Middlebrooks] came into the dugout, he made a couple of errors and I said, 'Nice inning, kid.' I had thought I had established a relationship with him where I could say something like that and he would try to smile or relax a little. Maybe he grimaced, I don't know, but somebody overheard it and decided that it was a very dreadful thing for a manager to say to a young player, and decided to repeat it a few times, this dreadful thing. And that person didn't go to the locker room when I went with Will after the game to explain to him when I made three errors in a game and I was 21 years old and the fans went and booed me off the field and how I got through it and other people get through it, it's a great learning experience. I don't think that Will has been mortally wounded by that two-and-a-half month ago comment."
And while Middlebrooks took to Twitter Tuesday night to try and defuse the situation by also suggesting it didn't happen, the reality was that word had been passed throughout the clubhouse in the days following the June 17 incident that such an exchange had taken place.
Within that same line of questioning by Costas was also the topic of Valentine being confronted by players after ridiculing Aviles during a pop-up drill in spring training.
Valentine to Costas: “The thing with Aviles, it was absolutely mind-boggling. … We were going to have a discussion about it while we were running a drill. 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? Yes. I think … that’s unique to that group of guys. I don’t think it’s indiginous to all of baseball. At least I pray it’s not. 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.”
Well, no matter how Valentine viewed the incident, here's the problem -- the players felt like it was a big deal, with multiple voices in the Red Sox clubhouse even saying during the final series of the season that the Aviles incident was the one that set much of the disharmony in motion. So instead of understanding the result of his actions, for better or worse, Valentine's time and effort since has been only to defend those actions.
The same can be said regarding his recounting of the Kevin Youkilis saga, which he told Costas was precipitated by a "benign" comment. Again, when questioning a player's emotional state leads to such clubhouse furor, it doesn't matter what the purveyor of the words might think.
Then there was Valentine's take on his comment to The Big Show regarding some of his coaches potentially undermining him.
Valentine to Costas: "I think I said 'maybe.'
Actually, when Glenn Ordway asked the question whether or not Valentine felt he had been undermined by his coaches, the then-manager's answer was, "Yes." A small thing, but it magnifies the overall trend here of not quite squeezing in all the truth. It is the equivalent of Valentine telling fascinating baseball stories during spring training only to have Baseball-Reference.com documentation paint a slightly less interesting picture.
And then there was what President Obama might have classified as the biggest whopper of them all, the David Ortiz salvo.
Valentine to Costas: “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. 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.”
Here's the reality, one which Valentine, of all people should have remembered: When Ortiz came back from his injury for that August 24 game, he was far from healed. In fact, some put him at barely 75 percent, which was evident when watching the designated hitter run the bases during those two hits Valentine referenced. Ortiz was getting frustrated with not being able to contribute to what was a 60-66 team at the time, and demanded to play. Two weeks later, when the Red Sox were 63-76, the DH was still limping. But rather than conceding that his season was over, he sought a form of treatment -- a plasma-rich platelet injection -- in late-August with the hope that he could return, saving the more traumatic shockwave therapy (which would have been a season-ender) until after the conclusion of the year.
What made Valentine's comments even more tough to stomach was, by all accounts, Ortiz was one player who routinely stood up for Valentine in the midst of teammates' criticism. It was a tact that didn't go unnoticed by Valentine until, evidently, he sat across from Costas.
There were other head-scratchers in the interview, such as a story about leaving three envelopes in the manager's office for the new manager, explaining who to blame if things go wrong. (According to those who have been through the office, those envelopes haven't yet been uncovered.)
Valentine would often say he understood that people were going to blame him for everything, pretending to embrace such a scenario for the sake of the team. But it became too much about fortifying his armor for such perceived attacks, a reality that clearly led to the former manager's revisionist recollections of his time in Boston.
Here is the true fact: This interview, and these explanations, were inevitable. Wrong, but inevitable, nonetheless.