SEATTLE — It started out as little comments borne out of the frustration. In some cases, Bobby Valentine was joking. But it was clear that a man who bounced around spring training with remarkable energy and enthusiasm had been beaten down.
On Wednesday, the Red Sox manager’s emotions boiled over, and what has been a season to remember for all the wrong reasons took another strange twist.
During an interview with WEEI radio, Valentine was asked by host Glenn Ordway if he had “checked out” on the Red Sox.
“What an embarrassing thing to say,” Valentine responded. “If I was there, I’d punch you right in the mouth. How’s that sound? Sound like I checked out? What an embarrassing thing. That’s something that a comic strip person would write.”
Valentine let out a loud chuckle when he mentioned punching Ordway. Later in the day, he said that was on purpose.
“Didn’t I go, ‘Ha ha?’ I think I did,” Valentine said. “I don’t think physical violence is necessary for 60-year-old people.
“I think it made the point that there are lines that should be drawn in the sand when someone’s trying to be professional and sounding unprofessional. Sometimes it’s better to be abrupt and then let everyone know you’re kidding.”
Ordway also challenged Valentine about arriving “late” for last Friday’s game at Oakland.
As the Globe reported, Valentine arrived in the visiting clubhouse at Oakland Coliseum at 4:19 p.m. for the 7:05 p.m. game. A team spokesman said Valentine got stuck in traffic after picking up his adult son, Bobby Jr., at San Francisco International Airport.
The Sox lost that game, 20-2.
Valentine was angered that Ordway questioned his work ethic.
“When you talk about someone’s family, when you talk about someone’s integrity, you draw the line of what should be done in the workplace,” Valentine said.
Valentine then explained in detail what happened.
“If you said I was late, you’re wrong,” he said. “If you didn’t want to reach out and get the details of the facts, I’ll tell you what the details were. It was a simple 9:30 [a.m.] arrival or about that at San Francisco Airport. I was going to see my son for the second time this year. I wanted to spend some quality time with him, being he had one day in San Francisco.
“So I went out to pick him up and the plane was late. I had all my information for the game at the hotel and instead of going right from the airport to the Coliseum, I stopped at the hotel. That was a mistake because I got in traffic leaving the town and then there was an accident on the highway, so I got to the stadium a little later than normal.”
Valentine said he called in the lineup and consulted with the coaches and trainers on his way to the game.
“If anybody wants to know about my work habit, I can tell you this, that I took the job about Dec. 3 [actually Dec. 1], I started working Dec. 4. I took an apartment [in Boston] Dec. 10. I worked every day in the winter except for two for Christmas. I went to spring training early by two weeks. I had one off day in spring training and that day was a charity day, I did a charity event.
“Since the season started, I’ve had two off days.
“So if that’s enough work for anyone who’s writing about my commitment, it’s all I have. Every day, all day. To see my son for a couple of hours more, I think, is more than worth the tradeoff of sitting around in my underwear for two hours here in the clubhouse. So that’s that.”
Wednesday’s incident was a larger version of similar events in recent weeks.
Last month, when asked who was pitching in upcoming games Valentine became angry.
“Who cares who’s pitching?” he said. “Why is this such a big thing?”
On Saturday, when Scott Podsednik hit third in the lineup for the first time in his career, Valentine joked that it was a mistake he would correct. But some media outlets reported the comment as being serious.
“I’ve tried to make light of some situations,” Valentine said. “Again, I don’t understand why, if someone is trying to report what I say, and you don’t understand what I say, you don’t ask what I meant. I don’t get that.
“Just ask me the question, because I don’t think everyone in the room is smart enough to figure out what I mean, and that’s not my fault.”
During the testy exchange on WEEI, Valentine said that Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon gets to the park at 4 p.m., “just for the record.”
Maddon, according to reporters who cover the Rays, usually arrives at 2:45 for home games and sometimes a little later on the road.
“I’m very flattered by the whole thing,” Maddon told reporters. “I think it’s very amusing, that’s all.”
Then Maddon took a jab at Valentine via Twitter.
“Apologies to the writers for being late to today’s pregame session. My pedicure appointment ran a little late,” he wrote.
Red Sox owner John Henry has said that Valentine will finish out the season. But team officials have not committed to him beyond that. Valentine is signed through 2013, but the odds of his returning are slim.
The Red Sox will miss the postseason for the third consecutive season and are likely to finish under .500 for the first time since 1997. The season has been marked by injuries and underperformance, but also by player unrest and the inability of Valentine to get along with coaches perceived as still loyal to former manager Terry Francona.
Valentine said the season has been “very trying” for him.
“There’s been a lot of obstacles in my way, and I think I’ve jumped them and sometimes been knocked down by them,” he said. “Just doing as good as I can do, all day long.
“I’ll say ‘miserable’ because it’s turned out to be not what’s expected. It’s been a little misery, yeah.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe