FORT MYERS, Fla. — A meteor exploded over Russia last Friday.
I’m pretty sure it was Bobby Valentine’s fault.
Blaming Bobby is the new parlor game here in southwest Florida. It’s all the rage. Alfredo Aceves pulls a nutty? Bobby was too easy on him last year. New relay drills? They have to fix what Bobby broke. If anyone gets into a fender-bender on Route 41, it’s probably Bobby Valentine’s fault.
David Ortiz kick-started the Bobby bashing last week (“Guys were not comfortable with the manager”) and soon was joined by Daniel Bard, who said he was more comfortable with “ . . . having a guy who I feel like I can trust.”
“I don’t pay any attention to that,’’ Valentine said Monday from somewhere in Vermont. “I’m a big boy. I don’t need that nonsense, nor do I need your article being a controversial situation with me making stupid comments.’’
Fair enough. But we all know that new is always better. Last spring Valentine was reinventing the wheel and everyone here talked about how much “different” it was from the Terry Francona camps. Now we have the John Farrell Way and that is going to make everything better.
“I hope it’s new and better and different because that’s what a new year brings, especially in spring training,’’ said Valentine. “Spring is eternal. Let’s let it grow . . . I don’t think when I went in there last year I was casting any blame on the prior regime. I didn’t think that I was saying, ‘Well we’ll do it differently because it’s better.’ ’’
He certainly offended Ortiz.
It was Papi who ignited the Blame Bobby campaign down here. In the middle of an otherwise standard, sun-splashed, picnic-table moment — before the start of full-squad workouts — Ortiz launched into an unsolicited rip of Valentine.
“To be honest with you, I ran out of patience last year and I’m a player,’’ said Ortiz. “So I can imagine the fans, where they’re at. A lot of players had a lot of issues with our manager last year. An organization is like the human body. If the head is right, the body is going to function right. But if the head is messed up, then the body is going to be all over the place. And that was part of our situation last year.
“Guys were not comfortable with the manager we had. Guys were struggling.’’
This was no random rip. Ortiz — no doubt furious that Bobby told Bob Costas on NBC Sports Network in October that Ortiz could have played through his Achilles’ injury last year — was very specific.
“When we were doing the workouts, I started seeing things that I had never seen in baseball,’’ he said. “And I’ve been watching baseball for a long time. I had question marks on those things that I saw . . . ”
He spoke of Valentine’s weird relay system in which, “the second baseman or the shortstop has to go 2 feet away from the outfielder to cut the ball off and make that throw to home plate, giving the runner an extra step. Why don’t you just have the outfielder throw all the way through and try to get the guy out at home plate? I don’t remember us getting any guys out with that play . . . those question marks went into the season, and you guys saw the disaster that happened with us.’’
“The only reason you do anything differently is because that’s the only way I knew how to do it,’’ Valentine said Monday.
A lot of the Bobby rips are presented as praise for Farrell. Andrew Miller told the Globe’s Peter Abraham that “some of the most important guys in this room [Dustin Pedroia, Ortiz, Jon Lester] have a personal connection to [Farrell] and they respect him. That’s a big difference.’’
Clay Buchholz has been singing the same song. Lester didn’t take the bait, but we all know he was done with Bobby after Valentine left Lester on the mound to take a beating at the hands of the Blue Jays July 22. Lester was left in to throw 94 pitches in four innings and he allowed 11 earned runs, nine hits, and walked five. The Sox were pounded, 15-7.
Will Middlebrooks said Farrell “knows how to handle this city. He knows how to handle the media, knows how to handle the characters and personalities that are here.’’
Middlebrooks, of course, was at the epicenter of a famous Bobby Moment when Sox players overheard the manager say, “Nice inning, Will,’’ after Middlebrooks butchered a couple of balls at third base. Valentine delivered news of that controversy on the radio, then later claimed the whole thing was fabricated by the media.
“I never even heard him say it,’’ Middlebrooks said. “Other people said they heard it. I didn’t hear about it until someone sent me an article about it. I didn’t know what was going on. I was like third up that inning, so I was going to get my stuff.’’
Bottom line: Everything was Bobby’s fault.
“I have no idea what too much blame is,’’ Valentine said. “It is what it is.’’
Pedroia, for one, is ready to move on.
“I honestly don’t think about it,’’ said the second baseman. “I’m trying not to talk about last year, or the previous years before that. We’re getting ready for this year.’’