My mother used to take the braided rug she made by hand to the clothesline once a week and beat the living daylights out of it with a broom to shake out the dirt.
Bobby Valentine often feels like that rug.
The anger directed toward Valentine seems to escalate with every Red Sox win, which accentuates the job done by manager John Farrell this season and the failure of Valentine with the 2012 Red Sox.
Valentine, now the athletic director at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, owner of Bobby V’s Sports Bar in Stamford, Conn., operator of a film company, and part-time guy on NBC radio, doesn’t quite get that. All he has to understand, really, is that Grady Little still gets hammered for keeping Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS and Bill Buckner still hears it for the ball that went between his legs in the 1986 World Series.
Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino and yours truly still hear it for recommending Valentine after Terry Francona presided over the awful September 2011 collapse, when it was clear the Red Sox needed more of a disciplinarian in the manager’s office so the boys wouldn’t get away with chicken and beer during the game.
What seemed like a right decision turned out as wrong as wrong could be. The general manager, Ben Cherington, said he accepted the management choice and endorsed Valentine at the time of his hiring, but it was clear Cherington and Valentine were not on the same page the entire 2012 season, which included a record number of injuries and players with questionable attitudes such as Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett, who were jettisoned to Los Angeles Aug. 25, leaving Valentine with a Triple A team.
There was all kinds of resentment, a dysfunctional coaching staff, and Valentine never helped himself with the things he said. Nowadays saying what comes immediately to your mind has to be filtered and re-filtered before the words appear in public.
That filter never existed with Valentine.
“I don’t read or listen to it,” said Valentine, who will receive his final paycheck from the Red Sox the first week of November. “I’ll be at my restaurant and people will say, ‘Did you hear what this guy or that guy said about you?’ So I’m aware what people are saying about me. I guess I was the village idiot.
“It’s the easy thing to do. It’s easy to get on me. What am I gonna do? I’m 63 years old, life is good. I’m enjoying running a college program. We have great people here. Our football team is 7-1. My movie company is doing well. We have two movies out [one on the life of Valentine’s father-in-law, Ralph Branca, and the other a hard-hitting look at the NCAA] and I’m having fun with that.”
As for the 2013 Red Sox?
“I picked them to win the division, the ALDS, the ALCS, and now the World Series,” Valentine said. “I’m rooting them on. The  guys left on that team that I managed were all good guys. I enjoyed all of them, so why wouldn’t I root for them?”
And his replacement?
“He’s obviously done a great job,” Valentine said. “I haven’t heard one negative thing. I haven’t seen anything weird. I really enjoyed watching the two managers in the ALCS. John is this new-wave guy, but when it came to playing Jonny Gomes, he stuck with him because Gomes gave him a better look. I love that. [Tigers manager Jim] Leyland is supposed to be the old-school guy and old-school guys usually leave their pitchers in a long time. Yet he took Max Scherzer out of Game 2 after 108 pitches. So I found it interesting watching that.”
Most managers get more than one year to turn around a bad ship, which tells you how bad Red Sox ownership thought Valentine’s tenure was.
If Farrell hadn’t been traded to the Red Sox, he would have had another year to turn around a 73-win team in Toronto. It’s a good thing, in more ways than one, that Farrell got the chance to come to the Red Sox, who revamped their team and spent the money they saved in the Dodgers deal almost perfectly. Farrell was able to establish himself, because up until now there were many questions about his ability to do the job.
“I’d like to think that if I came back for my second year that, given the changes and improvements, I would have been able to do the same thing,” Valentine said. “Ben did a great job this offseason rebuilding the team. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it before. Usually a team will go after one or two free agents and hope they work out. When you’re signing seven or eight guys and they all work out and blend in together as well as they did, that’s amazing to me. The entire organization should be very proud of what they did. They should take a bow. It was amazing work.”
The only players Valentine managed who are on the 2013 Red Sox are Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Daniel Nava, Will Middlebrooks, and Jacoby Ellsbury.
“Those guys went through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears with me, and I with them, so I’m happy for them,” Valentine said. “I’m happy they could be part of a winning situation.”
Cherington deserves a lot of credit for the 2013 edition of the team, and he personally took blame for the 2012 season. Give him credit for not only firing the manager, but firing the players, too. That’s doesn’t happen very often. It was Valentine who took the fall on the management side. Nobody else lost their job.
Although Valentine has not returned to Fenway Park for a game since he was fired, he has kept in touch with players and front-office people.
Pedroia said he tried calling Valentine during the season to check on him. Despite a rocky start in 2012, Pedroia and Valentine grew to understand one another. Ortiz was a Valentine backer until Valentine said at the end of last season that Ortiz decided to shut it down (because of an Achilles’ heel injury) after he knew the season was over.
Ortiz has hammered Valentine ever since.
Valentine recently lost a TBS gig because he said the Yankees didn’t do enough during the terror attacks of 9/11. He played a big role in helping with the healing process while managing the Mets. So he’s using his words carefully now. He knows just by being quoted he’ll get hammered again.
He expects it. It’s easy.
Like my mother and the braided rug.