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After a horrific season in which the Boston Red Sox started bad, continued to be bad and then finished the season… bad … Bobby Valentine had a chance to walk away with some slight measure of dignity. He could’ve simply taken his firing like a man, then gone back to his gig on TV, which allows him to do what he does best:
yell impotently analyze baseball.
Instead, Valentine chose to take one last pot-shot at the Red Sox. One last try at blaming the failures of his team on anybody but a manager hated by basically the entire state of Massachusetts, not to mention every one of his players and every Boston sports writer (though that last group tends to hate everybody).
It was a cowardly, baseless attack by a weak-willed snake-oil salesman of a “manager.” Red Sox fans would do well to ignore the criticism, anything else Valentine has said or might still say, and probably Valentine’s existence in general.
Baseball, as the cliche goes, is a business. As such, looking at the deals a team makes, the money it spends, is the best way to understand said team’s true feelings.
If the Red Sox ownership really believed Ortiz quit on his team, then why are they trying to sign him to a new, two-year deal? Sure, “closing in” and “signed” can mean vastly different things in baseball language, but if the Red Sox really thought Ortiz bailed on an otherwise-promising season, why would they even bother with negotiations?
At the very least, they’d first test the DH market, then try to lowball Ortiz later.
Ortiz, after all, is a 36-year-old with bad knees, a clicking wrist, an already injured Achilles tendon and almost no fielding ability. Other teams wouldn’t exactly blow up his agent’s phone with new deals if the Red Sox chose to wait and see.
But instead, management went after him before the World Series even began. With $100 million in bad contracts handed over to the Dodgers (easily the best move of the year), John Henry & Co. decided to take care of Ortiz first.
If that doesn’t show loyalty and support, what does?
As a stark contrast to Ortiz’s treatment by management, consider the fate of Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis also got hurt and missed considerable time last season, but instead of the Red Sox sticking with him, they traded him, and for not much in return.
So why did the Red Sox stick with Ortiz and not Youkilis? One possibility: Youkilis had become an issue in the clubhouse.
Many writers think Youkilis snitched to Bob Hohler about the drama behind the 2011 collapse. Neither Hohler nor anyone else has ever confirmed or dis-confirmed that speculation, so concluding definitively that the trade happened because Youkilis couldn’t be trusted is impossible.
Nevertheless, Youkils is three years younger than Ortiz, and when healthy, Youkilis brought more to the table (plays defense, can get on base, can hit from multiple spots on the lineup). So if the Red Sox didn’t nix Youkilis because of talent, perhaps they did so because of character.
Both Youkilis and Ortiz have had their characters questioned over the last year. But where Youkilis was traded, Ortiz looks to be coming back, and quickly.
Injuries notwithstanding, something absolutely derailed the 2012 Red Sox, and it’s named Bobby Valentine. Whereas Terry Francona got through to his players immediately, Valentine utterly failed to get his players on board.
A good skipper inspires loyalty in his players, even when fans and the press are screaming for the manager’s head. The 2005 White Sox defended Ozzie Guillen — another Billy Martin-esque blowhard whose mouth far exceeds his talent — because they loved playing for him.
Meanwhile, how many times during the media’s season-long barrage of criticism did any Red Sox players come to Valentine’s defense? Twice? Once? Never?
To be sure, such moments were few and far between. The rest of the time the Red Sox — Ortiz included — stayed silent because deep down, they hated Valentine as much the fans.
Ortiz didn’t quit on the Red Sox, Bobby V. He quit on you. And so did everyone else.