Former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine hasn’t made many public appearances since being fired following the 2012 season. But, after committing last spring, he did speak at Salem State University Thursday night, as a part of the University’s Speaker Series. Peter Gammons moderated the hour-and-15 minute long conversation.
“I am walking in great footsteps, I am honored to be here,” Valentine said in a press conference just before taking to the stage.
The 62-year-old Valentine did not reveal much during the 10-minute long meeting with the media. Many baseball questions were answered with, “this isn’t a press conference to discuss that.”
Valentine did reveal he has spent the past two months splitting time 50-50 in Boston and traveling the country to Texas to be with his son, and also to California.
He did reveal a water company he partially owns in Panama delivered water to the Jersey Shore in wake of Hurricane Sandy, and plans on doing more in the coming days and weeks.
Once Valentine took to the stage in the gymnasium in front of just over 500 people he opened up, and was the lively, silly, talkative Valentine most people know him as. He did acknowledge he was limited to how he was allowed to act this year.
“I didn't get a chance to rattle on during the season because they wanted a quieter, calmer version of Bobby V,” he said.
The former Red Sox manager told a number of tales from his career both as a player and manager. Amongst the tales Valentine shared a few stories and feelings from the 2012 season.
It was quite apparent Valentine did not feel welcomed from the very beginning as he once again brought up the incident with Mike Aviles in spring training and the team not liking his way of doing things. He added change is something people have a hard time adjusting to.
“Change isn’t what people embrace, no one really likes change,” he said.
It did not take long for Valentine to share some insights from the season.
When Will Middlebrooks was called up in May Valentine called him a defensive liability and sometimes prayed the ball did not get hit to him, but because of the work put in by him and third base coach Jerry Royster, by the time he broke his wrist in July he turned his defense into a positive.
He added he was “amazed” by Aviles’ first full year as a starter and also credited Royster to some of that success. He called Royster a “fabulous guy.”
Royster was not the only coach Valentine praised. Former hitting coach Dave Magadan recently left for the same position in Texas, which Valentine said he leaves “a major void” in Boston.
He shared stories of how Magadan didn’t like Valentine hovering over the batting coach because he “preached his own gospel,” and it wasn’t the same as Valentine’s.
It was clear during the year Valentine did not see eye-to-eye with backup catcher Kelly Shoppach before he was dealt to the Mets in mid August. Although never referring to him by name, just as “a back up catcher,” Valentine took a few shots at him.
“He played once a week, and he always wanted to know when he was going to be playing. What, will he be tired?,” Valentine said with a laugh.
He also noted how many of the players wanted to know the night before whether or not they would be playing the next day. He called it “the most ridiculous thoughts he ever heard,” considering he didn’t even know who would be available to play in the next day’s game until the afternoon prior to each game because of all the injuries the team dealt with. The team had 27 players placed on the disabled list and used 56 different players during the year.
“Isn’t four hours enough time to mentally prepare to play? I think so,” Valentine said.
Valentine took a few questions from the audience. The first regarding the incident in Oakland, when Valentine was late to the ballpark and took a great deal of criticism for it. Valentine cleared the air, acknowledging how personally he took it, as well as how upset he was with how the media dealt with it.
“I took personal offense to those people,” Valentine said. “I have a 29-year-old son who I really didn’t get to see much in the last year or so and he lives in Dallas. As I said I worked everyday since I took over, and he only came once because he works also. So now he is out in San Francisco and I did get in a traffic jam. We did get to the ballpark a little later than I usually get there, 3.5 hours before the game started. I called in my duties and my lineup. When I walked in someone perceived I was late.
“Now, this is my biggest problem with the media. I have a press conference before and after every game, including spring training, so that is 200 games and 400 times I sit in front of a group and answer questions. That is on top of all the TV interviews, radio interviews and personal interviews. Why didn’t anyone ask me that day where I was at 3:30? How can responsible can a group be that is trying to report to you what is going on, how could it possibly be that they wrote, talked and made an issue of this subject and not once that day was I asked why I got there at 4:00 instead of 2:00?
“That I think really did tell the story. I get upset because someone had the audacity to question my work ethic where in 43 years I never called in sick. … Then to question why I was spending time with my son, I took more than total offense. I think everybody that was on that road trip should be held accountable, how could they not ask me that question?”
Valentine was asked about the teams’ next manager John Farrell.
“I wish him luck, I don’t really know John. At least the front office and the press like him, that’s a good first step,” he said, getting the biggest laugh of the night out of the crowd. “Still, it’s a tough job.”
In closing Valentine left with his overall thoughts on the 2012 team.
“Those guys individually or collectively should never be defined by that record with our team,” he said. “There were some outstanding human beings, some outstanding efforts, and some absolutely superb major league play by individual guys on that team. They should understand it was their individual effort they should be remembered for, not the record.”
Looking ahead to 2013, Valentine expects things to be different.
"I think they are going to be better for all the nonsense that happened last year ... as long as they stay healthy."