David Ortiz wrote about this in his new memoir titled Papi: My Story, which comes out on May 16.
I had never met Bobby Valentine before 2011. I’d heard of him, seen him on TV and remembered that he was the guy who’d put on a fake mustache to avoid being recognized and thrown out of a game. But I didn’t know the man, so that left me with an interesting decision at the end of the year: Should I listen to my friends, or pretend that I’d never heard a word they said?
Everyone I knew was unimpressed with Valentine, the new manager of the Red Sox. He was hired in late November 2011, and the negative reaction from my baseball friends was instant. There were the sarcastic “good luck” messages. There were ominous warnings to get ready. Some even suggested that, at 36 years old, I probably wanted to retire rather than play for someone like him.
I’m a person who has been able to get along with a range of personalities, pretty much everybody, so I tried to block out all the information I had. I tried not to think about the fact that the Red Sox never asked my opinion on players they were thinking about signing or managers they wanted to hire. I found out on the news, just like everyone else, that Valentine was our new manager. I did some research and learned that there was basically one person in the organization, team president Larry Lucchino, who really wanted to hire Valentine. That was it. One person. Still, I had to perform regardless of who was managing. How bad could Bobby V really be?
The drama began almost immediately in spring training. I remember fighting the thought, very early, We’re going to have an absolutely terrible year.
It was all about him in the spring. It was as if he wanted to prove how smart he was by running us through all these drills he’d used while managing in Japan, drills we had never done before. Bobby was in his own bubble, and I just wanted to get him out of it and tell him, “Fuck you.”
He asked for a lot of changes, including some that were completely unnecessary. One of the more ridiculous ones was having players hit grounders to each other. I thought that was funny, especially for me. The Red Sox weren’t paying me to hit grounders; I was there to hit balls to the moon.
The problem was not that his drills were new. The bigger issue was how he expected players who had been in the big leagues a long time to immediately do things his way without any missteps. There had been a lot of conversations about our team the year before and how our lack of accountability led to our September collapse. Maybe Bobby was told to come in and boss around full-grown men. Maybe the Red Sox wanted to hire a daddy, not a manager.
One day we were doing his drills and the shit hit the fan. We were hitting pop-ups, and Bobby had said that he didn’t want infielders to say, “I’ve got it, I’ve got it. . . .” He thought that was an unreliable way of calling off a teammate because, in a noisy stadium, the player who’s being called off might not hear his teammate taking control. Well, all players have habits. And in American baseball, most infielders taking the play say, “I got it.”
So when our shortstop, Mike Aviles, got under a ball, he instinctively said, “I got it.” Bobby snapped. It was unlike anything I had ever seen in the majors. He went off on Aviles, cussing and verbally tearing him down in front of everyone. If it had been me, I would have gone up to him, right in front of the fans and dropped a punch.
After that workout, I talked with Dustin Pedroia and Adrián González. We decided to meet with Bobby in his office and attempt to tell him how he was being perceived. It was a waste of time. We tried reasoning with him, and it was like communicating with a wall. All he did was roll his eyes and look everywhere but at us. It could not have been more obvious that he didn’t care what we had to say. We left his office shaking our heads.
I was competitive enough to think that we could win a bunch of games despite Bobby’s ego. It didn’t take long for me to realize I’d been too optimistic. And when I say not long, I mean the first series of the season. We opened in Detroit and were swept by the Tigers. It was impossible to ignore the comments from my teammates about Bobby’s managing, how he made decisions that didn’t make sense and how generally clueless and distant he was. The next stop on our trip was Toronto. On the flight there, I experienced a first in my career.
Bobby’s seat was in the middle of the plane, and the players were in the back. That day I was near the front of our section. I remember looking up and seeing a line of my teammates walking toward me. They were pissed. They said, “We want that motherfucker fired before the airplane lands.”
This is weird, and a long transcript which was initially grabbed by Jared Carrabis of Barstool Sports, and it's certainly a lot to go over.
Basically, when Francona was fired following the "chicken and beer" incident in the locker room with Beckett, the Red Sox front office thought they needed to bring in an authoritative figure to restore law and order to full grown men.
Who could have seen that backfiring?
Obviously, the team wasn't going to respond well. Imagine going from a workplace where you're trusted to do things the way your company is paying you to do them, and then all of a sudden having some random guy show up and make decisions that baffled everyone to the point of preventing you from actually doing your job. It was never, ever, ever going to work.
Interesting stuff here.