An excerpt of “Papi: My Story,” David Ortiz’ book with Michael Holley, was released on SI.com Thursday. This might shock you, but it doesn’t make Bobby Valentine look great.
The excerpt details the 2012 season, in which Valentine managed the Sox to a last-place finish in the AL East. In addition to dealing with Valentine, Ortiz was also going through a divorce.
Ortiz notes that “everyone I knew was unimpressed with Valentine” at the time of his hiring, and that Ortiz believed that Larry Lucchino was “basically” the only person who wanted to hire him. Ortiz also says that he received “good luck” text messages when the team hired Valentine, and that some even suggested he retire rather than play for the man.
From the book:
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, 'F--- 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 s--- 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.
Ortiz writes that he, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez decided to hold a meeting with Valentine to discuss how the team felt about him. That, Ortiz notes, was like “communicating with a wall,” as Valentine would not make eye contact withe players or listen to what they had to say. He says they left the 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 mother------ fired before the airplane lands.'
I didn’t know what they might have done if they had gotten to him, but I felt it was way too early in the season for that kind of takeover. He was aggravating as hell, arrogant and disrespectful, but I felt that we needed to try our best to support him.