On Thursday morning, they were the two most overlooked
words in Boston sports. They were the
words uttered by Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after telling WEEI host Glenn
Ordway “If I was there, I’d punch you right in the mouth.”
It’s an inflammatory quote, especially when read as
text. A manager threatening to punch a
talk show host is never a good thing.
Unless he’s joking.
Unless he says, “I’d punch you right in the mouth. Ha ha.”
Trouble is, in this 140-character-per-message Twitter
world we live in, many of the outlets delivering the news don’t have the time,
space, or inclination to put quotes like these in content.
Deadspin ran a piece of the interview headlined
“Bobby Valentine Goes Ape [expletive] on a Boston Radio Show Host.” The
piece ran the same 11-word quote included above, but nowhere did it include the
“ha ha” part of the quote. Nowhere did it even suggest that Valentine wasn’t serious about hitting
The Big Lead also neglected to include the “ha
ha” part of his quote in its piece on Valentine.
Now, both of these websites are as interested in
entertainment as they are on information, as is WEEI. But skipping Bobby’s laughter — strained as
it might have been — completely changes the context of the quote, doesn’t it?
Later, in his nightly briefing with reporters, Valentine
made it clear he was joking. “Didn’t I go ‘Ha ha’?” Valentine asked the reporters gathered
in the room.
Valentine and the Red Sox returned from one of the worst
road trips in team history early Thursday morning. They lost eight of nine on a West Coast trip
and have 24 games to play until this season mercifully ends. They arrived home to find a picture of a
frustrated Valentine on the cover of Sports Illustrated to go along with the
story “How the Red Sox Lost Their Way.”
In other words, Valentine is the poster boy for one of
the most underachieving teams in Boston sports history. Nice.
Valentine has a very different sense of humor. He was joking when he said it was a
“mistake” to bat Scott Podsednik third. Watch his postgame news conferences and you
see facial expressions and voice inflections that often indicate when he’s
serious, joking or sarcastic. He uses
more non-verbal communication than most coaches and managers.
Like many of us, he uses humor to get his point
across. While he may have been joking
about punching Ordway in the face, he was dead serious about the frustration
he’s feeling from this season. When
Ordway asked him if he had “checked out” on this team, that
frustration reached the boiling point.
It’s almost impossible to imagine Valentine returning as
manager of this team for next season. The housecleaning that began with the jettisoning of Adrian Gonzalez,
Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto will almost certainly continue with
a new coaching staff.
It’s no exaggeration to call this one of the most
disappointing Red Sox seasons in decades. Yet it’s wrong to portray Valentine as some wacky uncle who has lost
contact with the game and its players. He has tried to do his job to the best of his abilities and has battled
with a clubhouse that has resisted his methods from Day 1 in Ft. Myers.
If Valentine isn’t back next season, it will mark three
managers in 18 months for the Red Sox. There’s nothing funny about that, whether you include the words “ha
ha” or not.