Saying someone doesn't seem as invested in the game is considered a low blow. Saying someone didn't play anymore after a season appeared lost is a potshot.
But don't blame Bobby for not knowing this, Valentine is now saying — how could he have known that such comments would be taken as insults?
"What I said was a statement of fact," Valentine told Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe when asked about contentious comments he made about David Ortiz during an interview Tuesday night with Bob Costas.
During the interview, Valentine seemed to imply that Ortiz checked out and wouldn't play as last season wound down. Ortiz was dealing with a lingering Achilles' injury, and the Red Sox had just pulled off a big trade with the Dodgers that signaled the end of Boston contending.
"At that point, there was nothing for David to play for or to risk his career," Valentine told Cafardo. "I merely said what was true, that David stopped playing. Don't know how that can be construed as throwing David under the bus. I never did that. If there was something at stake, I knew he would push through, but after the trade, it was clearly a lost season, so why risk it?"
It could have been a statement of fact that Ortiz simply stopped playing as the injury continued and the Red Sox slid further, but the way Valentine phrased it suggested far more. Valentine hinted that Ortiz made a firm decision not to play anymore — and that it was tied to the organization's decision to jettison the rest of the season by clearing roster space through the trade, not that it was linked to the severity of Ortiz's injury.
Valentine also said in the interview that "it was all downhill from there" after Ortiz left the lineup — which many people saw as an implication that Valentine thought Ortiz's leadership choices damaged the rest of the team.
As is often the case with Valentine, though, the hinting and bravado that first marks some comments has been met with some backpedaling and rephrasing. Valentine did a fair share of rehashing in the original Costas interview, in fact, when he said a highly debated incident involving third baseman Will Middlebrooks never happened — despite Valentine spending quite a bit of time acknowledging it did happen and recounting the details when he was first accused of the comments.
While Valentine could be cut a break on the Ortiz comments, which could have been seen as just commenting on Ortiz's injury, his lack of explanation at the time — or failing to compliment Ortiz, who had always defended Valentine — seems to corroborate people's initial assumption that Valentine was taking a shot at Ortiz.
It's a problem Valentine dealt with all season with the Red Sox, as his comments were read into and criticized, whether he was making them honestly or passive aggressively.
"A lot of media is fake outrage," Valentine told Cafardo. "… Big deals made out of little things or nothing at all."
After years in the big leagues, with the media, and managing, though, Valentine shouldn't be surprised when words that could be perceived as slights end up getting taken that way.
And really, what does Valentine expect as he starts his interview circuit after being dismissed from Boston? Maybe some common sense tips should be added to the cheat sheet, too.