In his first sit-down interview since he was dismissed at season's end, Bobby Valentine said his disappointing 2012 campaign with the Boston Red Sox left him feeling "pretty worn down," but he added he'd like to manage again if the right situation arises.
Rarely one to dodge controversy, Valentine invited it in the interview on the NBC Sports Network show "Costas Tonight" on Tuesday, when he questioned the commitment of Boston slugger David Ortiz late in the season.
Valentine said Ortiz "decided not to play" after the Red Sox made a late-season deal that signaled a shift toward rebuilding.
"David Ortiz came back after spending about six weeks on the disabled list, and we thought it was going to be only a week," Valentine told interviewer Bob Costas. "He got two hits the first two times up, drove in a couple runs. We were off to the races, and then he realized this trade meant that we're not going to run this race, and we're not even going to finish the race properly, and he decided not to play anymore. I think at that time it was all downhill."
The trade Valentine referred to sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto and an injured Carl Crawford to Los Angeles in exchange for first baseman James Loney and some high-end prospects. Ortiz, who declined comment, only played one game following the trade before returning to the DL with a strained right Achilles.
When he made his short-lived return, the Red Sox sat at 59-66, 13 1/2 games back of the Yankees. That meant had Ortiz continued playing, he may have risked further injury to his Achilles while playing for a team whose playoff prospects were slim -- a notion that the medical staff and front office alike strongly disliked.
The Red Sox dismissed Valentine a day after the club finished the 2012 season 69-93, the worst record for the history-rich franchise since 1965. It was also the first time Boston finished in last place in the American League East since 1992.
"I was relieved that I was not disappointed, if that makes any sense," Valentine said about his feeling after the firing. "It was a real trying season. By September, I knew there was writing on the wall."
Valentine certainly took his share of the blame.
"I think it was all my fault," Valentine said. "I got paid to have that not happen, and it happened. So I'll take the full blame."
Following the 2011 collapse and the ensuing firing of Valentine's predecessor Terry Francona, Valentine said he saw it as his goal to change the culture in the Boston clubhouse.
That task, he said, was one that couldn't necessarily be accomplished in just one season.
"The culture needed to be changed," Valentine said. "I think it just takes a little longer for people to digest things. I went to the Texas Rangers, the culture had to be changed, and it wasn't changed the first year. With the Mets, the culture had to be changed, it wasn't changed the first year."
But his approach to the culture-shift grew stale quickly in a frenzied market that seemingly scrutinized every wrong turn Valentine made.
On the show, Valentine noted that he felt several controversies were blown way out of proportion by the media.
Valentine also said he didn't think he had the right relationship with the coaches on his staff, pointing to advice he received from legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry.
"He said, 'Make sure your coaches speak your language,' and here I am, a gray-haired guy, and 25 years of managing later, I should have heeded that advice and made sure that the coaches were going to be the guys that were my guys," Valentine said.
"You know what coaches are? They're your communication line. Your attitude filters down to the players through the coaches and their attitudes, their questions, their kinds of stress, filters up through the coaches. I think we had some snags, the lines weren't flowing the way they should have."
The Red Sox hired former pitching coach and Blue Jays manager John Farrell to replace Valentine, and he was introduced to the Boston media on Tuesday. Valentine said he hopes Farrell will give him a call, and he'd offer any advice he could possibly give.
Valentine called the people he worked for, "super people," and said he had no qualms with anyone in the Red Sox organization, even after his firing. He said after news broke that he was out in Boston, he received supportive texts from many of his players, some of which even made him tear up.
"It wasn't like I was sitting in the office, and it was them and me," Valentine said of a purported divide between the players and him. "It was us. We struggled, and we struggled together."
What does the future hold now?Well, Valentine says he'd like to manage in the right situation, and he doesn't think the deck is stacked against him even after his struggles in 2012.
"It depends on who's hiring -- I'm sure that's what they said about Jack McKeon or Davey Johnson, who just won 97 games [with the Nationals]," Valentine said. "I think life is one of those things where you get up the next day, you enjoy it the best you can, you take on the opportunity and the challenge that presents itself."
AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com.