TORONTO — Bobby Valentine was speaking the truth.
He said what we are all thinking, but should the manager of the team say it out loud? Well, Valentine did. His bosses, who created this horrible Red Sox roster, probably didn’t like it, but such is life and such is the whirlwind that is Bobby Valentine.
If Valentine is made to go off into the sunset, he might as well go out telling it like it is.
Valentine held his usual pregame meeting Friday in the visitors’ office at Rogers Centre. He was asked whether with the International League champion Pawtucket Red Sox would provide more reinforcements for the last two weeks of the season.
“There might be one or two guys who are on the roster who might be coming up,’’ he said.
But asked if there was any specific area that needed help, Valentine said, “Are you kidding? This is the weakest roster we’ve ever had in September in the history of baseball. We could use help everywhere. We’ve got four outfielders and it’s September, yeah. We’ve got four infielders, it’s September — of course. If there are people who could be brought up, we should bring ’em up, but I don’t know that there’s a lot of guys left.’’
Did he say it kiddingly? Probably.
But who knows how those words will sit with general manager Ben Cherington.
The “weakest roster” statement might have been said in jest, but it’s not far off.
Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched Friday night because basically, there’s nobody else to pitch. David Ortiz remained out with his heel issue. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are gone. Will Middlebrooks is getting ready for next season. Dustin Pedroia is on paternity leave. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has a bad back.
The lineups Valentine has to write out are embarrassing.
But when you’re the manager, those words should probably not come out of your mouth, because you want the players to at least have some confidence on the field.
One could argue, who cares at this point? After all, the worse the Red Sox do, the better off they are in next year’s draft. The Sox have a chance to get a top-10 pick and that hasn’t happened in years.
Every day brings questions of whether Valentine will last a second year. The media consensus is no, and that John Farrell, who has had his own misfires this season with Toronto, could be pried loose to manage the Sox next season.
Lately ownership has been silent on Valentine. Their last public comments on Valentine were positive, that the disastrous season is not Valentine’s fault, which it isn’t.
So do the owners now go back on those words and lose public credibility? Does Larry Lucchino do a 180 on his recruitment of Valentine and admit he made a mistake?
If the decision is left up to Cherington, the conventional wisdom is that Valentine will be gone.
There have been two obvious signs of Cherington’s disapproval. One came when Valentine criticized Kevin Youkilis and Cherington failed to fully back the manager and denounce the reaction by Dustin Pedroia, who said “that’s not the way we do things around here.”
The other came this week when Alfredo Aceves went unpunished for showing up the manager on the mound. During his removal from the game, Aceves handed the ball to his catcher, Saltalamacchia, instead of Valentine, and circled to the back of the mound to avoid Valentine altogether.
Some baseball officials who were at the game thought Aceves should have been sent packing immediately. The Red Sox did nothing.
And this was after the team suspended him for three games for detrimental conduct just two weeks prior.
But if the decision to replace the manager is at the ownership end — they are the ones who have to pay his $2.5 million salary — then Valentine has somewhat of a chance.
You have to understand Valentine’s frustration in this. The lineup he puts out reflects on him. It does not reflect on the person who created the roster deficiency — Cherington — since his job is safe and he escapes much of the criticism.
So when the front office doesn’t even show Valentine the respect of dealing with a player who openly defies him, you can see why Valentine would take a swipe at the roster he’s been handed.
Should he have said what he was thinking? Probably not.
But sometimes when you don’t sense support, frustration comes out.
Valentine spoke the truth.
And you wonder if the truth will set him free.