Photo by Kim Mimnaugh
When Bobby Valentine was shown the door by Red Sox management back in October, it did not seem out of the realm of possibility that there would be no Salem State Speaker Series this year. Anderson Cooper had cancelled twice in the spring and never appeared, and the Speaker Series was in danger of not having at least one installment for the first time in 30 years.
So why did Valentine decide to go ahead with the event, despite Red Sox fans and local media folks longing to erase the short-lived "Bobby V. Era" of the team from their minds? Ask, and he'll tell you he was just honoring the invitation.
"Because [Salem State] asked me," Valentine explained in a short press conference before the event. "What I was doing, I guess, is I'm pinch-hitting for Anderson Cooper, who couldn't make the event. I was a lousy pinch-hitter when I played, and I'm just trying to improve my average."
And so, Valentine took the stage at Salem State's O'Keefe Center on Thursday night, along with revered baseball writer and analyst Peter Gammons, for the Fall 2012 Salem State Speaker Series. It was supposed to be an interview of Valentine by Gammons, followed by audience Q & A, but it quickly became the Bobby V. show, seemingly to the delight of the 1,400 some-odd people packing the James Twohig Gymnasium.
Valentine elicited laughs from the crowd as he cracked wise, described what it is that's keeping him busy since his departure from the Sox, and pontificated on his experience with the club, and his fundamental beliefs surrounding the game and the broader mantra of how an organization should run. He made no effort to stay on track and avoid tangents, telling stories from his baseball past, and at one point even questioning how he got onto a topic that had little to do with the question at hand.
It was just what one has come to expect from one of the most enigmatic and engaging personalities in the sport.
Right off the bat (no pun intended), Valentine attacked the elephant in the room, discussing lightheartedly his experiences with firings. He described being let go by some big-time individuals, including former President George W. Bush - who was the managing general partner when Valentine was dismissed as bench-boss of the Texas Rangers in 1992 - and the top candy and gum manufacturer in all of the Orient during his first stint managing in Japan in 1995.
"Yeah, I've been fired by some pretty hefty people," Valentine said.
It was a form of Bobby V. that was seldom seen during the last year, as the Sox trudged through one of the worst seasons in franchise history, and with his departing words for the audience, coming well after the scheduled 9 p.m. conclusion of the event, Valentine acknowledged that the event was a good opportunity for him to be himself, and also praised the players that only managed to eek out 69 wins and finished at the bottom of their division for the first time in more than a decade.
"I know I've talked too much, and I rattled on, and some of you are saying boy, now I know," Valentine said. "But I didn't have that much a chance to rattle on during the season because they wanted a quieter, calmer version of Bobby V., but that didn't suit me very well because I like talking.
"So what I'm going to do is I'm just going to tell you this: That group of guys that you saw this year should never, individually or collectively, be defined by the record that was with our team at the end of the season. Because there are some outstanding human beings, there were some outstanding efforts, there was some absolutely superb Major League play by individual guys on that team, and that they should understand that it's their individual effort that they should be remembered for, not the collective record."
Ryan Mooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.