Bobby's biggest problem

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Bobby's biggest problem

The latest chapter in the Bobby Valentine saga focuses on an incident that took place between him and Will Middlebrooks. Of course, said incident is a few months old already (at least according to Bobby V.), but it was just recently made public (thanks to Bobby V.) so everyone's going with it. It's the new "Youk isn't emotionally into the game" or "We play like this and we'll win the World Series" or any number of other now-infamous Valentine quotes.

This one's called: "Nice inning, kid."

If you haven't heard the story, there was a game earlier in the year when Middlebrooks allegedly made a couple errors in an inning, and when he came back to the dugout, Valentine greeted him with: "Nice inning, kid." He was obviously being sarcastic, and this upset the rookie third baseman. One of the veterans either overheard or got wind of the conversation, and basically ran and told the front office: "Bobby's being mean to us!! : (" and Valentine earned a lecture from the owners.

Here's how Valentine explained the incident to reporters yesterday, and in the process revealed one of his biggest problems in trying to reel in this dysfunctional team:

Middlebrooks came into the dugout, he made a couple of errors, and I said, Nice inning, kid. I had thought I had established a relationship with him where I could say something like that to him, kind of smile, relax him a little. Maybe he grimaced, I dont know."

Tip for Bobby V.: Don't assume anything about your relationship with these players; just accept that they don't like you.

That may not be an easy pill to swallow, especially with how badly he wants to be one of the guys. But the best thing to do at this point is just stop trying to win the players over. Stop trying to make them laugh or brighten the mood or whatever else is going on. Just make the line-up, manage the game and let everyone go about their business.

The truth is that I really don't think Valentine meant any harm with his sarcastic line to Middlebrooks, I really think that he was just trying to make him feel better.

Last Sunday night, Andrew Miller was caught joking around in the dugout after a rough outing against the Yankees. When the cameras showed him laughing with Aaron Cook and Kelly Shoppach, Orel Hershiser suggested that the scene was indicative of the Sox bad chemistry.

In response, Miller said:

"Thats what good teammates do. Im not going to get all upset and drown in my sorrows right there. I remember talking to Aaron and to Shop, and thats what good teammates do. Theyre trying to keep it light and loose. Its out of my control from that point on. To me, thats kind of odd, something that Hershiser would point out right there. To me, thats kind of the opposite of what you want. I appreciate guys being there for me."

This is exactly what Valentine was trying to do with Middlebrooks. Keep it light and loose; be a good teammate.

But he wildly misjudged his ability to do so.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

McAdam: Despite all the talk, Ortiz is still the retiring type

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McAdam: Despite all the talk, Ortiz is still the retiring type

CHICAGO -- Will or won't he?

It's the first week of May, and already the question is being asked. Sure, David Ortiz said he was retiring after this season. But will he stick to his word or change his mind? Inquiring minds want to know.

The questions get louder with every homer hit, every run knocked in, every milestone reached.

When Ortiz homered off Carlos Rodon Wednesday night, becoming the first lefty hitter to ever do so, the chatter began again.

It's unlikely to stop much in the coming months, especially if Ortiz continues to hit at this sort of pace. If Ortiz continues to produce like he has in the first five weeks, like he did a year ago, why would he walk away from a game he can still dominate?

But that's missing the point.

Ortiz isn't retiring because he can't perform any longer. Remember, he made the announcement last November, weeks after he finished 2015 with 37 homers, the most he's had in a single season since his club-record 54 in 2006.

Ortiz couldn't have had any sense that he was nearing the end after what he achieved last year. And he can't be motivated financially, either; the Red Sox hold a $15 million option for 2017, meaning he knew he was walking away from that when he decided to quit.

So maybe, just maybe, Ortiz is retiring because he doesn't want to play any more.

He may still love the game and enjoy the lifestyle, but he's played professional baseball for the last 23 years, or more than half of his life. That's a lot of plane rides, bus rides and time away home and family.

And even though he's essentially been a DH for virtually all of his Red Sox career, there's still a physical price to play. The Achilles injury he suffered several years ago still affects him.

It was telling that Ortiz was out of the lineup for both games in Atlanta, a National League city where the Red Sox can't use the DH. In the past, he would have started at least one game at first base. But this time he pinch-hit in the first and didn't appear at all in the second.

Then there's the matter of the hype surrounding The Long Goodbye. Three franchises -- including the White Sox Thursday night -- have held ceremonies to honor Ortiz's last visit to their ballpark. In the coming weeks there will be pregame tributes in Kansas City, San Francisco, and Minneapolis, with many more to follow.

It would be pretty awkward for Ortiz for shrug his shoulders, announce he's had a change of heart, and give back those gifts.

There are planned promotions at Fenway, with sponsors cued up to take part in various events.

Ortiz has also agreed to be the subject of a season-long documentary by a production company that followed him around on Opening Day, the home opener at Fenway and will be around periodically throughout the season. What happens to that project? Does it become an inside look at the next-to-last season for David Ortiz? Would anyone watch "A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Year David Ortiz Gave Careful Consideration To Retiring Before Changing His Mind?''

And while it's true Ortiz has developed a good relationship with president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in a short period of time, and Dombrowski would undoubtedly welcome Ortiz back next season, it's highly unlikely Dombrowski's presence could bring about a change of heart.

After all, Ortiz has had a very good relationship with John Farrell and enjoys playing for him. So if Farrell, whose history with Ortiz dates back to 2007, can't sway Ortiz, it's highly doubtful Dombrowski could.

Mostly, this talk has surfaced because of the Sports Talk Industrial Complex, a business that traffics in conspiracy theories and is in dire need of debate and hot takes 24-7.

Noted player evalautor Sigmund Freud, however, once sagely noted: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

And sometimes, a retirement is just a retirement.

Nothing more, nothing less.