- Gordon Edes, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- By Bobby Valentine’s reckoning Thursday, the story that he told on WEEI the day before about someone complaining because of a “Nice inning, kid” comment he made to rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks after he’d just made two errors was “the most stupid thing I ever said (pause) on a radio program.’’
Valentine was referring to an exchange he had on "The Big Show” in which he was asked whether ownership had ever come to him with concerns about his relationships with his players. Initially, Valentine said no.
Then he volunteered a story about his exchange with Middlebrooks, which had gone unreported at the time and had not surfaced publicly until he brought it up.
“Matter of fact, ownership did come and said they heard that when Will Middlebrooks made two errors in a game and he came off the field and into the dugout, I said, ‘Nice inning, Will,’ and maybe that upset him.’’’
Valentine said what ownership didn’t know is that after the game he’d gone to Middlebrooks and offered him reassurance.
In his pregame media session Thursday, Valentine laughed when asked about the fallout from the story.
“It happened 2 1/2 months ago,’’ he said. “Most stupid thing I ever said … on a radio program. But it also was ridiculous for someone to repeat. I think that’s the point I was trying to make.’’
Initially, he didn’t want to repeat the story, then changed his mind. “If you don’t talk about it, then it becomes even bigger. Then you guys (media) make it up," he said.
“[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 don’t know.
"Somebody overheard it and decided that it was a very dreadful thing for a manager to ever say to a young player and decided to repeat it a few times that it was a dreadful thing.’’
Valentine laid on the sarcasm when he said “very dreadful.”
“That person didn’t go to the locker room when I went to Will after the game and explained to him that I made three errors in a game when I was 21 years old and fans booed me off the field. And how I got through it and other people got through it and it’s a great learning experience. I don’t think Will has been mortally wounded by that 2 1/2-month-old comment.’’
Again, much sarcasm when he said “mortally wounded.’’
Middlebrooks told WEEI on Wednesday he had no recollection of Valentine making the "Nice inning, kid" comment to him.
During the radio version of his postgame chat with Middlebrooks, Valentine said he told Middlebrooks how it was Seat Cushion Night at Dodger Stadium the night he made three errors in a game and fans at Dodger Stadium tossed their seat cushions at him.
Valentine had only one game with the Dodgers in which he made three errors. That was on June 4, 1971, when he was playing third base in a 3-1 loss to the New York Mets. Two of his errors led to unearned runs, but apparently were due to a weird alignment of the lights at Dodger Stadium, losing pitcher Claude Osteen exonerating Valentine after the game. Valentine was 20 at the time; the next day he was replaced at third by Steve Garvey. There was no mention in the Los Angeles Times’s account of the game of fans hurling seat cushions at Valentine.
On the same WEEI program, a caller asked Valentine about his going out to the mound to visit with a pitcher, instead of pitching coach Bob McClure making the trip. In the course of his answer, Valentine referred to when “Bob McClure was on his two-week vacation,’’ then quickly added, “I’m sorry, not vacation, his two weeks away from the team.’’
McClure had gone to be with his family to attend to an urgent medical issue involving one of his very young children.
1dScott Barboza, Special to ESPN.com