"I think probably the one thing that we all know is that things get spinning quickly," Valentine said. "And when they get spinning quickly, sometimes they get out of control -- and I think that's basically what happened. But the one thing that Steve probably mentioned but that goes overlooked or unnoticed is that we had some great years together. From Minor League times through the Major League times, those are the things I remember."
"Sometimes I'm misunderstood [by players]," Valentine said later. "I have to inspect to see if they really got what I meant. In New York, especially at the beginning, I say it and figured everyone heard it. I don't believe that's the case any longer. I think you have to continue to either say it again or say it differently to make sure the message is received."
Valentine spent seven seasons with the Mets, six of them full campaigns, and he took them to their most recent Fall Classic in 2000, when they lost to the Yankees. That was his second big league managing job, and his last before the Sox hired him at the end of a long search.
Valentine went 536-467 in New York, for a .534 winning percentage, and although his Mets club never finished higher than second from his 1996 midseason hiring through his October 2002 dismissal, that speaks more to the strength of the Braves in those years than his shortcomings.
Even though Valentine didn't want to retrace every spat with Phillips or every pitching change he made with Dennis Cook, the Red Sox certainly vetted the 61-year-old skipper's downfall in New York.
"We did talk about his experience with the Rangers, his experience with the Mets and his experience in Japan," Sox president Larry Lucchino said. "We talked about all those things. I'm not going to go into them now, but we wanted to know the reason why things went south in 2002 after the success they had in '99 and 2000."
One thing that hasn't changed about Valentine: his dislike of losing. He does know the perception that's out there about him, one that he garnered mostly from his time with the Mets, when he had problems with players like Bobby Bonilla and Rickey Henderson. And where he could, he tried to deflect some of those views.
"Polarizing is a tough one," Valentine said when asked if that was an appropriate description. "I've had a lot of adjectives about me. I can't describe them all, and I won't defend them all. It's about reputation vs. character. People who know me take the time to get to know me understand I have some qualities to my character that are OK.
"I am not the genius that I've heard people refer to me as. I am not the polarizing guy the people refer to me as. I'm not the monster that breathes fire that some people have referred to me as. I'm a regular human being with regular feelings and regular attributes that make me what I am."