Valentine the Right Man For the Red Sox
Valentine the Right Man For the Red Sox
Bobby Valentine is the right person for the Red Sox job at the current time. They are coming off one of the worst collapses in baseball history, have an ownership group that is itching to meddle into clubhouse affairs, and players that have lost their focus. Bobby V is no stranger to challenge- he had them in Texas, Japan, and with the Mets; but he’s never taken over a team that has the talent of Boston. Valentine with a talented roster might add up to being the best manager in baseball by a landslide. It will, at the very least, create great entertainment for fans and media alike.
His prior stops have been full of mountains to climb. He took over a Texas Rangers ball club in 1985 that was in the midst of losing 99 games. They won 87 the following season with a staff led by knuckleballer Charlie Hough. Texas was always full of offense under Valentine, as they featured Ruben Sierra, Pete Incaviglia, Juan Gonzalez, Julio Franco, and Rafael Palmeiro. However, they never had the pitching to win consistently or compete with the Oakland dynasty. Wrong place, wrong time for Bobby V.
After future President George W. Bush fired Valentine in 1992, he would resurface with the Mets after a brief stint in Japan. Many forget that Bobby V went back to the minor leagues and managed the Norfolk Tides for a year. How many managers with 7 years’ experience do you seeing riding the minor league buses? Bobby V. took over a Mets team in 1996 that always seemed to be short on talent. His 1999 and 2000 playoff teams had good bullpens, average starting pitching, and an offense led by two players- Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo. Somehow he was able to get an outfield of Benny Agbayani, Timo Perez, and Jay Payton to the World Series. It seemed that average players thrived under Valentine because he gave them opportunities in which they could excel. Todd Pratt became the best backup catcher in baseball; Matt Franco one of the best pinch hitters; Turk Wendell one of the best setup men. The Valentine years ended badly in 2002, but there is no denying those Mets teams overachieved. Look at the rosters from 1997-2001 and tell me if the Mets teams of the last couple of seasons are any worse? It’s a clinic on how a manager can impact a baseball team.
Finally, there is his stint with the Chiba Lotte Marines. The Marines were a very similar situation to Texas and New York, except much worse. They were a struggling franchise that had a history of losing, poor attendance, and played in a lousy stadium. Despite the cultural differences that led to a power struggle between Valentine and the Marines coaches and management, he was able to bring them glory by winning the Japan Series in 2005. His strong forward thinking approach wore thin in the “command and control” Japanese culture, which makes his ability to survive 6 seasons in NPB extraordinary.
In each location Valentine was put in a less than desirable situation. Now he could be named the manager to an historic franchise that players in one of the best ballparks in baseball. He has three potential MVPs in his starting lineup and a rotation that could be the best in the AL East. Only the Yankees spend more money than Boston, so he should be able to receive whatever roster reinforcements are necessary. His track record of maximizing players talents, combined with a big payroll, should be an exciting thought to Red Sox Nation.
A Valentine hiring doesn’t come without risk. Many veteran ballplayers have historically battled with him. Bernard Gilkey, Pete Harnisch, and Todd Hundley all left New York on bad terms with him. He also had his issues with Bobby Bonilla and Rickey Henderson. The Mets clubhouse was never a harmonious bunch, even during their best seasons. One of Valentine’s former coaches told me a few years back how much he hated his condescending and sarcastic nature. Will he get along with Josh Beckett and David Ortiz? Can the Sox handle going from the laid-back Terry Francona to the intense Valentine? Bringing in Valentine might lead to some clubhouse cleaning of historically popular players (see Ortiz). Valentine has no loyalty to the prior regime. The fans and powers that be will have to accept that and let him do it his way.
Put Valentine in the dugout and the Sox have an immediate advantage over the Yankees. Joe Girardi and Valentine aren’t in the same class as managers. You might not get the same 8-year run out of Valentine that you received from Francona, but it will be an exciting 3 to 4 years where the Sox will maximize the talent on their roster, something they didn’t do in 2011.
From a fan perspective this will make for great theater. Valentine undoubtedly will “stir the pot” when it comes to the Yankees rivalry. If Yankees fans don’t hate the Red Sox yet, they will once Valentine is in the opposing dugout.
Nothing against some of the other candidates, but they all are vanilla managers meant to be controlled by John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Ben Cherington. I said a couple of months ago that modern organizations don’t want strong managerial candidates since they would have to relinquish control. Perhaps the Red Sox realize their situation calls for something dynamic. It will be a wild ride that might end ugly, but a Valentine/Red Sox marriage gives the best chance for a return to glory at Fenway. It might prove to everyone once and for all that he is a Hall of Fame caliber manager.By Mike Silva