Friday, November 18, 2011

Looking Beyond Bobby Valentine's Shock Value

The managerial process of the Boston Red Sox has been a bit odd, has it not? Even venerable observers such as Keith Law tweeted so. They interviewed several and Dale Sveum twice. All indications pointed to Sveum getting the job. But then Sveum joined the Cubs instead in what looks like a Theo Epstein triumph over his old team. The Red Sox then indicated they were starting over. And now the name being bandied about is Bobby Valentine. Bobby Valentine?

Even Valentine's name provoked strong reactions. A Twitter buddy who covers Boston sports typed out an, "No, no, Noooooo!" in response. Why does Bobby Valentine provoke such a shock value? It would be an interesting study to figure out his persona and how he is perceived by the public at large. With Billy Martin dead, Tommy Lasorda old and Lou Piniella sizzled and crispy fried, Valentine is one of the last of the big time managers who has a larger than life persona. It's no surprise that Valentine is a Lasorda acolyte.

Perhaps it was all those years as the manager of the New York Mets. He was the last Mets' manager to take that team to the World Series in 2000. He was the manager who wore the funny disguise in the dugout after getting thrown out of a game. New York is a big town and Bobby Valentine made the Mets relevant and occasionally got his team on the back page of the New York Daily News.

The Mets faltered after the 2000 World Series loss. And after two more years there, Bobby Valentine was dismissed. He ended up going to Japan to manage, his second stint over there. Supposedly, Valentine speaks fluent Japanese. When he returned, he found his way to ESPN as a baseball analyst and eventually to the Sunday Night telecast where again, his work has provoked strong responses both in the positive and the negative. Valentine is a lightening rod.

But would he be a good manager for the Boston Red Sox? It's obvious that he wants another shot at managing. He famously flew down to the Marlins after Edwin Rodriguez quit, saw the mess that franchise was in and got the heck out of there. Obviously, he still has the desire. At the age of 61, he's not too old to be relevant. But is he a good fit for the Red Sox?

On the one hand, he seems an awkward fit. Valentine seems as old school as they get. And the Red Sox jumped early on the analytic wave sweeping baseball. Heck, they even hired guru, Bill James. So would they want an old school guy? And secondly, can Valentine adapt to the new world? Judging Valentine from his persona (which is dangerous), it seems the man could adapt if he had to.

Could Bobby Valentine handle the Boston media. Well, geez, he handled the New York media for all those years, so that's a moot point. Bobby Valentine can handle the scrutiny of a million eyes on him the entire time. Like Lasorda, he would even thrive in such a pressure cooker. So no worries there.

But is he any good at managing? His record is mixed. His overall managing record is 1117-1072. A .510 mark isn't overly impressive. Though the Mets did get to the World Series, they did so as a wild card team and never did win the division in the seven years Valentine was there. The Mets also made the wild card in 1999 and lost to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. But the thing to remember is that Valentine managed the Mets during the Braves incredible run during the 1990s. They were a pretty impossible team to beat in the regular season. In the two years that Valentine got his team to the post season, he won three of the five series his team played. That's pretty darned good.

The longer that this writer thinks about Valentine back in the dugout, the more smiles the thought induces. It would be kind of fun to have him back in the game. He would lend a new and fresh dynamic to the Yankees - Red Sox rivalry. If nothing else, Valentine has always projected a positive energy and that's something quite lacking in the Red Sox universe right now. The Red Sox could make worse choices and it's unsure they could make better ones.


Anonymous said...

That's great perspective on Valentine and the Mets. Making that team shine in the shadow of the Yankees is no small feat.

I think he'd do well with the Red Sox, and they with him. said...

I'm not sure how well he would (will) do, but the fact that he is even being discussed at this point suggests that Cherington and ownership are not on the same page. Not good.