The baseball world will be a far less interesting place without Bobby Valentine. After being fired by the Boston Red Sox at the end of a tumultuous season in which his managerial style—read: obnoxious pomposity—tore apart his clubhouse and embarrassed his front office, Valentine must finally be out of baseball lives.
That has to be it for him, right? Valentine is as polarizing as they come in sports, forcing people to do things his way or get the (bleep) out. The only problem with that model is that his players often have more stroke with the higher-ups than he does. They make more money than him, too. For every guy in the Red Sox clubhouse who may have liked the change of pace from the freewheeling ways of Terry Francona, there were half a dozen more who hated it—and seemingly hated Valentine.
The fact is, Valentine's way of running a team did not work in Boston, and baseball people must be left wondering if it can work anywhere. Teams would be crazy to give Valentine another chance after the stories coming out of Boston this season. Take this incident, for example, from Boston.com:
All too often, the Red Sox appeared disorganized, if not unprepared. The chasm between the manager’s office and the rest of the baseball operations staff was a wide one.
In July, a group of mutinous players contacted Henry and Werner and demanded a meeting in New York during a road trip. Despite their complaints about Valentine, he stayed on the job.
Valentine's mismanagement has become legendary after just one year. He publicly questioned Kevin Youkilis' physical and emotional preparedness before former MVP Dustin Pedroia publicly chided his manager by suggesting that wasn't how the Red Sox did things.
Valentine clashed with other members of his team, including players, staff and his own assistant coaches—forced upon him by a GM who did not want to hire him—who would barely talk to the guy.
On top of that, Valentine clashed with local media in Boston, mocking their questions or even threatening them. This was coming from a guy who was on TV last year!
One has to wonder if Valentine's 10 years away from Major League Baseball was too long. It couldn't have just been a bad fit in Boston. It's more than that. The American game has passed him by.
Not helping his cause, Valentine is also the kind of guy who wears out his welcome no matter how well he manages a team.
He had an up-and-down career with the Texas Rangers in the 1980s, finishing second for AL Manager of the Year in 1986 and somehow hanging on with a run of mediocre clubs that never won more than 87 games and never made the playoffs. He was fired halfway through the 1992 season, compiling a .490 winning percentage over most of eight seasons.
Before Valentine got a job with the New York Mets in the late 1990s, he was a manager in Japan, but was fired after a second-place finish his first year because he had a personal conflict with the Chiba Lotte Marines' general manager.
He got a gig working in the Mets' minor-league system before being promoted to skipper of the big-league club in 1996. Despite success with the Mets, Valentine was constantly creating controversy both on and off the field with his antics—everyone knows the fake mustache ejection story by now—and especially his words.
Valentine battled with then-Mets GM Steve Phillips and was fired after the 2002 season, just two years removed from taking the Mets to the World Series.
Back to Japan he went in 2004, winning the 2005 Japan Series and sparking long-distance interest from major-league ball clubs who may or may not have been floating his name for leverage with managers they would go on to hire. At the same time, Valentine became somewhat of a cult hero in Japan, but was eventually fired in 2009 after, you guessed it, butting heads with his front office. Again.
ESPN then hired Valentine for work in their national TV booth, giving him ample time to share his demonstrative opinions about the current state of Major League Baseball and its players. Ironically, Valentine was never a fan of players who made the game all about them.
Valentine didn't pull any punches in the ESPN booth, often hijacking games to constantly and unapologetically hammer home his predetermined talking points. His yapping worked, both for ESPN and apparently for the Red Sox, who pulled Valentine out of the booth in an effort to clean up their unruly clubhouse and install a new level of accountability in Beantown.
The only problem with that model: Valentine didn't show any of his own accountability.
Sure, the Red Sox were decimated by injuries this season, but that had little to do with the way Valentine handled his staff, players or media. Valentine is as much to blame for the worst Red Sox record (69-93) since 1965 as any injured player could ever be.
Even after the Red Sox shipped out almost half their roster of bloated contracts for players who didn't mesh with Valentine's style, the team was no better. In fact, they were much worse.
The Red Sox were 60-67 on Aug. 25th when they salary-dumped Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto for James Loney and a handful of prospects.
After Valentine and the Red Sox front office gutted the clubhouse, Boston ended the year with nine wins in their last 35 games.
By comparison, the Oakland Athletics—a team full of young players that had to struggle through injuries and a lack of depth at key positions themselves—went 25-11 in the same time frame. Comparing one team's fortune to another may not be fair, but the records may serve to illustrate why one guy was unceremoniously fired on Thursday and the other is a candidate for Manager of the Year.
So where will Valentine go next?
Can he go back to Japan? He has been successful, but he showed himself to be too pompous for his own good overseas.
He is damaged goods in the majors by now, clearly showing his inability to adapt after years away from big-league players.
Strictly looking at results, Valentine has been entirely mediocre in the majors. He has a career winning percentage of .504 and has finished in fourth place or worse in eight of his 16 years, including this season.
Valentine's reputation doesn't just precede him, it surrounds him. There's not a team in the league that can touch him.
So what, TV? He could go back to TV. ESPN has already put out a statement saying it is happy with its current crop of talent. Of course, Terry Francona should be managing again next season, which would leave an open, warm seat for Valentine, should ESPN want him back.
I don't know why ESPN or MLB or even the great folks at Turner would want him. He presided over such a calamity in Boston that it will be impossible for any fan to respect his opinion right now. That said, the guy isn't shy about giving those opinions, so if he can do it in the protected environment of a TV booth with no pressure or accountability of actually having to win games, maybe that would be the best spot for him.
Otherwise, the only place that's left is out to pasture. Personally, I wish Bobby Valentine could manage forever. Not my team, of course. The guy is terrible. But baseball is more fun with his obnoxious dysfunction on the field.
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