10 Most Outrageous Bobby Valentine Manager Moments
The Boston Red Sox announced a new manager this week. That was not much of a surprise. The surprise came when the name was revealed. It was Bobby Valentine. The same Bobby Valentine who was the former skipper of the New York Mets from 1996-2002.
He was a man that everyone had an opinion about. While in New York, he made a lot of friends. He made a lot of enemies too. In fact, there were so many people that disliked him that another working title for some of this article could be "Bobby Valentine and his 10 most famous feuds."
His tenure in Queens wasn't all bad, though. While with the Mets, he guided them to the World Series in 2000 before losing four of five to the cross-town rival New York Yankees in the modern version of the fall classic edition of the Subway Series.
Just a year later, he was helping his players set up a shelter at Shea Stadium for the victims of 9/11. He had done a world of good for the Mets organization and image of the day during his tenure. Since then, the team has declined in both reputation and image.
After multiple collapses, free-agent busts, lawsuits, future father-in-laws being punched, owing the league millions and having your GM be a media circus unto himself, the Mets may be wishing they were still in the days of Bobby V.
Still, as Billy Joel once said in his song Keeping the Faith, "the good old days weren't always so good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems".
With that tag line in mind, let's take a look at the Bobby V days and see what made them not as good as they seemed.
No. 10: Bad Breath Ejection?
It was June of 1997. Bobby Valentine had been managing the Mets for only a year-and-a-half.
He had earned the reputation of getting in the face of umpires across the league. In one case, he claimed the umpire gave him the boot just because of his bad breath.
A close play at second base led to a heated argument with umpire Mark Hirschbeck. An argument that resulted in Valentine getting ejected. Valentine had felt sick that day and blamed it on food poisoning.
Later, Bobby would say,
"I felt sorry for Mark (Hirschbeck), he probably ejected me because of my breath."
This was the third ejection that season at the time, and two of them were by Hirschbeck. Coincidence or bad breath?
No. 9: Bobby Has Stats Up His Sleeve, Actually It Was in His Pocket
In 2000, the Mets were heavily criticized for their overuse of the bullpen. The man that took the brunt of the second-guessing was manager Bobby Valentine. By June, he had had enough with the constant critique and decided to use the aid of a prop to make a point to the reporters.
Prior to a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 23, he held a pregame media session. Among the wide range of questions he fielded that day came the inevitable topic of the bullpen.
At this point, he takes out a piece of paper that was folded up in his uniform pocket and unfolded it to reveal four pieces of paper containing stats on his bullpen pitchers. He went into facts about Turk Wendell and Armando Benetiz.
As the reporters listened, he explained how the numbers he was reading off were comparable to other bullpens in the league. He admitted later that he did this all just to prove a point that his pen was not overused.
No. 8: It Must Have Been a UFO
In April of 1999, Valentine was holding his usual pregame press conference with the media in the Mets dugout. He stopped the proceedings to point out a shiny object in the sky.
When he asked the reporters about it, he said it was flashing on and off. Reporters chimed in and suggested it was simply an airplane. Valentine insisted it was a UFO.
Reporters then jokingly suggested that the object was sending signals to control the players' thoughts. Valentine then retorted "Yeah, it said keep Yoshii on the right side of the rubber."
Just as quickly as Valentine interrupted the questioning, he went back to answering questions.
Yoshii had a 7.52 ERA that month. He finished with a 4.49 ERA and a 12-8 record in 1999.
Maybe the alien message helped.
No. 7: Like Most of America, Bobby Disses Bush
In 2001, Bobby Valentine collected his 1,000th victory as a MLB manager.
This is a milestone very few big-league managers ever accomplish. Case in point, currently, there are only 57 managers to do this. There have been 672 managers in MLB history total, so this was quite the feat for Bobby V.
One day in July of that year, he received a phone call in his office at Shea Stadium. The voice on the other end stated they were Camp David calling to locate him and that he would receive another, more important phone call in the next five minutes from President George W. Bush.
Valentine recollects that he initially was a bit leery of the caller. He said,
''I wasn't sure if it was one of my buddies fooling around"
When the call did come in, though, to his surprise, it was the President of the United States and his former boss with the Texas Rangers, George W. Bush. President Bush was calling to simply congratulate him on the milestone and to talk some baseball for a few minutes.
''We talked about his family and his travel,'' Valentine said. ''We talked baseball for about five minutes. It sounded like he wanted a little break from the action.''
No. 6: Tom Glavine Hates Mets with Bobby V. Without? That's Different
"If it were the case (that Valentine was still managing), I don't think these guys would have been on my list," Glavine continued, "I don't want to disrespect Bobby, but I must admit that it's part of the equation."
Glavine went on to say about his, then, new manager Art Howe that he would "add class and a winning attitude" to the ball club. In remarks that clearly could be implying that Valentine did not bring class to the Mets, Glavine did a good job at playing down his dislike for Valentine. It may have been more evident, though, when he added this,
"When you play for one manager for a long time and make a change, the change is going to be hard enough," Glavine said. "But to make a switch 180 degrees to the other side? That would have been difficult."
While these comments were a good start for Glavine and what GM Steve Phillips wanted to hear in regards to a change in the clubhouse, it was apparent that Valentine was still on the minds of the Mets and players outside of the Mets as well.
In a rare occurrence, Valentine never offered a retort for these words by Glavine. Perhaps, he knew that Glavine's actions on the field would eventually cause the fans to not care what Glavine had to say in the first place. Thus proving that sometimes, it's better not to say something and let time sort it all out.
No. 5: David Wells Is Not a Bobby V Fan
In May of 2001, MLB pitcher David Wells gave a telling interview with Playboy magazine. One of the topics: Bobby Valentine. Wells had this to say of Bobby V,
"You ever watch a Mets game? Who do they show, always? . . . He knows where the cameras are," Wells says in the interview. "One day, I was pitching against the Mets, and he gets thrown out and tries to come back in disguise. What a loser. Just go to the office and go have a beer and watch it on TV."
More on that "disguise game" later. For now, let's keep something in mind. At the time, the Mets had spent most of the previous off season courting Wells to come to Queens. He never did.
Wells referred to the potential relationship with Valentine as "disastrous" and insinuated that this was the main reason for him not going to the Mets. The Mets may be glad in hindsight. After all, this was the same David Wells that was as vocal as a player as Valentine was a manager.
He once claimed in his book that he pitched a perfect game drunk. He is not the most reliable of judges of character. He claimed that former teammate Frank Thomas should have played through the pain he was feeling in the previous season. Thomas turned out to have a season-ending injury. Valentine's retort to all of this?
"He doesn't know me. I thought I was nice to him the first time up," the manager said. "I never had a conversation with him and I guess I'm not going to". He added "I guess he was right about Big Frank, so I guess he's right about me, too.
No. 4: Bobby Has Some Nasty Words for a "Nasty" Analyst
In 2002, there had been a building feud between the Mets and their captain Mike Piazza and the New York Yankees and the face of their pitching staff, Roger Clemens. Just prior to the All-Star game in 2000, Roger Clemens hit Piazza in the head during a Subway Series interleague matchup.
Piazza missed the All-Star game but came back to lead the Mets to the playoffs and eventually the World Series that year. They faced the same Yankees team that injured Piazza in July.
This time, Clemens came inside, and Piazza fought it off, breaking his bat in the process. Clemens took a shard of the bat that landed near him on the mound and threw it at Piazza who was walking back to the dugout to get another bat.
Fast forward a year-and-a-half to June 16, 2002. The Mets faced off with Clemens and the Yankees in another interleague series in midseason. This time, the big story was that Clemens had to bat because it was in Queens and during interleague play the A.L. team has to have their pitcher bat in an N.L. stadium per N.L. rules.
When Clemens came to the plate, Mets pitcher Shawn Estes threw behind him and was warned not to throw at him again. The message was attempted to be delivered but not executed well. Either way, the intention was there. The Mets wanted retaliation for the way their star player had been treated by the Yankees and Clemens in particular.
In response to this incident, ESPN analyst and former Cincinnati Reds "Nasty Boys" pitcher Rob Dibble offered an opinion on Estes. He questioned Estes' toughness and saying that Estes should have tried to hit Clemens again even after the warning and that the teammates have probably lost respect for him for not doing so. This was said on ESPN.
Several Mets players were upset over Dibble's implication, especially Valentine.
The manager had this to say in response,
"He was the most unprofessional player to ever play, or one of them," Bobby Valentine said yesterday. "He threw bats in the stands, threw balls in the stands, fought with his manager. When he hit people it was because they hit a home run off him, not protection for his teammates."
"This is the reason people switch off ESPN, because you have people with no knowledge of the game or the English language presenting the game we love."
Valentine lamented how sports television is becoming a venue for controversy, rather than informed analysis, especially when Dibble is considered an expert.
"When I was in uniform with him in Cincinnati (as a coach in 1993) he was known as anything but an enforcer," Valentine said. "But he was known for what he's known for now, as a big mouth.
Dibble offered no apology or response to the statements that Valentine or the rest of the team made. Oddly enough, it was Valentine,who regained popularity with a national audience by becoming an analyst later with ESPN's Baseball Tonight that offered some of the harshest criticisms for not just Dibble, but the industry he works for.
Some point to this as a beginning of a period when TV analysts began choosing their words a bit more carefully. Valentine did have his moments in front of the camera too, but at that present time, it was nice to know he supported his team, his players.
No. 3: Bobby V, Meet Cliff Floyd, the 31st All-Star
After the 2000 season in which Bobby Valentine led the Mets to the World Series, he had to manage the National League All-Star the following season. Part of the responsibility of the ASG manager is to choose most of the players on his roster for that showcase game.
At the time, each team was designated 30 players for their game roster. One player that fell just short in the selection was Cliff Floyd of the Florida Marlins. Floyd, who just a couple of years later became a Mets player, was in the midst of his breakout year with the Marlins. A season where he would hit 31 home runs and 103 RBI.
Valentine called him a few days before the game, during the selection process to discuss the situation and the possibility of Floyd making the roster. That much both sides can agree on. From there, however, it gets a little fuzzy.
First, Floyd said that Valentine assured him he would be on the roster for the ASG. Floyd's agent Seth Levinson stated that after their conversation Floyd believed so much that he was going that he purchased $16,000 worth of airline tickets for various friends and family. He said Valentine promised Floyd a spot and was backing out of it.
"The tickets are the smoking gun".
In response to this, Valentine stated to a room of reporters,
''Cliff Floyd's agent is a liar,'' Valentine responded. ''I didn't back out of anything. I talked to Floyd. He knows exactly what I said. He called me. I told him: he's on the bubble; I appreciate everything he does; I love him as a player; we'll see how the chips fall.''
Floyd, himself, hears Valentine on television saying that Floyd misunderstood him. After hearing this, Floyd says,
''You don't go on the air, on national television, and say that I misunderstood something,'' Floyd told Sporting News Radio. ''Tell the truth. The truth is that when I talked to him on the phone, he said that I was on the team barring anything crazy. Now I'm going to ask you, what crazy could happen in one day?''
After all of this attention to one simple roster move, Valentine ended up adding Floyd when one of his pitchers, Rick Reed, couldn't play in the game. Valentine stated that choosing Floyd was a no-brainer. He added,
''He was the 31st guy to be picked the entire time, I regret that it gave an opening to those that look for the cheap-shot opening,'' Valentine continued, ''It's been over with me, as far as Cliff's concerned, since I talked with him,'' Valentine said. ''And after long consideration, I determined that I should have said something differently when I talked to him. It's very obvious now. If I just told him, 'Crazy things happen in 72 hours,' instead of '24 hours,' I wouldn't have had to deal with all this nonsense.''
Cliff Floyd went 0-2 in the game.
No. 2: "What I Meant Was..., See What Happened Was..."
In April of 2000, Bobby Valentine was honored to be a speaker at the University of Penn Wharton School for Business. The speech began as a 90-minute lecture on the economics of baseball.
Valentine eventually turned it into a closed door Q & A session that began with him asking the students to keep the discussion private. That's never a good thing.
What followed was Bobby V's own insult-laced attack on his own players and organization. An ongoing assault of verbal abuses that left the franchise in shock when reports of it were released. It was so bad, that Valentine had asked the school to destroy the tapes of the speech.
The school did not but promised to lock it away in their library vaults. Somewhere, there's a great hour-and-a-half tape of Bobby Valentine telling it like it was. That thought alone must be a horrifying one for Mets owner Fred Wilpon.
Wilpon and then GM Steve Phillips even discussed firing Valentine over the offense but opted not to do so but gave him a stiff warning that another similar incident will not be tolerated.
As far as the incident, Valentine was very quiet about details. He refused to comment on "the Wharton thing" as he called it. He did report that he spoke to each player the day after the story was released. He stated his goal clearly,
It was, "to alleviate confusion and to let them know if there ever is confusion I'm here to alleviate it and not create it."
No. 1: Bobby Step out Incognito and Steps into It
One of the oddest sights in baseball history, and by far, the most outrageous and well-known Bobby Valentine moment occurred on June 9, 1999. It was a home game against the Toronto Blue Jays. The game had gone into the 12th inning.
The umpire, Randy Marsh, called for catcher's interference on Mike Piazza. Valentine came out to argue and was promptly ejected.
He went back to the the locker room and play went on as normal. Or so it seemed. A figure in a fake mustache and dark glasses was spotted by TV cameras in the dugout.
It looked an awful lot like Bobby V. Valentine later admitted that it was him, but that he was not in the dugout rather he was in the runway.
Valentine explained the disguise by saying,
"I wasn't fooling anyone with that disguise," he said. "If Randy Marsh saw it, I believe he would have laughed. This had absolutely nothing to do with the umpires. I did it to lighten up the team."
National League president Leonard Coleman was less than amused. He offered to meet with Valentine prior to making his ruling on the disciplinary action, but Valentine declined saying he would reach out to Coleman by telephone. Coleman suspended him for two games and fined him $5,000.
The Mets ended up winning the game 4-3. In fact, they swept the series against Toronto, but they lost the manager for two games the following week in that now extremely well known and bizarre incident.
The classic video of this incident is in the first link above, but you can also see it here.