Well, it’s happened. After two months of speculation and plenty of smoke and mirrors, the Red Sox are set to announce Bobby Valentine as their next manager. The world hasn’t come to an end; at least everything looks peaceful when I look out my window. I was not in favor of this move when I first heard that it might be a possibility, but it is something that I must get used to now that it is becoming a reality.
I recall Valentine, going all the way back to his days as manager of the Texas Rangers. Back then he was a young guy trying to motivate a team with little talent or history to go on. He coaxed a few second and third place finishes out of those teams, but never finished above 87 wins. I supposed that with the talent he was working with, or lack thereof, those results were much more impressive than they appear on paper. He was eventually run out of Texas once it became clear that he was not going to be able to lift the team to the next level and take them into the playoffs.
Any apprehension I have about Valentine undoubtedly comes from his tenure as New York Mets’ manger; from the final month of 1996, through 2002. While he kept the Mets in contention more often than not, and even led them to the Subway World Series in 2000, I still have to say I most remember the fake nose and mustache incident from his New York days. In retrospect, that event was certainly played to the hilt in the media, and colored my perception of Valentine, along with I am sure, many other baseball fans. This may make me sound like a complete baseball snob, but that sort of thing is not going to fly in Boston. The stoicism of Terry Francona conditioned Bostonians to a certain expectation of comportment from their manager, and any significant deviance will not be received well.
Valentine’s days as a manager in Japanese professional baseball are almost a complete mystery, other than always hearing how revered he is there, and the success he had managing in a country where baseball is taken even more seriously than the United States. While his experience with major league teams does almost nothing for me, knowing his success in Japan does hearten me some. In many ways the demands of managing in Boston will be similar to what he did in Japan. He will have to manage the expectations of insatiable fans and media, and juggle the complex routines and egos of his diverse roster.
With the debacle that ended this past Red Sox season, Valentine’s first year will be no enviable task. Not only will be expected to reign in a roster that has come to be seen as boorish and unruly, but anything less than a deep playoff run will be viewed with scorn. He will be under a microscope and be the public face of accountability for any failures.
He would not have been my choice, but now that he is Boston’s manager, I am willing to give Valentine a chance. With the controversy that has swirled about the team, I am interested to see how much control he takes, and in which direction the team will head. For better or for worse, Bobby V. is headed to Beantown, and a new era has begun.
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