Friday, February 24, 2012

Bobby Valentine Is Not Your Most Likable Man, Last Chance In Boston

So what if he was ejected from a game by home plate umpire Randy Marsh for arguing and later returned to the dugout in a silly disguise, hiding in a corner wearing a fake mustache and glasses. So what if New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon fired Bobby Valentine two days after the hopeless Mets finished in last place, dismissed in the season of a 12-game losing streak that sabotaged the Mets season. So what if he had a feud with Chiba Lotte Marines GM Tatsuro Hirooka, during his first stint in Japan and couldn’t even get along with team president Ryuzo Setoyama, who forced out Valentine albeit the general support from Marines’ fans.

Years ago, despite the ego trip he had that engulfed every ballclub he ever managed, which cost him his managerial job in Texas, the Red Sox targeted him to fill the role replacing ex-manager Terry Francona. Knowingly so, he pride himself as Rangers’ manager, and scheduled his own emotional news conferences to tell the folks in Texas goodbye. After nine years away from the majors, Valentine has returned for another opportunity in the managerial role at his first Red Sox camp.

When he was named Red Sox manager last winter – which he’s not the most likable man in baseball – critics had their doubts about Valentine, who was widely regarded as a manager with the biggest ego in baseball. It caught the population by surprise that Larry Lucchino, the Boston Red Sox president, whispered in newly hired GM Ben Cherington’s ear, asking him to meet Valentine when Lucchino had already hired him.

The foreseeable future of the major franchise in New England centers the newcomer Bobby V, as some see this to be a risky hiring because of his bombastic psyche and arrogance, while few envision a new era that the Red Sox can now rejuvenate following a monumental collapse and blowing a 9-game wild card lead late last season. As the folks in Boston awaits to witness what Bobby V can bring to the Red Sox, in a community where baseball is adored heavily, he needs to realize that he accepted a ballclub’s contract offer with demands for winning the pennant.

It’s a rotten shame if Valentine derails during his tenure for a high-market club that inherits largely a filled-capacity fan base which usually crowds Fenway Park, a venue where the masses come out as a family of four to witness the Red Sox. It’s been barely a few days since we’ve seen the new-look Bobby V and players are grumbling, not accustomed to the demanding style in the midst of spring training. It’s not telling whether he’s changed as a person in the time spent away from the majors, but the front office is simply overlooking his murky reputation.

In talking about Valentine, Red Sox owner John Henry trust in him to focus on the task at hand. He is, however, not the most despised man in baseball, after all, but a skipper that Red Sox executives are more less comfortable with to pioneer the club with potentially the deepest talent in the AL East. Not right now, not at the beginning of training camp is he under scrutiny or sitting on the hot seat. He has forced non-supporters to realize that he’s fittingly the suitor to serve as the manager for a team with high standards, angling to return to those triumphant days and procure a World Series title under Valentine’s watch, a man who is entering at a time when the Red Sox are overcoming the bitter taste of last season’s meltdown.

Through the episodes of a chaotic clubhouse that was fractured by the lack of effort and limited urgency that publicly revealed late last fall of players drinking beer, eating fast-food and playing video games in the clubhouse during the game, according to reports, the people in the front office felt it was time for a change. This is what happens when a manager replaces an ex-skipper, willing to take on a stiff challenge in keeping one’s eye on a team that separated as a whole and became disjointed in a matter of weeks.

The starting pitchers for the Red Sox – which included Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey, the top three pitchers in the rotation, were wavering down the stretch and truly became largely a disappointment. If there ever was an excuse for a change in a fragile culture, it’s now after those specific pitchers began drinking beer and fondling with the joysticks in the clubhouse, disrespecting and humiliating Francona. The 61-year-old Valentine is hired to take control and purge the troubles that has been a distraction inside the Red Sox clubhouse, and might just be the right choice.

The real issue here is that he creates a ruckus by always staying in the news, publicly hijacking everyone’s full attention in the universe with his self-serving and pompous character, a man who is constantly mired in the middle of tumult. But if you are in love with Valentines, well, then there is Mr. Valentine himself, garnering more recognition than Cupid’s wings and bow and arrow. It’s contentious of the Red Sox front office to allow Bobby V to manage their baseball team, and bold of them to trust in him after picking him following an exhausted managerial search.

Only a fool think he’s fittingly a descent hire, and because he’s in Boston now, this might give fans something to worry about. But then again, maybe he’s the right hire, even if he might dominate front-page headlines in local Boston newspapers and amass plenty of interest on radio stations in the community as callers will dial in to vent their displeasure for Bobby V. Because of him, Red Sox players are upset. Because of him, he has created a distraction. Because of him, he’s lowered the spirits at training camp.

This is a man criticized for a miserable 15-year major league managerial career in which he fled to Japan. This is a man loathed wholeheartedly by his peers, including some of his players. Why oh why is Valentine hated so much when he’s allowed another chance to clean up his act and redeem himself from the infamy in his past? Sometimes in life, people do grow up. Maybe Valentine learned the hard way when he had unbearably made a bad name for himself, acted like a clown and couldn’t find a managerial job because of his nonsense.

On a positive note, to say the least, he has twice made it to the playoffs and advanced to the World Series as the Mets manager in 2000, where they lost to Subway rivals the Yankees. Then, later, he eventually was canned when he clashed with Mets general manager Steve Phillips. Weigh the pros and cons to the hiring. Choosing Valentine could be good or bad. The best-case scenario is that he captures a World Series, but the worst-case is that Boston faithful runs him out of town only if he commits to failures. The reasonably well-qualified Valentine must have impressed Cherington and Lucchino, but on further note, the Red Sox have always had a reputation for bringing in low-key, controversial personalities to manage their club. It’s not surprising that he’s a manager again, nor surprising that he represents the Red Sox.

If there’s good in Valentine, it’s his experience, know-how and self-assurance, but he can even be arrogant and egotistical. He knows baseball, he’s very savvy -- just another trait that separates him from the typical baseball expert. Ask him anything about baseball, and he’ll break down the concept of the game. Even better than an expert, he’s a charity worker and visits homes of the less fortunate, he’s a miracle worker donating funds for impoverished families and cooks gourmet meals for those he never met. In his hometown of Stamford, Conn., he is the director of Public Safety and Public Health, helping those in need.

But what was really touching was when Valentine, who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks, raised money to help families after 9/11. So he is, clearly, a modest, generous man, but just come with too much baggage. He is, however, the right choice. He owns a .510 winning percentage and won a championship managing in Japan. He is having a good time with a few of his players, and was seen joking with Carl Crawford during workouts.

And so with Daisuke Matsuzaka rehabbing, Valentine might be able to shape him into pitching form as the new general manager is influenced by pitching coach Bob McClure’s idea of changing the rotation order. The words of Cherington is that Valentine was hired to “increase the level of accountability in certain areas.”

If you don’t have much hope in Bobby V, he certainly does.