By Jason Keidel
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The lasting snapshot of Bobby Valentine belies his baseball acumen. It’s an image of self-sabotage, donning a disguise in the dugout after he was tossed from a game while managing the Mets.
As a Yankees fan, however, I find nothing funny about Valentine running the Red Sox. He brings hunger, autonomy, and a limitless recall of baseball knowledge. After Terry Francona and Theo Epstein were jettisoned from Fenway, Yankees fans exhaled, knowing that their nearly ten-year tormentors left the AL East. And all indications were that Boston sought a Muppet as manager, merely a funnel for brass to exact its power over their lethargic players. Then they chuck a changeup and pick the one man who can’t be harnessed.
Cynics assert that Valentine’s a bad choice because he’s never won a World Series, which is silly. How many titles did Joe Torre win before he joined the Yankees? How many did Francona win before he led the Red Sox? How about Charlie Manuel before Philadelphia? None. None. None. You’ll recall the “Clueless Joe” refrain from local media when George Steinbrenner plucked Torre from the managerial landfill fifteen years ago. How’d that go?
Granted, each skipper was bequeathed a behemoth, but each team they managed hadn’t won a World Series in a considerable period of time. And there’s something to be said for a skipper hell-bent on hoisting his first trophy.
So why not Valentine? Were you, the Red Sox fan, really grinding your teeth over Gene Lamont? Was any other candidate so desperate to manage that they hopped continents and lived in Japan for years? All indications are that Larry Lucchino reached around GM Ben Cherington to grab Valentine. So what? Was Steinbrenner’s authority ever muted? Weren’t all choices ultimately his? Now we have statues, plaques, and parks named after The Boss, seven World Series wins later.
There’s some background discontent, Red Sox players groaning over giving Valentine the reigns. But when you gobble chicken and guzzle beer in the clubhouse – during games – lounging your way through a laughable, 7-20 September, then you forfeit the moral and managerial high ground.
No, Valentine doesn’t fill the closer void left by Papelbon, nor does he fortify starting staff or fix the outfield. But what club doesn’t have holes? Is the Bronx beaming because Freddy Garcia should return to the Yankees’ rotation? Have you scanned the Mets’ 2000 lineup lately? Valentine led that anemic club to the Fall Classic.
As a native New Yorker, who loathes all things Massachusetts, from the Red Sox to Belichick to Ben Affleck to their accent, I must say Bobby Valentine, though sometimes a mutinous manager, is also a brilliant baseball man and a dangerous addition – particularly for the Yankees.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.firstname.lastname@example.org