Valentine’s Day in Boston
Bobby Valentine will now take the helm of the troubled ship that is the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox are one of baseball’s most storied clubs, and it will take a leader with strong resolve to lead them. In Valentine, the Red Sox hierarchy has chosen well. Valentine has a history as a strong baseball strategist with the boundless energy it will take to rescue the sinking ship.
It wasn’t that Terry Francona did a bad job. In fact, he won 2 World Series championships. Yet, when the team (player) leadership foundered, so did Francona’s control. Yes, it was time for a change, and “Bobby V” is the right man for the right time.
Team discipline will be addressed, and the players unable to adapt should be traded. That is the key to Boston’s woes. Of course, the pitching is important, too, but prognosis for that segment of the team will be better than many predict.
Bobby V is bright, quick-witted and a fine teacher of fundamentals. He is an excellent administrator and team leader. Criticism proves no one is perfect. And, Valentine has his critics, to be sure. Most of these negative comments refer to his early days as a manager when he was accused of being too “thin-skinned” to accept constructive criticism. It was also reported that he didn’t suffer egos of veteran star players well.
OK. That was over twenty years ago. Bobby V has grown and matured, as do most people, given time. The book on him now is he has evolved into a complete leader. Plus, what’s wrong with keeping some of the players’ out-sized egos in place, anyway? Remember, he was one of the greatest athletes to ever come out of New England, and only a debilitating early career injury–a serious compound leg fracture (1973, at age 23)–effectively ended a promising career as a center fielder. He was thrust into managing early (by most standards) and had to learn “on-the-job.”
His legacy thus far is already good. He took a struggling Texas Rangers franchise and improved it, even with no pitching. He helmed the hapless New York Mets, and got them into a World Series by using “smoke and mirrors.” He transformed the Chiba Lotte Marines, a club with a great past that had become a doormat of NPB’s Pacific League, into a Japan Series Champion and the Asia Series Crown. Remember, this team was for years owned by the Mainichi newspaper giant, and once sported Japan Hall of Fame members Hiromitsu Ochiai (the only 3 time Triple Crown winner in Japanese pro ball history), Kazuhiro Yamauchi and Choji Murata, to name a few. Once Lotte bought out the team, its fortunes started to decline. Many believe Lotte’s mismanagement may be the worst in professional baseball history. They finally had the good sense to hire Valentine who completely transformed the team, winning the Japan Series in 2005. This, in spite of constant interference from management and ownership. What Bobby V did with the Marines in 2005 may be one of the greatest managing jobs ever.
And, a personal note of interest. In the late 1980s, my son was 10 years old and playing Pony Baseball in north central Texas. On the eve of opening day for the entire association, the keynote speaker canceled. Upon hearing of their plight, I called Bobby V at his home and shared the news, asking if he could help. He immediately agreed to fill in, and delivered on his promise early the next morning. It was the best opening day speech I have ever heard (to this day), and I’ve heard many of them over the years. Bobby V was already a young fan favorite, and they paid rapt attention to his every word.
He has always been able to build a fan base with a team’s most important constituents–the young followers of the game. He has never been too busy to perform a service for the young fans in a community. Boston has chosen well. Bobby V should be able to take Red Sox Nation back to the promised land.
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