When the Mets hired Bobby Valentine as manager at the end of the 1996 season, my friend, a Production Assistant for WWOR-TV, was not happy. O-R was still broadcasting Mets games at the time, and my friend worked for the crew. He lamented the departure of the more approachable Dallas Green, and the return of the sometimes-abrasive Bobby Valentine.
Valentine, it seems, had been difficult to deal with from the standpoint of the media, even when he was merely the Mets’ third base coach in the 80s.
However, he went on to be one of the most successful managers in the team’s history, leading them to the playoffs in 1999 and 2000. And his strong-willed attitude was a hit with the fans, if not always with the media and the front office.
The media found him difficult to read. Sometimes it was hard to tell if he was joking or not. The most extreme example was the famous incident in 1999. Valentine was ejected from the game, then snuck back into the dugout wearing a fake mustache constructed of eye-black patches. It was clearly some kind of joke, considering it was blatantly Bobby V behind the disguise. Right? Nobody knew whether he was seriously trying to fool the umpires, or pulling some kind of prank.
He feuded with then-GM Steve Phillips over various issues such as player personnel. In June of 1999, Phillips fired three members of Valentine’s coaching staff, some say in an effort to force him to resign. Valentine stood his ground, and managed the Mets to the playoffs that year. After a disappointing 2002 season, in which he failed to reel in the massive egos and contracts of disastrous free agents signed by Phillips, Valentine was fired.
Bobby went on to find success in Japan as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines. Last year, he displayed his refreshing honesty and passion as a member of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team.
Now, he’s back in the majors as the new manager of the Boston Red Sox. The Boston media has already begun the negative spin, showing that Valentine still has a bad reputation among reporters.
But his hiring in Boston will be great for baseball. He will bring controversy, competitive fire, and honesty to one of baseball’s most high-profile franchises. He may rub some players the wrong way at first. But, based on his track record, he will bring success to a team still reeling after their collapse in 2011.