(Photo by Associated Press)
(Here is today’s Mariners minor-league report).
Bobby Valentine has become the biggest one-man soap opera in baseball, and it’s now close to a foregone conclusion that he will be fired as Red Sox manager after the season, if not sooner. The incident yesterday — in which he said he’d punch a radio interviewer who asked him if had “checked out” on the Red Sox — is only the latest in a series of media distractions this year involving the Red Sox (though I give Valentine a pass on this one. It was in inane, indelicate question designed to spark a strong reaction, based on the faulty premise that he had arrived “late” to the ballpark. Valentine testily set the record straight on that, and I don’t think anyone can fault Valentine for showing up at 4:15 (nearly three hours before first pitch) one isolated occasion because he was caught in traffic after picking up his son at the airport.
It’s a tempest in a teapot, but that’s what the Red Sox are famous for. I remember when Joe Kerrigan was the interim manager at the end of the 2001 season and into 2002 spring training, before getting fired in March, during the exhibition season, when the current ownership group was approved by MLB. That was the most toxic, unpleasant clubhouse I’ve ever been in — though it appears that this year’s might rival it. Valentine was in a hopeless situation from the start, apparently foisted upon the rookie general manager, not allowed to hire his own coaching staff, and handed a flawed team that had collapsed down the stretch last year with well-documented issues inside the clubhouse. Given Valentine’s strong personality, it’s not surprising that there has been turmoil, to the point that SI’s cover story this week features a beleaguered Valentine with the headline, “How the Red Sox Lost Their Way.”
It’s interesting to ponder how things would have been different, for two franchises, had Valentine gotten the Mariners job after the 2010 season, when they were looking for a replacement for the fired Don Wakamatsu.
Valentijne was interested in the job. There were reports Ichiro lobbied for Valentine (denied by Ichiro and the Mariners). He interviewed for the job (a process that included an “only Bobby V” incident, related by Dave Sims in his blog earlier this year).
But he didn’t get the job. Eric Wedge did. Valentine continued working another season as an analyst for ESPN before the Red Sox hired him last offseason.
Valentine is undeniably a brilliant baseball mind (and will be the first to tell you, some dectractors would say). He has one of those personalities that always seems to agitate some people (while others swear by him). He can’t seem to help himself when it comes to getting into controversy — it’s happened every stop of his career. But he did win a pennant with the Mets, and had some success with the Rangers. He would have brought some color and noteriety to the Mariners, one way or the other. But for the job at hand — molding a young team through the ups and downs of rebuilding — Wedge was the right choice.