Bobby Valentine hasn't managed for the last two years, instead spending his time as an analyst on ESPN. While he has been rumored to be able to have another managing job in the majors whenever he wants to, that hasn't been the case, even when teams were reportedly interested. The latest team to be linked to Valentine is the Red Sox, who lost their supposed top choice, Dale Sveum, to the Cubs yesterday.
Valentine has been in baseball for a long time. He was born in 1950, and was recruited by UCLA after starring in both football and baseball back home in Connecticut. The Los Angeles Dodgers selected him fifth overall in the 1968 draft, and in his first professional season, he won the Pioneer League MVP.
This fast-tracked him to the majors, where he debuted in 1969, but he was placed back in the minors until 1971, when he made the majors out of spring training. He ended up playing for 10 years, not only with the Dodgers, but also the Angels, Padres, Mets, and Mariners.
While his career was unremarkable, and ended almost immediately after he turned 30, he didn't have to wait very long to be back in the game. He was a manager just five seasons after finishing his playing career, taking over the Rangers when he was all of 35 years old. He stuck until he was fired during the 1992 season, after posting a combined .490 winning percentage over his time there. The Rangers were mediocre, but they also had a mediocre roster, and a manager not named Joe Maddon can only do so much good, you know.
Valentine's next managerial gig came across the Pacific, with the Chiba Lotte Marines. Japanese baseball is very different from baseball here in the United States. The strike zone isn't the same, as many a Japanese pitcher could tell you, and all substitutions require a Pokeball to be thrown onto the field, with the manager shouting, "I choose you!" to the player in question.
Valentine's Marines, who had never won much to that point, came in second, but Valentine was fired in the middle of his two-year contract thanks to a dispute with team management. His former team, the Mets, were waiting for him, though, and Valentine managed their Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk before being promoted to the majors.
He was highly successful there, at the helm of talented Mets teams featuring the likes of Mike Piazza, the good version of Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura and others in the lineup, with Mike Hampton, Al Leiter, and a long list of other capable veterans forming quality rotations. There was also that incident with the fake mustache and glasses, but if anything, that should make people want him to be employed even more.
Valentine once again was not well-liked by management, though, and Steve Phillips, GM at the time, sent him packing in 2002. It was back to Japan for Valentine, where all he did was lead the Marines to both a pennant and a Japan Series title for the first time since 1974.
This turned Valentine into something of a Japanese celebrity, and when he was once again let go from the Marines, there was a swell of fan support to retain him. That is where the ESPN gig came from, and while not everyone agrees with his analysis in the booth -- much of the anti-Valentine sentiment from Red Sox fans deals with his time as an analyst rather than as a manager -- he has had plenty of success in the dugout. Even if that success hasn't helped him avoid contentious relationships with his superiors, it has come in big markets with plenty of media attention, something the Red Sox owners are going to want in their next manager.
His history of conflict with his bosses makes him an odd fit for the Red Sox, who might like certain things about Valentine, but end up not wanting to deal with the hassle of his personality in the long run. Then again, they are a win-now team, looking for a win-now manager, and Valentine might be a good short-term fit while they have a team loaded with veteran players. Red Sox players have been contrite about September, both with their performance on the field and in the clubhouse, and Valentine might be the guy Boston figures can help the players keep their word on righting things.
Of course, they also thought that about the other candidates they brought in, so it's not as if Valentine is magical and unique in that regard. But with Sveum gone, Pete Mackanin out, and Boston emphasizing that maybe managerial experience is a plus, Valentine does start to look good.