ATLANTA: Manager Bobby Valentine of the New York Mets holds his NYPD hat over his heart during the national anthem before the second game of a MLB double-header against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. The Mets shut out the Braves 5-0. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Bobby Valentine's never managed a first-place team, but he's entertaining as hell and that's plenty good enough for most of us.
By all accounts, the thing is done: Bobby Valentine, of all people and out of essentially nowhere, is the Boston Red Sox' new manager. Did anyone see this coming, two months ago? Would any of this be happening if the Red Sox had won just two more games over the course of six long months?
There will be a great deal of idle speculation about Bobby Valentine's impact, and in a moment I'm going to engage in my own brand of idleness. But before that, I would like to open the floor to someone who's seen Valentine up close, day after day after day during the pressure-cooking marathon of a Major League Baseball season.
Now imagine you play for the Red Sox. You're coming off a dispiriting September collapse that has been dissected from every angle for two months. Your new manager is a brilliant strategist, yes, but also a man who can keep you guessing, who often imparts layers of meaning to everything he says. You will wonder what he's thinking, and why.
If you're smart - and if Valentine has enough disciples to spread his word in the clubhouse - you will take advantage of one of the brightest minds in the game. Most of all, you will pay attention, and for a talented team trying to shake the ghosts of September, that is a pretty good start.
You know, it's easy to suggest that Valentine's impact will be positive for a year or two, but before long his players will grow tired of his schtick.
Perhaps. But we're not talking about Billy Martin here. Valentine managed the Rangers for six full seasons and parts of two more. He managed the Mets for six full seasons. I don't mean to suggest that he won't eventually wear out his welcome; nearly every manager does, and Valentine did get fired from both jobs. Perhaps with good cause.
Another funny thing about Valentine ... The word on the street, I think, is that Valentine will either succeed wildly or fail spectacularly.
But that's never happened before. All those teams he's managed on this side of the Pacific, and none were truly great or truly terrible. He's never managed a first-place team, and his three last-place teams really weren't so bad.
Well, you could argue that Valentine's Mets were great in 1999 and 2000; they finished second, but they won 97 and 94 games and the latter squad reached the World Series. But let's be honest about this ... If Bobby Valentine had Gene Lamont's personality, he'd be just another moderately successful manager with a .510 career winning percentage.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's certainly possible that Valentine's gotten smarter with age. It's likely that a moderately successful manager will do quite well managing the Red Sox. And this is where we recall that when Terry Francona took the reins in Boston, he sported a .440 career winning percentage.
The numbers can take you only so far. If you're a Red Sox fan, about all you can do is hope because you really can't know. If you're the rest of us, though, you should be absolutely thrilled that the Boston Red Sox have hired Bobby Valentine. Whatever you (or blogger Murray Chass) might think of Bobby Valentine, you have to agree that the American League's going to be a lot more interesting with him than without him.