The worst part of Bobby Valentine's soon-to-be-over slow-motion train wreck with the Red Sox is its predictability. To say that Bobby Valentine has never gracefully handled a losing season would only obscure the fact that he's never gracefully handled any season. (Even during the salad days with the Mets, Bobby V. would feud with players and take swipes at Steve Phillips from the tabloids.)
So, as a public service to any general managers thinking about hiring the former manager of the Texas Rangers, the former manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines (twice), the former manager of the New York Mets, and the soon-to-be former manager of the Boston Red Sox, I offer this step-by-step guide to a Bobby Valentine meltdown.
1. Alienates the veterans
Bobby V. often talks about how much he likes to work with the young players, but he rarely mentions the inverse: how much likes to piss off his veterans. It's not exactly shocking—Valentine loves being the face of his team, loves instructing players on his method of doing things, and has a passive-aggressive way of insulting the guys who don't fall in line.
This dynamic goes a long way toward explaining Bobby V.'s affection for managing in Japan, where the fans sing his name, and the media and the players are much more willing to defer to his authority and celebrity, however unearned they may be.
In Texas. From the Dallas Morning News (July 12, 1992):
The management style worked well when he first arrived with the Rangers because there was much to do, House said. "The style became reinforced," he said. The veteran players generally came to resent it. Buddy Bell was the first of many. Pete Incaviglia, a Valentine backer early on, grew to despise him.
In Japan. The Daily Yomiuri (Oct. 26, 1995):
"I never imagined we would finish in second when I took over. The Japanese players were great. That is why we improved so much. (Pete) Incaviglia didn't help us, and (Julio) Franco only did a bit."
You'll notice that Pete Incaviglia hated Bobby V. in Texas and then hilariously traveled to Japan three years later for more abuse. The two men had supposedly reconciled in 1993, but no amount of goodwill could overcome Incaviglia's .181 batting average in Chiba.
In New York. Daily News (Dec. 11, 1998):
Hundley criticized Valentine's managing during a television interview Wednesday in Los Angeles. Valentine fired back yesterday during another TV interview with an implication that Hundley was paranoid about Valentine's Italian-American heritage.
"Todd does a lot of that Italian stuff," Valentine said in an interview that appeared on MSG Network last night. "It's an Italian thing. He thinks that I would do something because he's not Italian or because I am Italian. I think that's ridiculous."
In Boston. Yahoo Sports (Aug. 14, 2012):
The owners called the meeting for Boston's off-day in New York on July 26 after first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, texting on behalf of himself and some teammates, aired their dissatisfaction with Valentine for embarrassing starting pitcher Jon Lester by leaving him in to allow 11 runs during a July 22 start. It was the latest incident in a season's worth of bad relations bubbling between Red Sox players and Valentine.
2. Alienates his coaches and claim sabotage
Valentine has collected some very loyal acolytes over the years. During his second tour with the Chiba Lotte Marines, he staffed positions throughout the organization with close associates, some he had known practically all his life. After a Japanese street was named in Bobby V.'s honor in 2005, Frank Ramppen, Valentine's bench coach in Chiba and friend since high school, said: "For 27 years I've been doing things 'Valentine's Way.' And now I actually live on Valentine's Way."
But when things have gone wrong for the manager, losing a grip on his coaching staff has been a common symptom. Steve Phillips famously fired most of Valentine's staff midseason in 1999, inserting his own guys. Many saw Phillips's move as an invitation for Valentine to resign, but Bobby responded with an ambitious guarantee, on which he delivered. But that trick only worked once.
In Texas. Chicago Sun-Times (July 19, 1992):
Texas pitching coach Tom House, on the personality of former manager Bobby Valentine: "He can't walk into a room and not be the center of attention."
In Japan. The Daily Yomiuri (Oct. 26, 1995):
Valentine detailed how the Marines' GM received daily written reports on what transpired in team practice sessions. The reports were not filed by Valentine but rather by the two coaches who, Valentine said, "had a different agenda."
In New York. Newsday, (Oct. 3, 2002):
"At one time I told Fred that he was getting bad information about me," Valentine said. "Things would be brought up and said and I didn't think there was a lot of basis for it, but Fred would state it with conviction.
In Boston. ESPN Boston (July 3, 2012):
Valentine has voiced frustration to associates over his lack of communication with members of his coaching staff, especially pitching coach Bob McClure, but also bullpen coach Gary Tuck and bench coach Tim Bogar.
Tuck keeps his communication with Valentine to a minimum. He is known to walk past the manager without so much as a hello.
3. Acts like his return is a foregone conclusion
Valentine's statements to the media are generally meant to do one of three things: obfuscate, brag, or piss off his boss. This next series of proclamations does all three.
In Japan. The Daily Yomiuri (Sept. 5, 1995):
"I have one offer and that's to be here next year and I'd like to see this through to a championship season."
In New York. New York Post (Oct. 21, 1999):
So there is no question he wants to come back?
"Why wouldn't I?" Valentine asked.
So why wouldn't he answer the question directly?
"Because it gives credence to the ridiculous," he said. "I don't want to talk about it."
Because if there's one thing a guy who does Japanese burger and beer commercials will never do, it's give credence to the ridiculous.
In Boston. WEEI (Sept. 12, 2012):
"It's not up to me, but I think I will be, yeah. And beyond," he said. "Why would I say that I want to be here for 2013 as though that's going to be the end of something? That will be the continuation and hopefully the beginning of something really special. Why would I think it's going to be a year's job?"
4. A former boss backs him inexplicably
In New York (backed by President George W. Bush, former Texas owner). Newsday, Oct. 3, 2002:
"Bobby Valentine is a good man. He's a good manager. He's done a lot for this community," Bush said at the time. "But having said that, we were concerned about this pennant race, the 1992 pennant race getting away from us."
"I was hoping we'd have a franchise where I'd be 80 and Valentine would be 76 and we'd be comparing [championship] rings on all 10 fingers," he said. "It just didn't work out."
In this alternate universe, Bobby V. never gets fired in 1992; the Rangers win every World Series from 1993-2003; George W. Bush retains his ownership stake instead of flipping it into a $15 million fortune that funds the launch of his political career; and Al Gore assumes the presidency in 2000. What I'm saying here is: The Iraq War is Bobby Valentine's fault. Never forget that.
In Boston (backed by Steve Phillips, former Mets GM). Boston Herald (Aug. 24, 2012):
"I feel for Bobby because it's been a struggle," Phillips told the Herald by phone yesterday. "As the season began, it felt like Bobby was an outsider coming into a team that had a certain way of doing things. When you're a new manager and you have players that are back from the year before, there's some part of that. But it doesn't feel like Bobby's been given much of a break."
5. Gets fired
6. Trashes his former boss
This is what makes Step 4 so very odd.
In Texas (regarding Tom Schieffer, Texas Rangers president at the time). Dallas Morning News (Oct. 25, 1992):
After he was fired, Valentine took a dig at Schieffer: "He wants his signature on everything having to do with the Rangers. "Schieffer said Valentine called the next day to apologize for that statement. Those close to Schieffer don't see him as a man driven by ego.
In Japan (regarding Masuichi Takagi, Chiba Lotte assistant general manager at the time). AP (Nov. 6, 1995):
''The difference was that I continued to learn about baseball,'' [Valentine] added. ''All of the players on the team were embarrassed to have somebody who had never played the game of professional baseball out on the field teaching.''
In New York (regarding Steve Phillips). Daily News (Oct. 3, 2002):
But the most incriminating remark by Valentine, which probably would not be viewed as a violation of the privacy clause, only damaged his image: "Nobody has done more for the community than I have. Steve Phillips has done nothing in the community."
7. Claims he's not over the break-up
In Texas. Los Angeles Times (July 10, 1992):
"I'm not ready to move away from this team right now with my heart, my mind or my talent," Valentine said. "We might stay here and watch them win the World Series."
In Japan. The Daily Yomiuri (Oct. 26, 1995):
As odd as it may seem, Valentine said, "I think I could manage the Marines again. Even now I don't think there is that big of a problem. If Hirooka and I had any problem, it was a 'generational one.' The reason I'm out is because of 'bad information' he got from two of the coaches."
Given the above behavior, why would anyone hire Bobby Valentine? Well, he is considered a baseball savant by the many—a concession in which disgruntled beat writers often couch their criticism of him. Whether it's truth or just a myth perpetuated by Valentine's own huge ego seems immaterial; reputation has definitely kept Valentine employed. (Anecdotally, having watched him take a 2000 Mets team with a very questionable outfield and Todd Zeile to the World Series, I'd like to believe.)
But one can hardly imagine a worse fit for Bobby V. than these Red Sox. In all the ways the Chiba Lotte Marines suited Bobby V. (no clear identity, desperate fans, and pliable players), Boston is the near opposite (established history, the most self-indulgent fanbase in America, and a clubhouse full of chicken, beer, and egos).
All managers are viewed through the prism of their records, but maybe none more so than Bobby V., who easily endears himself when times are good with his squeaky, passionate voice and his ubiquitous face-straining smile. Everyone remember his hilarious fake-mustache gag after getting ejected in an extra-innings game, though few remember the subtext: He wasn't going to allow Steve Phillips's newly appointed bench coach manage his team.
With the Red Sox season over, we're just moments from Step 5, with 6 and 7 sure to unfold as Valentine begins another incoherent stint with ESPN. Let's hope that someone thinks to bring him back, and we can start the cycle anew. Baseball just isn't baseball if Bobby V. isn't being a dick somewhere.