Tale of Two Nations
|581-605 (.490)||Most wins by a|
|New York Mets|
|536-467 (.534)||2000 World Series appearance|
|Chiba Lotte Marines (1995, 2004-09)||473-430-21 (.523)||'05 Japan Series title|
Don't count on it. Valentine is happiest when he has control and for a long while he enjoyed it with the Marines, installing up-to-date electronic scouting systems and progressive marketing techniques. He turned that franchise into a cash cow, increasing membership in the team's fan club by 600 percent and revenues by 400 percent, The New York Times reported in May.Now, he says, upper management wants to undo everything he has accomplished. This season they banished five of his most trusted aides, telling them that they would be paid but had to stay away from the ballpark. "They're going back to the future," Valentine said pretty wistfully. "I don't understand it, but that's their prerogative. I meshed with a lot of things over here: the language, the food and everything else. The only thing I haven't quite meshed with is that very often I did not say what was supposed to be said. I guess I had the same problem over there [in the Major Leagues]." Valentine's reputation always precedes him, but that doesn't stop the rumor-mill from already generating possible big league landing places. When the Nationals dismissed Manny Acta at the All-Star break, word had it that Valentine might be in line for the job. No chance. It was given to Jim Riggleman, whom management may be content with enough to bring back for a full run next season. Could Valentine eventually be a good fit with the Dodgers, where he has a lifelong friend and confidant in Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda? Not with Joe Torre owning another season on his contract. When asked this weekend if he intends to retire after the 2010 season as previously stated, Torre said: "I think so." Would that open up a place ultimately for Valentine? "How would I know? I don't make those decisions," said Torre, who reportedly has been grooming hitting coach Don Mattingly as his possible replacement. "All I know is that Bobby is a very good baseball man. He just needs somebody to believe in him. "I was out for six seasons [between losing his Braves job in 1984 and being hired by the Cardinals in '90]. It didn't mean I knew any less about baseball. The Cardinals job opened and [then GM] Dal Maxvill hired me. Bobby's going to need somebody like that." No question, Valentine needs a secure owner and general manager to work with if he is to return to the big leagues, Darling agreed. "It would take an owner that would let Bobby, alone, run the team -- same thing with the GM," Darling said. "The problem now is owners want GMs to run the team and the manager has to be in compliance. That's not going to work with Bobby." To be sure, Valentine said he had a fine time in Japan and doesn't want the way it's ending to spoil the experience. Despite his split with Chiba management, Valentine departs knowing that he has left a major mark on the hearts of local baseball fans. After the Marines announced prior to the season that Valentine was indeed a lame duck, fans gathered more than 100,000 signatures on a petition and had vocal rallies imploring management to bring their Bobby back. At one rally, fans carried signs saying: "We would rather fight with Bobby, who says we're the world's best fans, than with a front office who calls us worthless" and "Bobby stands behind us. We stand behind Bobby." The support touched Valentine deeply, but in the end management was undaunted. Thus, last month, Valentine revealed on his own Web site that indeed he was not returning to Chiba. "I'm confident something good will happen," Valentine said. "My life has been blessed and something good always happens. I'm just trying to make the last few months here for my fans, my players, my coaches and everyone around me as comfortable as possible. We've had a wonderful run. I don't want it to end on a lousy note. And I don't want it to end with anyone thinking that I'm in a hurry to leave."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.