As I write this, all the rumor, scuttlebutt, and foofara points to Bobby Valentine becoming the next manager of the Florida Marlins. This would distress me greatly, because I love Bobby V, and I despise the Marlins.
I actually don’t hate any player on the Marlins. I just have no respect for them, as an organization. They’ve won two World Series and dismantled themselves immediately after winning both of them. They take revenue sharing money from MLB and refuse to spend it on their roster unless shamed by Bud Selig into doing so (when Selig sides against an owner, you know they’re really doing something wrong). They play in a cavernous, charmless stadium that they couldn’t fill if each seat came with a free beer and blow job. And their owner is easily the biggest shitheel in baseball now that George Steinbrenner is retired.
One of my most painful baseball memories: seeing the Mets lose to the Marlins on the last day of the 2008 season, the last game ever at Shea. The loss prevented them from finishing in a tie with the Brewers for the wild card, and brought on another long winter.
Yes, the blame falls on the Mets themselves for letting this happen. But after the Mets made the last out, the Marlins hugged and high-fived on the field like a bunch of Little Leaguers who just earned a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. I know teams congratulate each other on the field all the time, but this was a prolonged, obnoxious celebration. They milked this bit for every last drop, as angry fans screamed GET OFF THE DAMN FIELD!! It was basically a huge extended middle finger to everyone in the crowd, and I will hate the Marlins until the day I die for that.
Not to mention this was the second year in a row that the Marlins beat the Mets on the last day of the season to destroy their playoff hopes. Yes, please, let’s not mention it.
As for Bobby Valentine, I know a lot of people don’t like him for one reason or another, and I understand why people wouldn’t like him. He certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of ego or excess of humility. He has a weird sense of humor that doesn’t always translate well after it leaves his brain and enters the real world. Like his infamous dugout disguise in 1999, or his attempts at Cheech and Chong-esque jokes during the Grant Roberts mess in 2002.
Allowing all of that, I think Bobby Valentine is a true baseball genius. Just look at the Mets teams he brought to the postseason. They had lots of talent and were fun to watch (particularly in 1999), but they were not teams that should’ve gone deep into the playoffs.
Valentine was able to take those teams’ weaknesses and turn them into strengths. He compensated for a relatively weak starting rotation with judicious use of a great bullpen. While he wasn’t afraid to use his relievers early and often, rarely did he overuse them.
He also didn’t have fantastic outfielders to choose from, so he switched often between guys like Benny Agbayani, Ronny Cedeno, Darryl Hamilton, Melvin Mora, Jay Payton, Timo Perez…not exactly a collection of superstars. And yet he found enough playing time for all of them, while also managing to identify whoever had the “hot hand” at the time.
Bobby Valentine was fired after the 2002 season to pay for Steve Phillips’ sins, which still stands out as one of the dumbest things the Mets have ever done (quite a feat, considering the team). He found success managing in Japan, but clearly (and understandably) feels like he still has something to prove in the majors.
And I would love to see him prove it–if not with the Mets, then with somebody. I could even stomach Bobby V managing the Phillies or the Yankees. But there’s something about seeing him manage the Marlins that seems both unseemly and beneath him. Like he’s grasping at this opportunity simply because it’s been offered to him, when he would really be better served holding out for something better.
I’m sure that’s not true. After all, he interviewed for the Orioles’ opening and decided that wasn’t for him (who is it for?). And he’s apparently good buddies with Jeff Loria (a fact that makes me question all the good things I’ve said about him), so at least there’s some connection between the two men.
But seeing him in a Marlin uniform–which now appears more a matter of When than If–will be kind of like seeing Eugene Levy in all those terrible American Pie straight-to-DVD follow-ups, or Steve Martin in virtually everything he’s done in the last 15 years. You just wanna grab him and say, “Look, I know you want the work, and maybe on some level you need it, but you’re better than this, and this will not end well.”
Because you know that, even if Bobby V and Loria are BFFs, there will be conflicts between the two of them over the direction of the team. I can’t imagine he’ll enjoy Florida’s $45 million payroll, or taking buses between cities, or scrubbing the dirt out his players’ uniforms by hand, or mowing the field on off days.
Loria’s already run two good managers out of Florida–first Joe Girardi, then Fredi Gonzalez (and basically handed the Braves, a division rival, their future manager in the process). Bobby V is no better than either of these guys in his willingness to take shit from others. Is he likely to stay quiet when Loria continues to do things on the cheap, or do other insane things like install a shark tank behind home plate at their new stadium? Unlikely.
So if you haven’t said yes yet, Bobby, and you have a spare moment to reconsider, I humbly suggest you do so. Jeff Loria might be your buddy now, but I bet he gets a lot less friendly once five dollars is involved.