McAdam: Debunking three Valentine myths

McAdam: Debunking three Valentine myths
November 22, 2011, 3:02 am
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BOSTON -- Bobby Valentine has been so many things -- standout amateur baseball player, manager, broadcaster, competitive ballroom dancer -- that, even at 61, it's difficult to get a clear picture of him.

Making matters more complicated is that few people are neutral about Valentine. Valentine has both his ardent supporters and a seemingly equal number of vocal detractors -- and not many who are in-between.

In the last five days, Valentine has gone from stealth candidate to potential Red Sox managerial frontrunner.

Whether he's hired or not, here are three myths about Valentine that require debunking:

1) He's a winner.

That would depend on your definition of "winner."

It's true that Valentine's career winning percentage is .510 (1117-1072) over 2,189 games in the big leagues.

But a closer look reveals that Valentine, true to his winning percentage, was more "slightly above-average" than "winner" in his two previous turns.

In his first manager's job, with the Texas Rangers, Valentine spent eight seasons in the dugout and never reached the playoffs. In fact, for a time, Valentine held the dubious distinction of having managed the most number of games by an active manager without once qualifying for the postseason.

Managing the New York Mets, Valentine had six straight winning seasons and twice took the Mets to the playoffs -- once in 1999 as a wild-card entry which lost in the NLCS to the Atlanta Braves and again in 2000, when he directed the Mets to the World Series (where they lost to the New York Yankees in a famed Subway Series).

In 15 years, Valentine managed a team into the postseason twice. Similarly, his teams cracked the 90-win plateau two times. His teams never finished better than second.

2) He wouldn't stand for the kind of frat-house behavior that sank the 2011 Red Sox.

Actually, Valentine twice oversaw teams which had some similar issues.

In 1999, as the Mets season was ending, at least two of the team's stars -- Bobby Bonilla and Rickey Henderson -- were otherwise occupied. In Game 6 of the NLCS, Bonilla and Henderson were in the clubhouse playing cards while the Mets tried, unsuccessfully, to force a Game 7.

Then, in 2002, some stories alleged that as many as seven players on the roster had smoked marijuana. Some, it was reported, hired limousines rather than take the team bus so they could smoke postgame.

When Valentine was fired after the 2002 season, owner Fred Wilpon said Valentine had lost control of the clubhouse and the players.

Given the late-season implosion the Sox underwent, complete with players drinking beer and eating fried chicken, Valentine undoubtedly had some explaining to do in his interview with Red Sox management and ownership.

3) At 61, Valentine is too established and too set in his ways to incorporate some of the new statistical metrics which the Red Sox employ.

To the contrary, Valentine has long been eager to incorporate advanced statistical data for in-game strategy, dating all the way back to his first major league managerial
job in Texas.

There, Craig Wright, a forerunner among sabremeticians, supplied him with data and Valentie embraced it.

At the time, Wright's information was rather basic; statistical anaylsis has grown mightily in the last 25 years or so.

But when you consider that some organizations still eye such data wearily, the very fact that Valentine was willing to incorporate such information as early as the mid-to-late 1980s signals a willingness to try new things and listen to what others have to offer.