Today, Bobby Valentine will be introduced as the next manager of the Boston Red Sox. Most Mets fans who were rooting for the team a little over a decade ago feel some connection to Bobby V, and I am no different. I’m happy that Valentine is back managing in the United States again, although admittedly a little sad that it isn’t with the Mets (which was probably the right move since he would’ve cost more than Terry Collins). I associate Valentine with the Mets of the late 90s and early 2000s, teams that I grew up with and that had the most success since the clubs of the mid-late 1980s. For the right or wrong reasons, he will hold a special place in my personal Mets history.
Judging the impact of a manager is a difficult task. A manager can set the lineup, call for a hit and run or change the defensive alignment, and these moves can work out or not work out, oftentimes not as a result of the manager at all. Nowadays, I will criticize a manager if he calls for the bunt at the inappropriate time (almost always) or for putting the speediest hitter in the leadoff slot as opposed to one with a higher on-base percentage, but when Bobby V managed the Mets, I wasn’t so interested in that stuff as I was his personality and passion for the game-Valentine had both. There are a lot of reasons that I like Valentine, some of which have nothing to do with baseball or strategy, and I am OK with that. So good luck in Boston, Bobby, and here is why I will always have fond memories of him in a Mets uniform:
He Won Games
Managers are judged primarily on wins and losses, and when Valentine was around, the Mets seemed to win. In his six full seasons with the Amazins, the team finished below .500 just once (2002, when the front office brought in Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz and others). His 536-467 record as Mets manager puts him second all time in wins behind Davey Johnson (595) and third in winning percentage, behind Johnson (.588) and Willie Randolph (.544). Hard to dislike a manager when the team is winning
He Took The Mets To The World Series
Only four managers in Mets history have been to the World Series, and Valentine is one of them. Although he didn’t capture the title, Valentine still guided the Mets through two memorable postseason runs. Let’s see if he can do the same in Boston.
He Was A True SABR?
Amazing Avenue and Mark Simon go into a lot of detail over whether or not Valentine subscribed to sabermetrics when he was with the Mets. Back then, I hadn’t the faintest idea what sabermetrics was, but to think that Valentine employed some of these tendencies is pretty cool. It would explain why Benny Agbyani hit leadoff 27 times in 2000 (see: .391 OBP).
The Mustache Incident
Come on, who doesn’t love this.
He Had The First Baseman Play In Front Of The Runner
I just thought this was interesting ten years ago, but now I see why it could work. By playing in front of the runner, the first baseman, can, in theory, cover more ground on a ball in play while still holding the runner on. I would like to see the Mets employ this tactic with Ike Davis, but it probably won’t happen.
He Claims To Have Invented The Wrap Sandwich
No matter which version of the story you believe, it’s still a great thing to claim as your own.
He Let His Passionate Side Show On The Field
When Bobby V was fired, the Mets went in a different managerial direction and hired Art Howe-someone who was stoic and kept his emotions in check. I don’t doubt the passion that Howe, or for that matter Randolph and Jerry Manuel, have for the game, but Valentine would let his emotions show on the field, and there was something that drew me to that. The best example I can think of is from July 8, 2000. The Mets and Yankees were scheduled to play a split-stadium double header, with the first game taking place at Shea. The first batter of the game, Chuck Knoblauch, singled but was thrown out trying to advance to second. However, the umpires ruled that Mets first baseman Todd Zeile had obstructed Knoblauch’s path to second base, and he therefore was awarded the bag. Out of the dugout came Valentine, emphatically making his case to the umpires, but to avail. He’d eventually get tossed, but not before he repeatedly re-traced Knoblauch’s steps to help prove his point. The Mets lost both games that day, but that memory will stick in my head forever.
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