Thursday, October 22, 2009
Valentine interviews with Indians
CLEVELAND -- Bobby Valentine got his chance to convince the Cleveland Indians that they should hire him as their manager.
He may still need to convince himself.
The former New York Mets manager, who didn't lose an ounce of charisma during an extended stay in Japan, had his second interview with the Indians on Thursday. After meeting with team officials, Valentine spent more than 35 minutes stating his case -- for and against -- to the media.
Valentine expressed a strong desire to take on the rebuilding Indians, who finished in a tie for last in the AL Central with Kansas City.
He has some doubts, too.
"This is an opportunity to manage a major league team with a group of major league, classy people," Valentine said. "I almost have to ask: Why wouldn't I want this opportunity? ... But I don't know if that's exactly the thing I want to do right now either. I'm not sure that that's what I want to do. But I haven't been offered the job, so I don't have to decide if I definitely want to do this."
The 59-year-old Valentine is the second finalist to have a have a sit-down interview with the Indians, who fired Eric Wedge last month and spent last week doing initial interviews by phone.
On Tuesday, former Washington manager Manny Acta had an impressive second interview with the club. Torey Lovullo, the Indians' Triple-A manager for the past four years, is up Friday and the club is trying to schedule a meeting with Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly.
General manager Mark Shapiro said he is considering two other unnamed candidates, and would like to have a manager in place by the end of the World Series. Acta has also interviewed for Houston's job.
Valentine is far and away the most experienced of Cleveland's known finalists. He posted a 1,117-1,072 record with Texas and New York, leading the Mets to the World Series in 2000. Although he hasn't managed in the U.S. since 2002, and has admittedly lost touch with the major leagues, Valentine said there is nothing like being a big league manager.
He'd manage on Mars, so Cleveland would be just fine.
"I'm a baseball manager and they're looking to hire one of those guys," he said. "There are only 30 of these jobs and I'm fortunate to be considered for one of them."
Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines from 2004-09. He inherited one of Japanese baseball's worst teams and took them to a league championship in 2005. Valentine was adored by the team's fans, who held nightly vigils at the stadium and signed petitions when Chiba management refused to renew his $4 million contract.
"I had a six-year love affair with a country that plays baseball," he said. "Their baseball society is something that should be kept forever. Women play it. Kids play it and they still have baseball gloves on their handle bars. It was a six-year magic carpet ride."
Valentine can't explain his strong connection with Japanese fans.
"I have no idea," he said. "I'm bewildered and amazed."
Valentine recently returned from Japan and took a job as an analyst for ESPN, where he worked late into the night before flying to Cleveland early Thursday morning. He candidly acknowledged that the major league game, once so familiar, is now foreign to him.
"I have to catch up on at least four years of the new statistical information and abbreviations that are out there," Valentine said. "I have to brush up on six years of players who have entered the league that I have only seen on TV. I have to catch up on a whole generation of major league players."
Valentine excused some rambling answers on a lack of sleep, but he was sharp when he needed to be.
Because he just got back from overseas and immediately started his TV gig, there wasn't much time to prepare for his interview with the Indians.
"I don't know as much as someone who is interviewing for their manager's job probably should," he said. "I could have crammed for the last six days. But I didn't do it. I don't know about the American League. I don't know about the Central [division], and I don't know about the Indians. But I sure in hell am willing to learn and spend 28 hours a day, if necessary, to know everything I could possibly know."
Valentine's candor was striking and his honesty, refreshing. He was reminded that he was giving the Indians cause not to hire him.
So, why should they give him a shot?
"Only because I'm a manager who does a pretty good job at being a manager," he said. "In Japan, the guy (manager) is called 'tantoukachou.' The definition isn't a manager, it's a director. I really think I am more of a director. I can put things in place well. I can adjust the volume of the orchestra. I can put the right sounds and instruments in the right places to make something that is really pleasing to the ear, the eye and hopefully the baseball community.
"That's what I do for a living. Hopefully, it's good enough."