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Bobby Valentine has managed more than 2,000 games, famously donned a fake mustache and possibly made culinary history.
There's plenty to know about the man who is taking over as the manager of Boston Red Sox. Let's dive into some of the most intriguing aspects of Bobby V.
Valentine hasn't managed in the majors since 2002. That may be the most common reaction to the hire.
That nine-year gap between managerial gigs seems long, but doesn't even rank among the 25 longest in MLB history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Red Sox provide two extreme examples. In 1960, Del Baker managed five games for the Red Sox 18 years after his previous stint. Four years later, Boston hired Billy Herman 17 years after he'd last managed.
At 61, Valentine is old for a managerial hire. He'll be the oldest Red Sox manager since Ralph Houk in the early 1980s. Consider that Valentine would be the sixth-oldest manager to win the World Series if Boston went all the way in 2012.
With that age comes significant experience. Valentine's 15 years of experience rank fifth among active managers.
Yet in all those years, Valentine has never led his team to a first-place finish. His 2,189 career games are the third-most for a manager who has never finished first. Only Jimmy Dykes and Frank Robinson have more.
That number is a bit misleading in the wild-card era. Valentine still led the Mets to a pair of postseason berths, including the 2000 World Series.
The situation in Boston is unique to Valentine's prior history because he is taking over a playoff-caliber team. Previously, Valentine has excelled as a turnaround specialist.
In Texas, he took over a last-place team and a franchise that had never made the postseason. The Rangers enjoyed a 25-win improvement and second-place finish in his first full season.
With the Mets, Valentine took over a franchise that suffered through six straight losing seasons. The Mets won 88 games in his first full season, 17 more than the previous year. By his third full season, they reached the playoffs. A World Series appearance came the following year.
Valentine has a strong history of quick improvement. With Boston, even the slightest turnaround could mean immediate gratification.
It's hard to look at Valentine's managerial history and predict specifics. Just because he experimented with Benny Agbayani as a leadoff hitter doesn't mean he'd do the same with Kevin Youkilis. Different rosters require different adjustments.
If history tells us one thing, it's to expect some entertainment from Valentine.
Francona provided an even-keeled public face to the Red Sox, rarely making a spectacle of himself. His most memorable quotes seemed to focus on Dustin Pedroia's cribbage skills. Perhaps it was this "no drama" Francona mentality that made revelations of clubhouse issues so surprising.
|Things are seldom boring with Bobby Valentine, who's not afraid to mix it up with umpires, players or the media.|
For better or worse, things will likely be different under Valentine. Talk radio hosts can begin salivating.
The Rangers found this out quickly back in 1985, Valentine's first season as manager. Just 39 games into his tenure, Valentine was tossed from a game for arguing balls and strikes. After the game, he offered no words for umpire Tim McClelland.
"If he's a major league umpire, then I'm a submarine pilot," Valentine said. "They go about their job with as much intensity as a chain gang."
Valentine also got under the skin of opposing players. Just ask former Mariners catcher Dave Valle. In 1991, Valle was walking to first base after being hit by a pitch when he looked over at the Rangers' dugout.
"[Valentine] was yelling at me to come in his dugout after him," Valle said, according to the Seattle Times. "He was yelling he'd never hit a guy batting .140."
Two games later, Valle was hit again. Rather than going after pitcher Kevin Brown, Valle made the rare decision of charging the opposing manager. Both benches cleared, and Valle wound up suspended for three games.
Of course, no discussion of Valentine's antics would be complete without mention of the fake mustache incident during his stint with the Mets.
On June 9, 1999, Valentine pulled a stunt that still makes the highlight reels. He was ejected in the 12th inning for arguing a catcher interference call against Mike Piazza. Several minutes later, Valentine returned to the dugout area disguised in glasses and a fake mustache.
Cameras would be his downfall, though. Valentine was suspended two games and fined $5,000.
The real question: Where did he find a fake mustache? Turns out it was just two pieces of black tape.
When the Rangers decided to part ways with Valentine in the middle of 1992, it was a bit overshadowed by other news breaking that day. Bill Clinton tapped Al Gore as his running mate. That coincidence takes on added irony given that George W. Bush fired Valentine.
Sure, it was almost 20 years ago. But a close examination of Valentine's previous downfalls could provide future lessons.
Valentine was considered a managerial prodigy when, at 35, the Rangers made him the youngest manager in the majors in 1985. After a surprising surge in his first full season, Valentine struggled to lead Texas beyond the middle of the pack.
By 1992, the franchise was in its 32nd year of existence and still hadn't made the postseason. Valentine had a close relationship with general manager Tom Grieve, but eventually the organization opted to go in another direction.
It's not like they didn't give Valentine a chance. Still just 42, he had the third-longest tenure of any manager at the time. Upon his firing, he'd managed more games with a single team (1,186) without a division or league title than any other manager in the 20th century.
As firings go, this one was rather amicable. Valentine was lauded for his work in the community. The future president of the United States praised his work. The Rangers simply opted for change, hoping to replicate the midseason success of Boston's "Morgan Magic" from four years prior.
As with any manager, there were plenty of complaints about Valentine. His personality rubbed some the wrong way. His Rangers squads played poor defense, finishing in the top four of the AL in errors for five straight seasons.
Valentine also developed a reputation for overusing pitchers. As the Associated Press noted upon his firing, the Rangers had placed 30 pitchers on the disabled list over his final 3½ seasons compared to only six for the Twins. In 1992, the Rangers used 25 pitchers, the most in the majors.
If Valentine's departure from Texas was relatively civil, the end of the road in New York was anything but.
Valentine took over for the Mets near the end of the 1996 season. By 1999, he'd led the Mets to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. The following year, they played in the World Series. Unlike in Texas, failure to reach the postseason wasn't the issue.
|After being fired by the Mets, Valentine said, "If I had to do anything over again, I would have smiled more, to get it lighter."|
Nor was wearing out his pitching staff. In fact, Valentine was praised for maintaining a healthy rotation. In 2000, each member of the Opening Day rotation would make at least 27 starts.
So what went wrong? Though not on the same level as the 2011 Red Sox, the Mets unraveled at the end of Valentine's tenure. Already struggling, they went 0-13 at home during August. Off the field, controversy hit, with reports of marijuana use among players.
The end of Valentine's reign revealed a particularly strained relationship with general manager Steve Phillips. Valentine took issue with Phillips' meddling in the dugout and on the field. Management didn't publicly back Valentine in rifts with certain players, particularly Bobby Bonilla. Valentine also felt disconnected with personnel decisions, particularly involving his own coaching staff.
Given this rocky history, Valentine's relationship with new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington warrants close watching.
Valentine's stint with the Mets prepared him for the scrutiny he'll face in Boston. After his firing, he described New York as a place where "little things are big things, and as they become big things, they become distractions."
That's one lesson he won't need to learn on the job.
"If I had to do anything over again," he said one day after his dismissal, "I would have smiled more, to get it lighter."
What Bill James did for baseball statistics, Valentine did for standard lunch fare.
Or so he claims.
If Valentine is to be believed, he may be one of the great modern culinary innovators.
Perhaps the most polarizing subject surrounding Bobby Valentine has nothing to do with baseball. As a young restaurateur in the early 1980s, Valentine claims to have invented the wrap sandwich.
Here's how he explained it to the Houston Chronicle in 2010:
"A customer asked for a club sandwich. Our toaster wasn't working, so I couldn't toast the toast. I looked around and took a tortilla and filled it with all the things from our regular club sandwich. I threw grated cheese on top and wrapped it up. I put it in front of my customer and said it was our new Club Mex. I just made up the name. He liked it, so I put it on the menu, and it's still there."
Valentine isn't the only current manager with a claim on a historical oddity. Dusty Baker is believed to have been involved in the first high-five in MLB history.
But is Valentine really the modern-day Earl of Sandwich? Even he seems to acknowledge that it's a bit of a flimsy claim.
"That's legend and folklore," he told the Chronicle. "But until somebody disputes me or comes up with a better story, I'll say I invented the wrap."
Jeremy Lundblad is a senior researcher with ESPN Stats & Information. He provides statistical analysis for ESPNBoston.com.