November 30, 2011

Valentine Called "The Perfect Choice", But What Will He Do?

ESPN's David Schoenfield:
[T]he talk will mostly be about his personality. But what kind of manager was he? Let's look back at his career -- focusing mostly on his full seasons with the Mets from 1997 to 2002 -- to see what that may indicate about how he'll manage the Red Sox.
The questions: Will Carl Crawford hit leadoff? Does he like the quick hook or does he let his starters stay in the game? Does he like an experienced closer? Does he like strikeout pitchers or guys who throw strikes? Does he like a set lineup? Does he like young players?

Tim Kurkjian says Valentine is perfect for the Red Sox:
It takes a special person to manage in Boston, especially now, after the tumultuous last few months. Experience is crucial, as is charisma, leadership, salesmanship, a way with the media and a thick skin. Bobby Valentine, the new manager of the Red Sox, has all of that. ...

The Red Sox have tremendous talent and nearly unlimited funds, but they need someone to change the culture in the clubhouse that apparently has had too much beer and fried chicken. And the Red Sox need a good will hunter to placate a fan base that is as angry as it is adoring. Wherever Valentine goes, change - usually for the good - follows. There is no better salesman. There is no one in the game that has more energy.
More Kurkjian:
He has no patience for some of the clich├ęd teaching techniques today, and the common misconceptions about the game. ... No one "swings down on the ball," he says, and he says there is no black on home plate, so the pitch can't be "on the black." He says that pitchers don't get "on top of the ball." That's impossible; their hand is on the side of the ball. And don't start him on the "checked swing rule," or the "check swing rule," because he says, "there is no rule in the rule book for a checked swing. People don't even know what it is. They don't even know how to pronounce it. So how can you call it?" ...

Valentine is 61 now. He has matured greatly. He's not as smug and as arrogant as he used to be, but not much else has changed. ... When he takes on a project, "I have to do the whole thing," he said. ... [N]o manager in the game will out-fox Valentine on any strategic move. In the one year I covered his team, and for the 30 years I have known him, not once have I asked him a question about a move he made in a game, and he didn't have a legitimate answer.
Alex Speier, WEEI:
There are times when five weeks can seem like a very long time.

Ben Cherington was introduced as the Red Sox general manager all the way back on Oct. 25. At the time, charged with the task of identifying the next Red Sox manager, Cherington suggested that prior big league experience in that role was a bonus but not a prerequisite. ...

Yet just under five weeks since Cherington was hired ... The two finalists for the position are Lamont and Valentine. Both are in their 60s. Both are veterans of two prior managing jobs in the big leagues.

Somewhere along the line, it appears that the Sox felt that there was something to be said for age, experience and a proven track record over youth and promise in the manager’s dugout. Cherington acknowledged at the GM meetings -- before Sveum was hired by the Cubs, and before the interview with Valentine was scheduled -- that there had been a reconsideration of the profile sought by the team.
Valentine was first mentioned as a possible manager by the Globe's Nick Cafardo, on September 25, when the Red Sox still had five games left to play in the season:
Apropos of nothing
4. Hearing Bobby Valentine's name if Terry Francona goes.
Cafardo laid out his case for Valentine on October 1:
[Bobby Valentine is] exactly what this organization needs. If you want a man who is considered one of the best in-game managers and who has control of his team and the clubhouse, there is no one better available. The question with Valentine is how would he coexist with general manager Theo Epstein and the organizational approach?

Where Francona accepted a lot of input from Epstein and the front office, Valentine would likely not be as welcoming. Suggestions of playing Darnell McDonald because he hits a certain lefthander wouldn't fly with Valentine. He would have to know he has complete control of his team in the clubhouse and on the field. Some would say that's not the way 21st-century baseball works, but it would be the way it would have to work. ...

Valentine may not be the new-wave type the Sox are looking for, but he is a guy with a tremendous track record for getting the most out of players and leaving no doubt who is in charge, and that there are consequences for the type of behavior Sox players exhibited this season.
A more progressive picture has been painted of Valentine since then. Valentine has said he would expect a two-way dialogue with - and suggestions from - the front office. Valentine is familiar with more advanced metrics, like UZR and WAR, and has cited them on ESPN broadcasts (the Rangers employed Craig Wright, an early sabermetrician, when Valentine managed the club in the late 1980s).
This is a growth opportunity for me.
Twelve of Valentine's 15 years as a MLB manager were complete seasons - and his teams performed worse than their expected record (based on runs scored and runs allowed) only twice. That is very impressive. His teams were +23 wins over his managerial career. The 2000 and 2001 Mets outperformed their expected records by six and nine wins, respectively.

I recently saw a clip of Valentine meeting with the Boston media and I really liked this exchange:
Q: Bobby, with questions in mind, if you get this job, inevitably you're going to make some in-game decisions that backfire--

BV: Yes...

Q: The media will then ask you to explain yourself, especially if you went against convention or statistical probability. Are you normally going to answer those questions or are you going to be like some of the managers who just gruffly say "that's what I wanted to do"?

BV: Wow ... [long, seemingly thoughtful pause] Would I be allowed to say "that's just what I wanted to do"? Isn't there always a follow-up question after that, like why is that just what you wanted to do? [Another pause, thinking] At the risk of, ummm, not getting hired, I'd probably say I'll answer the questions too long rather than too short. And if you need an answer, I'll really try to - I think the manager, in his pre-game and post-game press conferences, is one of the way the fans get to know about your team. And in today's world, it's not about giving those customers less, I think it's about giving them more. And so I'll try to stay within parameters, of course, and not get my ass fired real quickly, but I don't think that those answers of, you know, "I just felt like doing it" are good enough.


allan said...

SoSHer Trautwein's Degree:
"Last night on NESN, Gammons said that in 1991, Valentine was the first manager he ever heard talk about how insightful Bill James was. Gammons went on to say that Valentine was obsessed with James and this was part of Valentine looking for every advantage he could get."

You heard it here first: Champagne in October.

laura k said...

For years you've called the man out as a flipping idiot, now you've uncovered archaeological evidence that reveals he's a genius. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were a company shill.

My mind is open. I'm ready for Valentine to surprise and delight me with his excellent managerial skills. But reading about what a great manager he's going to make will have no effect.

allan said...

New evidence = reassessment. Plus we still have a great team.

Think about the idiots we had before Tito came along. Valentine cannot possibly do any worse.

laura k said...

Valentine cannot possibly do any worse.

I set the bar a little higher than that.

Jim said...

Well, I'll say it again. The post-game pressers are going to be a must-see for me (even if it will probably be on-line first thing in the morning) so I can get an unfiltered look. Then read the game reports. The spin this guy has generated already from the media portends way more heat than light.
Can we get on with fixing the pitching staff and filling out the roster now, please?