Friday, October 23, 2009

Valentine's day makes a lovely impression

Bobby Valentine got nostalgic. He sat with journalists Thursday inside Progressive Field and reminisced about the glory days of Cleveland baseball. Valentine remembered those days, as does any person who calls himself an Indians fan.

He relished an opportunity to bring those days back. That was the reason he was in Cleveland talking baseball. He was making a case to GM Mark Shapiro to hire him as the next manager of the Indians.

“I had a great day – a great day,” Valentine said. “I talked to baseball people – talked baseball. I couldn’t be happier with that.”

His hours-long interview with Shapiro and his lieutenants, Valentine said, went seamlessly, if an interview for a high-profile job can be described as such. He called the process “interesting,” and the word should come into use again if he’s the man Shapiro picks to manage the Tribe next season.

For Valentine won’t be taking over a team stacked with top-shelf talent. That fact is that he admitted he didn’t know much about what the Indians have or what the American League is about these days.

How could Valentine?

He had spent the past six years managing the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan.

“I had a six-year love affair with baseball in a different country,” he said.

Valentine was being overly modest. The love affair was mutual. As much as he loved baseball in Japan, the people there loved him. He was a “star,” although describing any manager as a star isn’t easy.

Parting might be sweet sorry, but people don’t weep over it in baseball. Didn’t anybody learn that from watching “A League of Their Own”?

In meeting with the Cleveland media, Valentine didn’t forget to talk about his time in Japan. For him, the experience there enriched his life; it taught him lessons that might be useful in managing in the big leagues.

He admitted he will have things to catch up on, particularly the statistical information that drives front offices and Fantasy Leagues. He will also have to get a better feel on who the Indians players are.

Can’t tell the players with a media guide, right? Hand Valentine one, and he could have used a media guide before his talk with Shapiro.

Before the interview, Valentine didn’t bone up on the team. He could have, he said; he decided to go in cold, he said.

So if anybody in the Shapiro’s front office favored an outsider’s perspective, a candidate who was selling a philosophy and not someone who was pitching his unflagging loyalty to the organization, it found that outsider in Valentine, who compared his managerial style to an orchestra director.

“I can put the right sounds in the right places and the right instruments in the right places to make something that’s pleasing to the ear and to the eyes – and, hopefully, to the baseball community,” he said. “That’s what I do for a living. Hopefully, that’s good enough.”

His words sounded the right chords. He impressed with them – at least the men and women who heard his interview with the media thought so.

Whether he struck those same notes with Shapiro will be decided down the road. He has other candidates left to interview, including an organizational insider in Triple-A manager Torey Lovullo.

None of the others on Shapiro’s list have Valentine’s experience. He played in the bigs, and he managed the Rangers, the Mets and the team in Japan. Shapiro probably focused on that experience during the interview. He had to wonder, however, whether Valentine, now 59, had the fortitude to take on a rebuilding project as massive as the Indians.

The straight-talking Valentine said he didn’t avoid the question. He told Shapiro he did: He wants to manager the Tribe. Nor did Valentine avoid many other questions. Probably the only question he clearly sidestepped the whole day was the last one the media pitched to him.

Somebody asked Valentine, now a baseball analyst with ESPN, what specifically he discussed with Shapiro and other men he met. He didn’t touch it.

To answer that question, he said, would give the candidates who have not met with Shapiro a hint of what to expect.

“Nobody gave me any heads-up,” Valentine said, laughing.


Andrew - NYC said...

Love Bobby V and will root for him wherever he goes

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