The American baseball world has always felt a little emptier since Bobby Valentine left it. He’s one of those lifer eccentrics — the sort you don’t see that often anymore, and you’ll see a heck of a lot less once the White Sox tire of Ozzie Guillen. Baseball managers shouldn’t have the bland professionalism of Ken Macha or Bob Geren. They should be characters, quick with the quote, the barb, the overdramatic umpire arguments. With Guillen potentially gone, and Lou Piniella considering suicide on the North Side of Chicago, the wackiest we get anymore is Joe Maddon’s dyed hair and cool-guy glasses. Bobby V could have changed all that. The man was ejected from a game and came back into the dugout with a fake mustache. That’s just fantastic.
Sadly, Valentine’s unique brand of professionalism isn’t appreciated in MLB that much anymore; that kind of wackiness has only been embraced, for the last few years, by Japan, which says something depressing about our culture, we think. Anyway, Valentine’s contract with the Chiba Lotte Marines has run out, but the jobs in America just aren’t there for him. So the Daily News reports that he’s heading to ESPN.
Valentine has been on ESPN before, back in 2003, and his goofy mix of Real Talk (Real Talk!) and Crazy Wide Creepy Smile kept him a compelling, if somewhat disconcerting, media presence. (You’d certainly rather listen to him than Kruk, that’s for damned sure.) Valentine lasted only one year back then, but the Connecticut native is expected to hang around longer this time, probably until someone offers him another managing job, if anyone ever would dare to again.
By the way, we don’t want to sound like sticklers here, but Bob Raissman, in his column announcing Valentine’s possible return, refers to the MLB Network — which was reportedly talking to Valentine as well — as “the Baseball Network.” Far be it from us to impugn the credentials and qualifications of a newspaper man, but it’s not crazy to expect your television critic — your sports-television critic! — to know the name of one of the major sports-broadcasting networks, is it? That’s reasonable, yes?