You never know what you are going to get with Bobby Valentine – Baseball lifer, executive, restaurateur. One moment he is showing up in a disguise after being thrown out of a game, and the next minute he is helping a homeless shelter in his home town of Stamford, CT raise money.
Valentine started managing at the young age of 35 when he took over the Texas Rangers. He was there for eight seasons and led them to a 581-605 (.490) record from 1985-1992.
After taking a few years off from managing, he was hired to lead the Mets with just 31 games to go in the 1996 season. He would lead the Mets to a 536-467 (.534) record during that span, including of course the 2000 World Series.
His personality is contagious and his baseball knowledge is undeniable. I had the pleasure of speaking with him recently and we discussed the state of not only the Mets, but baseball in general.
Logan: There’s been so much change in the game since you last managed the Mets in 2002. Can you name one thing that’s changed for the better and one thing that’s changed for the worse?
Bobby V: Well they’re trying to get the plays right with replay, I think that’s a lot better. They’re trying to get the plays right with replays and that’s probably also what’s worse because they’re not doing a very good job of doing it quick enough. I like the idea of trying to get it right, I think that the fairness of the game needs to have technology take over, but it just absolutely shouldn’t change the momentum of the game as much as it does with the two minute delays.
Logan: You led the Mets to the World Series in 2000. Can you see any parallels between your 2000 team and this 2017 team? What are some of the biggest similarities and differences?
Bobby V: Well, maybe the Yoenis Cespedes – Mike Piazza element, being said they both present a very imposing figure when in the lineup. And maybe the closer situation is a little similar in that you know you have two guys [Jeurys Familia and Armando Benitez] who are absolutely spectacular with great stuff who have had moments of inconsistency at the end of the year.
Logan: As of today, Terry Collins is tied with you for second most games managing the Mets all time with 1003. What do you think of his management style? (Since this interview, Collins has passed Valentine for second all-time games with the Mets).
Bobby V: Wow, I didn’t realize that. I’ve known Terry a long time, I really like him as a guy. But I’m not sure of his management style, but it seems to fit the time and space that he’s working in. Again, I don’t think there’s a defining style that I can either critique or approve of.
Logan: You mentioned the time and space he’s working in. It seems more and more that managers today are an extension of the front office almost like push button managers. Gone is a lot of the personality and independence you saw from guys like Billy Martin, Earl Weaver and even you. Is that a good thing?
Bobby V: Well it is what it is, and it’s not all around baseball of course you know I think that Joe Maddon is something other than that and Bruce Bochy seems to be something, you know, I mean a lot of the grey-hairs aren’t necessarily that type of guy. But again, it is what it is because general managers like to have control.
Logan: A big topic in the news right now is the Mets starting rotation but for the wrong reasons. Let’s talk about Noah Syndergaard. If you as a manager told a star player that the team medical staff ordered an MRI for him and he turned around and told you “no way,” how would you have responded?
Bobby V: Well, I think it’s a unique situation. It just seemed like there should have been some evaluation of that situation, I guess there was, you know when he said he didn’t need an MRI he didn’t need an MRI. I don’t really know – I wasn’t in that clubhouse, I wasn’t talking to him and the training staff so I really don’t know what transpired there but it did seem different.
Logan: Okay great, thank you. Moving on, when you look back, what was more memorable and gratifying – Your first hit as a player, or your first win as a manager? Can you tell us about both those moments?
Bobby V: It’s funny because my first hit, I always described as being one off of Don Gullett for forty years or so, and I found out on the internet the other day it wasn’t off of him at all I got it against Milt Wilcox! So it wasn’t that memorable. And I remember my first game as a manager but I don’t remember my first win I know that it happened in Chicago, but my first game was managed against the White Sox and the only thing I remember from that was my third place hitter Tommy Dunbar got hurt running down to first base.
Logan: So I guess that was memorable for the wrong reasons then!
Bobby V: Yeah, I mean I’m one of those guys I don’t look back that often and I don’t look back, you know, in large samples so maybe I should start doing that. You know I’m also one of those guys who said I wouldn’t play golf until I got old – I think it may be time for me to start playing golf. You know, I remember a lot of my players’ first games and my pitchers first wins, and my Mets first game – Nope I don’t remember that either, I remember driving down to the press conference before but I don’t really remember the game. But you know, the entire package is what’s enjoyable for me, and the people that I was involved with. I don’t really cherish those personal things as much as I guess I should.
Logan: You mentioned you don’t like looking back. You’ve been out of the management side of baseball for a while, would you be interested in returning to it if the opportunity presented itself?
Bobby V: Well it’s presented itself a couple times, not necessarily to be on the field, but you know, I love the game of baseball. I don’t there’s necessarily any perfect fits out there and my life is pretty compact and to add something else right now I think would be very difficult.
Logan: You have a Sports Academy in Stamford, CT. Can you tell us about that?
Bobby V: Well, it’s an 11 year-old business that we just moved into a new 35,000 square foot facility where I have spectacular coaches who impart what would be described as my curriculum for coaching and playing and being part of the baseball community and quite proud of the work they’ve done.
Logan: Well thank you so much for everything Bobby, I really appreciate your taking the time to speak with me today!
Bobby V: Thanks Logan!