After two less-than-successful live-blogging attempts, I’m unsure that I’ll try it again.  For National Poetry Month in 2001, I read poems on Bennington College’s radio station for twelve straight hours, and the live-blogging experience left me similarly incapable of saying something interesting about anything.  Took me a whole day of napping and watching the later Ralph Cifaretto episodes of The Sopranos before I could reliably string two intelligent sentences together.  Kind of like a marathon runner coming down from a race by mainlining caffeine and cramming down candy bars like they’ve got no gag reflex.  That’s how that works, right?

Anyway, I’m glad to have had the day off.

I am watching the Phillies-Rockies game, but it’s only vaguely interesting.  Regular sleep and recent venting about Philadelphia and its population will do that to you.  (The TBS crew just referenced Omar Minaya’s 2002 Bartolo Colon trade to Montreal, which included sending Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, and Cliff Lee to Cleveland.  They did not mention Mr. Minaya’s name.)

But I read something about Tony La Russa’s future plans, and how they may or may not include the St. Louis Cardinals (uh-huh; sure), and it got me thinking of Bobby Valentine.  Latest word on Valentine here, from Ken Rosenthal.

I’ve stated on this site that I’m not for replacing a manager without the legitimate cover of a viable reason.  And this won’t even be a post about where I think Bobby Valentine should or shouldn’t go or what he should do with his life (I reserve the right to answer some rhetorical questions that may seem like I’m deciding for him; the line will be thin, but it will be walked).  Rather, for those not in the know who stumble upon this, I’d like to point out what the man has done with his life, so far.

Read this by Andrew Jenks, who was the force behind the documentary The Zen Of Bobby V.  If you’re reading while waiting for a Hot Pocket to go thermonuclear-hot in your microwave, here are the some of the more crucial passages:

“When Bobby took over in 2003, the Marines had not won in 31 years, most
of the seats at the home stadium were empty, and TV ratings were
abysmal. Within two years, Bobby resurrected a perennial loser into
national champions, winning the 2005 Japan Series and Asia Series. He
is the first foreign manager to win either. Since then, the atmosphere
has changed drastically in Chiba: many weekend games are nearly sold
out, a group of diehard fans travel to every game, and TV ratings are
improving. …

“Bobby still considers his work in Japan far from being finished.
Although many consider his prowess in Japan second to none, Bobby feels
as if he still fighting an uphill battle. For over a decade now, the
top players in Japan have been taking their skills Stateside. According
to Bobby, this exodus to America is slowly killing the game in Japan —
a game that he has come to respect and love. …

“So when Bobby is not coaching, he travels the country speaking to
corporations, colleges, newspapers, and anyone that will listen. His
message: Japan’s baseball officials need to wake up before they realize
that all of their players are no longer around. …”

If you watch the film, you’ll see Mr. Valentine busting hump to get Japan to build a strong minor league system, in an effort to mold the current league into something more than a distant AAA-outpost for MLB.  He managed a working agreement between the Chiba Lotte Marines and the Boston Red Sox, but beyond that, it’s not totally clear that he’s made his point to his satisfaction.

What motivates a fifty-nine year-old man, after all indications are that he lived and breathed a mission that he, by most measures, he did not succeed in, to what I’m sure is the disappointment of a community and–to a lesser extent, maybe–a nation, that worships him?

Put another way, would Bobby Valentine be at all satisfied with managing the Cleveland Indians–forgive me, Indians fans, most notably TribeTed, a frequent Sec. 528 commenter–or the St. Louis Cardinals, or the London Silly Nannies with such a job left undone?  I don’t believe so, obviously, and I don’t believe he’d want to come to the Mets for the same reason: lack of true fulfillment. 

American baseball’s got its business locked down, and it’s a fine business; I enjoy it.  Brooklyn Lager; “Lazy Mary”; jokes about Mike Lowell’s blackout van.  But rare is the game where the same kind of collective effervescence–read up on your Emile Durkheim or attend your next and nearest tent revival for an understanding–you see in Japanese baseball envelops the crowd at an American major league park.  Hell, the Mets can rarely time the “Let’s Go Mets!” chant to avoid dissonance; the Japanese unfurl banners in the stands seemingly miles long.  I’m watching the Rockies fans wave rally towels, and it’s the first time I’ve seen Colorado get collectively amped about anything.

I don’t think American baseball would have to take on the flavor and fervor of Japanese baseball before Bobby Valentine would coach in the majors again.  But not enough people are talking about this the way perhaps Mr. Valentine is thinking about it.  He’s seen what rabid fandom is like; to come back to a more relaxed, more laid back, perhaps even less-invested environment, I think he’d have to succeed somehow in what he’s left undone, make peace with the fact that he couldn’t get it done, or set it aside.

And think of his potential stateside employer: do you WANT a Bobby Valentine that’s professional, committed to win, but not striking that pay dirt of irreverent effervescence on a daily basis, because the crowd’s busy voting on what song they’d like to sing along to during the middle of the eighth, and not watching what’s happening on the field?

That’s a lot of long sentences.  A lot of rhetorical questions.

And a complete inability on my part to tie this up in a nice bow at the end.  I blame my puttering capacity for word-thingies seventeen minutes past my normal ice cream time. 

But baseball’s a livelihood, like any other; the endgame of personal fulfillment is by no means always dictated by the people who own the game.  Sometimes people see a way to happiness that has nothing to do with what we think should make them happy.

What would make Bobby happy?  If he knows, let him try for it; the man’s accomplished enough to earn the right.

Advertisements