Me And Bobby V

Had I been writing the lede for an article on the Boston Red Sox' hiring of Bobby Valentine as manager, I would have been tempted to say something like, "Orel Hershiser's analysis on ESPN's baseball broadcasts will no longer be obscured."

I noticed in October how much I enjoyed Hershiser's comments and wished I could hear him more and how much I wanted to hear Valentine's comments less. Well, now my wish has been granted and they will no longer be paired in the broadcast booth because Valentine has the manager gig in Boston and will be, presumably, otherwise occupied.

In fairness to Valentine he is brilliant. All the articles I read about his hire have relayed how he always had insights to the game that the writer was impressed with. So, this isn't to slam Valentine as much as it is to say I'm glad to hear Hershiser more.

Having said all that, I do appreciate Valentine's honest and thoughtful approach, and his fairness. I got to see this aspect of his character personally a few years ago.

When we lived in Ft. Worth, the first job I got was as an assistant to the Sports Director of a Christian radio station, KCBI. My job was to go out and about and get comments for air on drive time sports reports. It was summer and so I generally went to Arlington Stadium (the old one) to interview Rangers players. I know baseball best and so it seemed natural.

One morning I heard Valentine on Norm Hitzges' show and they were talking about an article that appeared in USA Today about Christian baseball players. The article had to do with the question of whether or not Christianity sapped some of the competitive fire from an athlete. (Obviously the writer had never seen church league softball.) Valentine addressed this question saying something to the effect that he had not seen where Christians were less competitive than others, and that big contracts were just as likely to make a guy complacent as anything.

Later that day I was at the ballpark and had a chance to speak to Valentine, who was managing the Rangers. We talked about the upcoming homestand and this and that. And then I commented that I was from a Christian station and I appreciated his views I had heard earlier in the day. I don't recall his exact words (it's been 20 years!), but he said something simple like, "that's how I see it," and left me with the impression that he just honestly reported what he saw, and wasn't necessarily interested in advocating for one side or the other.

This kind of unvarnished honesty may just be what the Red Sox need, though it won't win him popularity contests with some of his players. It is clear that things began to slide in Boston and Bobby's job will be to right the ship. And it's the sort of job that shortens a tenure. It will be interesting to see how soon the nerves get frayed. I wish him well, but it won't be easy.

No comments: