As baseball season starts this month, a familiar face to both Japanese and American audiences will take the field in Boston. Bobby Valentine, “Bobby V”, makes his return to the MLB following his second impressive stint as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Baseball League. Fans hope that the success he had in Japan will carry over to the U.S.
After an injury riddled pro-baseball career, Bobby V began managing professionally in the MLB in 1985. He left the game after being fired by the Texas Rangers in 1992, only to revive his career a few years later in Japan. In 1995, Valentine began his first run as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League. In his first season, the team exceeded expectations and finished in second place. His surprising success was not enough to secure his job, as he was fired by general manager Tatsuro Hirooka over a personal conflict.
Shortly after, he returned to U.S. to coach the NY Mets, eventually leading them to the 2000 World Series where they fell to the NY Yankees. The tough loss and subsequent disappointing season were enough to get him fired again in 2002, paving his way back to Chiba. In 2004, Valentine returned to Japan for his second stint as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines. The very next season, he led the Marines to their first Pacific League pennant, winning a close playoff with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. The Marines then went on to win the Japan Series in a four game sweep of the Hanshin Tigers. It had been 31 years since their last pennant and the team’s first Japan Series since 1974. Fans were ecstatic over the championship and embraced Bobby as a sports hero. At the conclusion of the season he issued a challenge to the World Series champion Chicago White Sox proposing a seven-game World Series playoff, but the games never came to fruition.
Success for Valentine and the Marines did not stop there. Following the Japan Series, the Marines won the inaugural Asia Series by defeating the Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organization. Bobby was eventually let go by the Marines in 2009, following a public smear campaign, and returned to the U.S. as one of the most notorious characters in Japanese baseball.
Expectations are high for Valentine to bring the Red Sox back to the World Series and duplicate the success he had in Japan. Fans of both leagues are eager to see the result.