The Japan Times‘ Jason Coskrey reported today that Chiba Manager Bobby Valentine, with whom we were lucky enough to have a chat back in July, told reporters on Tuesday that a Marines official asked him to resign back in late July.
Valentine broke the news while chatting with the reporters about the possibility of his managing Japan’s national baseball team in the World Baseball Classic. Of the top spot at Team Japan, Valentine said:
If I knew I was going to be in Japan for many, many years to come, I would be pursuing that job very fiercely.
Because I think I can do a good job. But as many of you know, there’s some people in our organization who want me to resign. You know it wouldn’t be good (to manage the WBC team) if I wasn’t going to be a Japanese manager for a long time.
He reiterated his desire to stay with the Marines, though, saying:
As I mentioned, I’d like to manage here for a very long time. That’s my desire. Everybody knows how much I love Japanese baseball, how much I love my team and how much I love the fans of the Chiba Lotte Marines, but of course that’s not my decision.
However, Chiba’s acting owner, Akio Shigemitsu, reportedly told Valentine to stay on.
The Marines may be having a lackluster season, but Bobby Valentine is clearly a valuable commodity beyond the on-field performance of his team. Perhaps only Rakuten can boast a skipper with the celebrity or popularity of Valentine. Few, though, have done as much for the Japanese game in recent years.
With sclerotic business practices and the continued stranglehold of Yomiuri over most of NPB, a figure like Valentine is absolutely necessary to keep baseball vibrant, growing, and improving in Japan.
If he’s unable to stay on at Chiba, we here at the Tsubamegun would be positively gleeful to see Tokyo sign him up. Chiba Marine Stadium is out in Ichihara – not exactly accessible and the Chiba Lotte Marines are relatively new (in this incarnation), yet the team has a strong following, steadily increasing attendance, improving TV deals, and is on the up overall. While this might not all have come straight from Bobby, he’s the driving force out there. There are not many managers who will even know how to go about trying to fill his shoes. Here’s hoping he sticks around in Chiba (or gets a good, multi-year offer from the Swallows.)
And, yes, for those of you who are wondering, we did record interviews on July 17th and we will release them soon.