Robert Whiting wrote one of my favorite baseball books ever in You Gotta Have Wa. Now he has the inside story of Bobby Valentine’s final days as the manager for the Chiba Lotte Marines.
On level it wasn’t personal, it was just business: the team and the
parent company was losing money and they just couldn’t justify paying
Valentine’s salary anymore. Fair enough. Happens all the time. But the manner in which the team’s ownership went about ushering Valentine out the door was something new altogether. It all got started when some fans didn’t take kindly to the news that the team’s owner, a man named Setoyama, wasn’t going to keep Valentine around:
Setoyama supporters within the organization, stunned
by the reaction of the fans, began a stealth smear campaign intended to
sully Valentine’s reputation. They whispered that he was taking
kickbacks from foreign players, that he had recruited one gaijin player
from a local bar, and that he had hired his own son to design new Lotte
uniforms, while collecting a hefty royalty on their sale.
They also claimed that he had sexually harassed Lotte
female employees, that he was anti-Japanese and even racist, noting he
used terms like “the f—–g Japanese way.”
The smears were untrue, and they were motivated by a desire to quell fan backlash over the team’s failure to extend Valentine’s contract and to maybe, just maybe, get Valentine to quit early and save the team some money. When some within the organization questioned whether such a strategy would work, the team’s owner was revealed to have said that “the fans are like carp, they will eat anything you feed them,” and “if we have unworthy fans like this, let’s just move our home stadium. It’s just a bunch of stupid Chiba fans anyway.”
This article is the first of a four-parter, and if the rest of the installments are this good, it’s definitely going to be a must read. In any event, it’s the sort of thing that will put the various and sundry atrocities of the Royals and Pirates ownership in perspective.
UPDATE: He’s perfect through eight! He has ten strikeouts on the night. One more inning to go. And, of course, the Dodgers need to give him at least one run or else this thing doesn’t end in nine. Note: No Dodgers pitcher has tossed a perfecto since Sandy Koufax did it against the Chicago Cubs on September 9, 1965.
9:09 PM: Dodgers starter Rich Hill is facing off against the Pirates in Pittsburgh tonight. And he’s not having any trouble with them: he’s absolutely perfect though seven innings. He’s needed 73 pitches to get that far, so if he can keep the perfection up he certainly has enough in the tank to finish it.
Thing is: he may not even get the win. That’s because Pirates starter Trevor Williams has blanked the Dodgers through eight, scattering seven hits and four walks yet, somehow, not allowing a run to score.
The Pirates are coming to bat in the bottom of the eighth. We’ll keep you posted.
On September 20, 2015, Zach Britton blew a save against the Rays. Little did he know that he wouldn’t blow another save until August 23, 2017, converting 60 consecutive save opportunities.
Britton took the mound with a 7-5 lead in the top of the ninth inning of Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Athletics. He yielded a single to Jed Lowrie, a double to Boog Powell, an RBI single to Marcus Semien, and a sacrifice fly to Matt Joyce to allow the A’s to close the two-run deficit. In the next at-bat, he uncorked a wild pitch and then walked Khris Davis before being removed from the game. Miguel Castro relieved Britton, but walked Ryon Healy on four pitches to load the bases. Castro wriggled out of the jam by getting Matt Olson to pop up and striking out Matt Chapman, stranding two of Britton’s runners.
Britton entered Wednesday’s action 11-for-11 in save chances on the season with a 2.88 ERA and a 19/12 K/BB ratio in 25 innings. He missed two months earlier this season with a strained left forearm.