valentine in suit

Bobby Valentine can handle Boston. Can Boston handle him?

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Bobby Valentine in Boston. I’ve seen a lot of people getting a bit worked up by all of this, but I’m having trouble seeing what the big deal is. He’s a bright guy. He’s had success. Especially in tough situations such as in New York and in the higher-pressure-than-anyone-ever-acknowledges world of Japanese baseball.

Indeed, to the extent you see anyone questioning this hire on the basis of “can Valentine handle Boston?” feel free to ignore that person, because they’re simply unaware of where this guy has been for the past decade.

There was perhaps no more scrutinized and publicized manager in the history of organized baseball than there was when Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in the NPB.  As we learned in a fantastic series of articles by Robert Whiting a couple of years ago, the Marines were Bobby Valentine:

At the entrance to the park, a flat-screen TV showed continuous loops of Bobby greeting fans. The concourse walkways inside the park were lined with 3-meter high Bobby murals, inscribed with his aphorisms — e.g. “The team is a family. A happy family makes the team stronger.” Even the food there had his image on it, including the Bobby box lunch, a brand of sake with his picture on the label, a beer named after him and Bobby bubble gum. Near the main entrance to the stadium there was a small shrine in his honor, featuring his papier mache image, and not far away there was a street named after him, Bobby Valentine Way.

But it wasn’t all just ego-stroking either.  Near the end of his tenure the owner of the Marines — wanting to cut costs and find a way to push Valentine out — orchestrated a campaign to smear and undermine him, falsely accusing him of kickbacks and nepotism and drunkenness and all manner of awfulness. The owner was later exposed and Valentine’s reputation, though he left the NPB, emerged intact.

None of that means that Valentine will win in Boston.  But it does suggest that the guy is going to be more than able to handle the scrutiny and pressure of the job. I mean, say what you will about the Boston press, the front office leakers and the insanity of Red Sox Nation, but it just doesn’t compare to a guy going from demi-god to public enemy seemingly overnight like Valentine did in Japan.

The one area of concern I still have stems from the way in which Valentine became a candidate in the first place. He was clearly the owners’ choice. He was clearly imposed on new GM Ben Cherington.  As such, if there ever comes a time when Cherington and Valentine have a dispute as to how best to use and deploy Red Sox’ personnel, you have to figure Valentine — knowing that John Henry and Larry Lucchino have his back — won’t back down.  To the extent the story of Boston’s success over the past decade has been a function of the Epstein/Cherington brain trust calling the shots and Terry Francona dutifully implementing it,  this could mark a shift.  Though to be fair, we don’t know that Henry and Lucchino weren’t calling more shots over this time than has been generally accepted. Maybe it’s an old dynamic.

Anyway: I know a lot of folks are wary of Bobby Valentine because a big famous guy coming into the dugout after several years of the unassuming Terry Francona marks a distinct shift in tone.  But to the extent anyone is worried about Valentine being able to “handle” Boston or whatever, I think it’s a pretty trifling concern.

I think the bigger question is whether Boston can handle Bobby Valentine.

Masahiro Tanaka throws off mound for first time since October elbow surgery

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According to the Associated Press — via Chad Jennings of The Journal News — Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October.

The throwing session took place in New York, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild later told the media in Tampa that all of the reports he heard were good.

Tanaka might be behind some of the Yankees’ other pitchers when spring training officially begins, but he should be ready for the start of the 2016 regular season.

The 27-year-old native of Japan posted a 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season for New York. He owns a 3.16 ERA (123 ERA+) in 290 1/3 innings since becoming a major leaguer in 2014.

Tanaka is still pitching with a partially-torn ligament in his right elbow that could eventually require Tommy John reconstructive surgery. His surgery last October was of the arthroscopic variety and simply removed bone spurs.

Bud Selig to teach a class at Arizona State law school

Bud Selig
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Before Bud Selig ultimately retired, he had a couple of false start retirement announcements only to have the owners beg him to sign on for one more term. In one of those false starts he talked about how the University of Wisconsin had set up an office for him in the history department and that he’d be doing some research and teaching a class now and again. And he has, in fact, taught some one-off seminars at Wisconsin’s law school and the like.

Now something a little more permanent along those lines is in the works for The Greatest Commissioner in Baseball History. The Arizona Republic reports that Selig will join the Sports Law and Business program at Arizona State University’s law school where he will teach and advise as well as start up a speakers series in which he will bring in high-powered guests. No word on how many speakers will talk about big, important historical sports law cases like, say collusion in baseball, which was orchestrated by an ownership class in the mid-to-late 80s, of which Bud Selig was far and away the most influential member. That could get sort of awkward, I suppose.

Either way, it’s a good way to keep busy. I mean, that’s what it has to be as he’s not hurting for cash, what with the obscene $6 million severance package the owners gave him to, I dunno, not give interviews about bad stuff that happened back in the day like Fay Vincent does all the time. Stuff like collusion. Maybe he gets the $6 million for some other purpose. Who can say, really? It’s never made any sort of sense otherwise.

Anyway, good luck in Tempe, Bud. Maybe I’ll stop by your office at ASU when I’m there next month — I always stay in Tempe — and we can chew the fat or climb that butte with the big A on it or something. First round at Four Peaks afterward is on me.

White Sox sign first baseman Travis Ishikawa

Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Travis Ishikawa hits an RBI-single off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Raisel Iglesias to drive home Neil Walker in the seventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, in Cincinnati. The Reds won 4-3. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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First baseman Travis Ishikawa has agreed to a minor-league contract with the White Sox that includes an invitation to spring training.

Ishikawa was previously reported to have a minor-league deal with the Mariners last month, but the signing was never finalized. Now he joins the White Sox, who have Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche ahead of him on the first base/designated hitter depth chart.

Ishikawa had some big moments for the Giants in the 2014 playoffs, but he’s a 32-year-old journeyman with a lifetime .255 batting average and .712 OPS in 488 games as a big leaguer.

It’s possible the White Sox could keep him around as a bench bat and backup first baseman/left fielder, but Ishikawa seems more likely to begin the season at Triple-A.

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.