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.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.