Did ESPN analyst and Stamford, Conn. current Director of Public Safety and Public Health, Bobby Valentine, leave a piece of his heart in impressive old St. Louis? 

Known for cow towing at Mike Shannon’s with the likes of controversial umpire “Country” Joe West and praising the wonderful fans of St. Louis via KMOX, it appears he wants in and is smart enough to know how to discreetly go about it.

Since 2009, he’s reportedly been either a quiet candidate or interviewed for the Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays managerial positions.

Sounding like general manager John Mozeliak’s and Jon Jay’s biggest fan, Valentine’s praise of the 2011 trade deadline moves by the Cardinals was unwavering.  Bobby and Peter Gammons were the most ardent supporters of the trade.

Well, since then, the Redbirds have fallen seven games out of first place—shades of last year after the Ryan Ludwick deal.

In fact, as Bernie Miklasz pointed out in a St. Louis Post Dispatch column last Sunday, the Cardinals have been collapsing late in the season almost every years since they won World Series championship No. 10 (2006).

As an analyst, Valentine, 61, obviously realizes this.  He’s LaRussa’s contemporary and has managed against him in the Majors.

Valentine’s Mets bloodied LaRussa and the Cardinals, 4-1, in the 2001 NLCS on the way to the Subway Series against the Yankees.  Like a shark, he could be smelling blood rolling along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River near Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis. 

Even if the bloodied but unbowed Tony LaRussa is still the skipper in 2012, he can’t manage forever.  TLR will have to depart someday hopefully very soon in the eyes of a lot of fans.

I personally can’t see third base coach Jose “The Secret Weapon” Oquendo getting a fair shake for consideration as manager of the Redbirds after LaRussa leaves.  I’d love to see Jose’s former superior on the depth chart—the great Ozzie Smith—as the manager next season. 

This probably won’t be the case.  If LaRussa gets wind of Ozzie being considered, then TLR will want to stay for as long as possible.  There haven’t been any heartfelt feelings between Tony and Ozzie for the last 15-16 years and counting.

“Count” Valentine came into the Majors as a utility player with the L.A. Dodgers in 1969.  He still reveres Tommy LaSorda and evidently Groucho Marx. 

Valentine is the manager remembered for donning a fake mustache and coming back into the dugout to oversee his team after being ejected while with the Mets in 1999.  MLB summarily fined him $5,000 and suspended him for three games. 

Here’s a summary of his managerial record in the Majors:

Starting in 1985 with the Texas Rangers, he’s managed 2,169 games in 15 seasons.  LaRussa had about 2,680 wins at the time of this writing in some 30 years a manager in the Majors. 

With a .510 winning percentage (1,117-1,072) in MLB, Valentine also trails LaRussa in this category (.535).  Valentine’s winning percentage was .534 with the Mets from 1996-2002—his last stint in the Majors.

He played during the good old baseball days of outfield chain link fences.  Valentine probably wishes those days never were; he suffered a horrible leg injury after his spikes got stuck while chasing a fly ball in Anaheim.  Largely due to the fence accident, Bobby V. retired as a player at 29 years old.

An interesting tidbit is Valentine’s relationship with former Mets general manager turned ESPN analyst, Steve Phillips.  The latter fired Bobby in 2002, but in 2009 Valentine was hired after Phillips was terminated in a scandal involving a female employee at the cable giant.

Valentine is somewhat revered as a giant in Japanese baseball lore.  He managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League to the Japanese Series championship in 2005.  Later that year, he led the Marines to the championship over Korea in the first Asia Series.

He was reportedly fired after conflicts with the general manager of Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League.  Conflicts of interest aside, I believe Valentine would love to manage the Cardinals if LaRussa doesn’t return in 2012.

Do you, my beloved readers, believe he’d do a good job?

Comment or contact Lake Cruise at rjspann@swbell.net.

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