No Valentine for Bobby
In the argot of Japanese baseball, Bobby Valentine could tell you, the phrase Just Win, Baby doesn't exist. Win is what Valentine, the first manager to move from an American team to a Japanese one, did in his rookie season this year. He lifted the Chiba Lotte Marines from fifth place to second in the six-team Pacific League and guided them to a 69-58 record, the team's best finish since 1985. In Japan, however, the end doesn't count as much as the means. And last week, citing "differences of opinion," the Lotte front office dismissed Valentine with two years remaining on a contract reportedly worth up to $3 million.
Valentine, the former Texas Ranger manager, never took to the Japanese preference for grueling, punitive workouts. Japanese managers often make players hit 1,000 pitches or field 1,000 grounders as atonement for a strikeout or an error. Valentine's determination to manage in his relatively hands-off style—"Even Barry Bonds looks bad at the plate sometimes," he has said—rankled the bosses at Lotte Co., even though Valentine's ways had captured the hearts of the Marine faithful. When word of his problems with management got out near the end of the season, fans showed up at Lotte headquarters with 14,000 pro-Valentine signatures. Others brought English-language banners to games, including one that read BOBBY, NEVER LEAVE.
But Bobby did leave. And whether his managing style was solely to blame or whether Marine general manager Tatsuro Hirooka was jealous of the praise being lavished on the gaijin guru may never be known. This much is clear: The word that mattered most to Valentine was win, but the last word—sayonara—came from his bosses.
Obnoxious Mike Men
The NBA has asked teams to turn down their public-address systems in arenas where "pump up the volume" had been taken to painful extremes. Many franchise distract opposing teams and create a shamelessly artificial rah-rah atmosphere, which brings us to Paul Porter, the P.A. announcer in Orlando Arena. In response to the new NBA guidelines, Porter boasted: "Players say Orlando's an obnoxious place to play. That means we're doing something right."
No, Paul, you're doing something wrong, as are your many screaming, overhyping counterparts. There are plenty of bad ones, but these three echo the loudest:
Chicago's Ray Clay. He's way too enthralled with the sound of his voice during the Bulls' overblown, lights-out introductions.
Utah's Dan Roberts. His annoying "How 'bout them Jazz!" is a monument to obnoxious P.A.-ing.
Orlando's Porter. You haven't been truly tortured until you've heard Porter's reverbed voice scream, "Traaaaaa-veling...ing...ing...."