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Valentine nods. "Nine times ... because he wants to show his teammates he's unselfish."
Koga wants to blame the Marines' hitting woes on Robson, the American hitting coach, but Valentine won't let him. "He's a lazy gaijin, O.K., he is," Valentine says of his friend, "but it doesn't mean that what he did last year was wrong." He pauses. "This year no one wants to make a mistake. What the f--- is that?"
Koga has no answer. He frowns. Valentine frowns back. "Hey, we could go back to being mediocre, I don't care," the manager says. "It's only my life's work."
As Valentine chastises, he also tries to teach. He obviously likes Koga; he is just frustrated by him. So Valentine hammers home the Bobby way. Koga asks about a Marines prospect who's afraid to steal because he's not 100% sure he'll be successful. "You must allow him to get picked off first base without saying he's stupid or a rookie, so he knows how far to go without getting picked off--so he has freedom," says Valentine. "It's like skiing. If you always ski the easy run, you never learn. You must fall down to learn."
At one point Valentine offers the team president job--currently held by Ryuzo Setoyama--to Koga. "Hide, why don't you be my G.M.," Valentine says, pointing his Kirin at Koga. "Think about it. I know you like to teach, I know they need you. But the food's a lot better up here than in the minor leagues. Go on the road with me, have nice dinners."
Koga is reluctant--he likes working with players--but Valentine says he'll come back to him on it. More food comes, followed by more Kirin, and Valentine can't help himself. "I'm not one to brag often ... O.K., all the time," he says. He has to preach his gospel. He sits, legs spread, an alpha male in a position of power, and holds forth: on old teams, old grudges and his players.
About his starting shortstop, Tsuyoshi Nishioka: "He sucks this year. He's s---."
On why Kenji Johima, the catcher for Mike Hargrove's Seattle Mariners, is platooning behind the plate: "Because his manager's an idiot."
Three months later the season is over and the U.S. is crazy about Japanese baseball, but not about Valentine. Matsuzaka, the star pitcher for the Seibu Lions, dominates the news. Valentine? He is mentioned as an outside candidate for the Giants and the Washington Nationals jobs. But he is interviewed by neither team.