Monday, April 17, 2006

How I Almost Got Bobby Valentine Fired

by Doug Silversten

Every baseball fan knows the feeling. You’re watching your favorite team, and the manager does something that infuriates you. Whether it’s taking out your best hitter late in a tie game for “defensive purposes,” leaving in a pitcher too long when the whole stadium knows he is done, or inexcusably batting your worst hitter leadoff, you scream at the TV and wish you could do something. Don’t you wish sometimes you had the power to get a manager fired?

I once had that power. Well, sort of. I didn’t want to get anyone fired, although by asking an innocent question, I almost got the manager of my favorite team canned.

I was reminded about the incident a few weeks ago when reading a random article on the web about baseball and technology. In the midst of a section about "User Created Media," I came across this paragraph:

Internet messageboards also represented the first Petri dish for user-created media. This sentiment is best exemplified by a scandal that occurred at the beginning of the 2000 season. Bobby Valentine, then the New York Mets manager, gave a lecture at the Wharton School of Business -- an "off-the-record" talk. But "off-the-record" is only a term relevant to journalists. While the Daily Pennsylvanian (Penn's school newspaper) gave a perfunctory mention to the speech, one student-attendee went much further. Brad Rosenberg, using the username brad34, logged onto a Mets message board and claimed that Bobby V blasted some players and management. The mainstream media ran with it; then-general manager Steve Phillips hopped on a plane to Pittsburgh to pow-wow with Valentine; and minor scandal was in the works.

Unless you’re a Met fan, you probably don’t remember this incident at all. However, if you are a Met fan, you may remember how big of a deal this was for about 2 weeks during the 2000 season. Most of the controversy stemmed from Bobby V’s answer to a question regarding the Mets all-field, no-hit shortstop Rey Ordonez. Basically, Bobby criticized Mets management (namely Steve Phillips) for signing Ordonez to a multi-million-dollar, multi-year contract.

So, where do I fit in? Any guesses? No, I am not secretly Brad34. However, I still played an integral part in the whole controversy. I attended the infamous “lecture” with fellow Baseball For Thought columnist and Penn alum Matt Sandler. I remember how excited we were – we were going to have a chance to hear our manager speak! After a short speech, Bobby V opened it up to questions. The whole thing probably lasted less than a half hour. I remember coming away with a very favorable impression of Valentine. He was engaging and completely honest. Rather than the typical non-answers to potentially controversial questions, Bobby always answered the questions, a trait very rare with other sports figures. In fact, that’s what I wrote in a letter published by the Daily Pennsylvanian shortly after the controversy erupted.

So, have you guessed correctly my role in the whole affair? How did I indirectly almost get Valentine fired? Well, it was I who asked the question about Rey Ordonez. I asked Matt for his best recollection of what my exact words were and he gave me this: "Can you explain why the Mets gave an extension to a player who has been proven to be one of the worst regulars in baseball?"

Fairly innocuous, no? But by asking a simple question to the manager, I was almost able to get him fired!

Well, with this story in mind, I think I have a few questions for Willie Randolph...

Doug Silversten's column appears alternate Mondays

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Sunday, April 23, 2006  

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