NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Pref. — Bobby Valentine is eager to get back in the World Series, but this time, he wants it to be a truly global affair.
Valentine, the only manager to lead teams to the Japan Series and the World Series, wants to see a postseason matchup between the champions of the World and Japan series.
“I’m not talking about all-star exhibition games,” Valentine said. “I am talking about one battle-proven team who has played a season together and won a championship going against another battle-proven team that is a champion.”
Although he didn’t specifically call out next March’s World Baseball Classic, a World Cup-style baseball tournament pitting national all-star teams against one another, Valentine downplayed anything that would fall short of a showdown between the top two teams in Japan and North America.
“If people who are making the decisions don’t know the difference between all-star exhibition and championship teams in head-to-head competition, they shouldn’t be making decisions about baseball,” he said.
In the past one concern would have been the level of competition between major league baseball and Japanese professional baseball.
“We’ve reached a time where the level of play would be equal,” Valentine said. “It is time to do battle.”
Valentine isn’t the only one who thinks it would be a good idea. Valentine’s players also think a champion-versus-champion showdown would be beneficial.
“I would like to play against the major league champions,” said Lotte pitcher Hiroyuki Kobayashi, the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the Japan Series. “The (Chicago) White Sox have home-run hitters with (Paul) Konerko and (Joe) Crede. Some matchups would be more problematic,” Kobayashi admitted.
Former Fukuoka Daiei Hawks star Tadahito Iguchi, now with the White Sox, would worry Kobayashi more than anyone, he said.
“He hit me pretty good,” Kobayashi said. “I faced him enough.”
According to Lotte outfielder Benny Agbayani, who played for Valentine’s New York Mets in the 2000 World Series, the biggest winners if such a series were to take place would be the fans.
“I think we could work it,” he said. “If anyone could make it happen, it’s Bobby. This would be something the fans would love and really get into. It would be worth it for the fans.”
The power-hitter quotient for a World Series champion likely would be higher than that of many Japanese teams, but Valentine said his staff could rise to the challenge.
“They probably have a little more power, but our guys have pitched to power,” Valentine said.
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