Based on job offers, Bobby Valentine has just as good a chance to be with the Chiba Lotte Marines next season as he does with the Los Angeles Dodgers or any other club his name has been linked to in recent weeks.
Valentine addressed a group of journalists Tuesday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo, and in addition to discussing this weekend’s Konami Cup Asia Series and the state of Japanese baseball, he called reports that he was under contract with Japan Series champion Lotte for next season false.
Valentine added that he was not offered a three-year contract, as was reported late last week.
“That has been falsely reported by guys who didn’t believe me and happened to believe someone else who tells them something,” Valentine said, gesturing toward the Japanese media pool. “I was in a room with my general manager, and afterward something was reported. They reported not what I said but what someone who wasn’t in the room said.”
Valentine has been linked with managerial vacancies for the Dodgers, who drafted him out of high school, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Washington Nationals.
Valentine is one of three finalists for the Devil Rays job and will have a phone interview for the position later this week, according to an Associated Press report.
The Dodgers recently fired Paul DePodesta as general manager. DePodesta had left Valentine out of the search to replace the departed Jim Tracy as Dodgers skipper, but with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and special adviser Tommy Lasorda — one of Valentine’s oldest friends in baseball — directing the search, he is back in the hunt.
Valentine also did not rule out a return to Lotte.
“I haven’t been offered a contract to manage anywhere next year,” he said. “Any talk of where I might manage next year would be premature.
“As far as the parameters, I want to be challenged, I want to be appreciated, and I want to be comfortable in my surroundings.”
Valentine, fresh off Lotte’s sweep of the Hanshin Tigers in the Japan Series, led the New York Mets to the World Series in 2000, where they lost to the New York Yankees. He has never won the World Series as a manager.
Valentine is the only foreign-born manager to win the Japan Series, and he became the first foreigner to win the Shoriki Award, Japanese baseball’s highest honor. Nonetheless, Valentine said he still had many challenges to managing in Japan.
“Winning is the thing that happens at the end of all the small challenges of a season or a year,” he said. “I think my life is very challenged here. Our organization is challenged, not to win a championship, which is a goal, but to make it into an organization that is truly respected and deserving of the respect.”
Valentine expanded his views on what he called the “true” World Series, a post-championship series between the Japan and World series champions, which he discussed at length at Koshien Stadium before Game 4 of Japan Series.
Valentine feels the series should be played in Hawaii, and instead of having a winner-take-all pot of money at stake, as he suggested at Koshien, Valentine said it would be better to have more altruistic motives at heart. And he dared owners, players and fans on either side of the Pacific to defy the suggestion.
“The key ingredient is that this series should be played for charity, that the proceeds from television, Internet, cell phone rights, the advertising and the ticket sales, minus expenses it takes to get both teams out there, ought to go into a worldwide charity fund to help, I suggest, children of disaster-stricken areas across the world,” he said. “If any one of those groups is opposed to making $50 million or $100 million per year for the charity fund, I would hope they would stand up and voice their opinion publicly.”
In the Konami Cup, Valentine’s Marines will face teams from Taiwan, China and Korea, with the championship game being played Sunday at Tokyo Dome. The champions of the Chinese Taipei and Korean leagues will be playing, as will China’s national team.
Although worthwhile, Valentine said the Konami Cup falls short of his vision for international competition among league winners.
“I think this weekend is just an example of how countries can work together to have competition,” Valentine said. “I don’t think this is a true Asian championship, for the record. I think playing a game or two against another team represents nothing more than the cooperation of those countries’ leagues to have games played.”
Valentine did rank Konami ahead of the World Baseball Classic, a World Cup-like tournament to be played next March that has professional players representing their countries.
“(Konami) should not be seen as competition to the proposed and soon-to-be-executed World Cup that will be played at the beginning of next season,” he said. “It is another way to get the word out about baseball, but it does not represent a world championship by any stretch of the imagination.”
Lotte will begin Konami Cup action Thursday at Tokyo Dome against South Korea’s Samsung Lions at 6 p.m.
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