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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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My Cup of V

Bobby Valentine’s imminent hiring as manager of the Boston Red Sox is the best Mets thing to happen this offseason, even better than the overdue reinstatement of Banner Day. Banner Day’s date is TBD, whereas we get Bobby Valentine right now, and by “get Bobby Valentine,” I mean every time we turn on SNY or ESPN or MLB Network, we are treated to a loop of Bobby Valentine-era Mets highlights.

To me, the entire Valentine administration was a highlight, and I’ll even accept 2002 as part of the package if it means I receive extended glances of 1997 to 2001. The denser the Bobby V rumors became, the longer the loops grew. When the dispatches beamed forth that Bobby V was the choice, he was practically video wallpaper.

Fantastic, I thought — let me watch the Mets as I knew them best and loved them most, even if that was a while ago and anything he does next he’ll be doing for someone else.

Ah, those highlights…the Mets in the hunt when they weren’t supposed to be…the Mets overcoming obstacles, whether imposed by others or themselves…the Mets as postseason regulars…the Mets not knowing from quitting…the Mets never quite ultimately triumphant but coming oh so close, making us oh so proud.

And leading the charge, turning the ignition, masterminding the process, Bobby Valentine. He wore a lot of black back then, but make no mistake: to a Mets fan thirsting for a sip of success after a half-dozen drought-laden years, he was the good guy. More than that, he was The Man. He was Bobby V, the only Mets manager I’d follow into figurative battle, maybe even a real one if I was heavily armed.

Under Bobby V’s command, I know I’d be prepared. After a few years, I might be prepared to go AWOL, but I can’t think of any skipper who wasn’t thought to have “lost the clubhouse” or “let the game pass him by” on account of time’s march. Maybe Bobby Cox, but I couldn’t stand Bobby Cox.

Bobby Cox couldn’t stand Bobby Valentine. He has company. Lots of people can’t stand Bobby Valentine. It’s sort of thrilling absorbing the complaints of his detractors. The more the detractors complain, the better he looks to me. It’s a sensation born of hearing what a lousy strategist/communicator/human being he was when he managed the Mets…managed them clear into the NLCS one year and the World Series the next. Managed them out of obscurity, he did. Managed them like every game mattered. Every game did matter when Bobby V was here. Other men have managed the Mets. Bobby V was the Mets Manager.

Aside from the late ’90s/early ’00s Mets highlights currently airing somewhere, I’m happy about this because it restores in me some semblance of faith that somebody in baseball recognizes skill and passion. The Red Sox decided they needed a new manager. They went out and hired the best one available, the one who breathed life into an American League franchise in the 1980s, a National League franchise in the 1990s and a Pacific League franchise in the 2000s. I didn’t much care what he did in Arlington or Chiba City, but I sure got a contact high off everything he did in Flushing (up to and including his press conference illustration of how marijuana “is not a performance enhancer”). Bobby argued umpires out of bad calls. He knocked down orthodoxies and played capable players with whom other managers couldn’t be bothered. He defeated alleged geniuses in three October series. He honestly made me proud to be a Mets fan. No smack talked by anybody, no matter how authentically it is come by, can shake me loose of my affection for Bobby Valentine.

The most fascinating manager the Mets ever employed is managing in the major leagues again. As long as it’s not against us, that’s a win.

Neither of us posts for days, then we both inadvertently post on the same topic at virtually the same time. Oh well, more for you guys — read Jason’s take here.

11 comments to My Cup of V

  • Kevin From Flushing

    So glad he’s back. Feel bad he’s walking into 2 trillion “collapse” questions.

  • […] Kiss Our Astros Goodbye »    « My Cup of V […]

  • Will in Central NJ

    I’ve also seen the highlight clips replaying Bobby V’s travels through the Mets’, Marines’, and Rangers’ organizations. We now have another reason to root for Boston against the other NY team.

    Personally, I am waiting for the replay of the clip c.1996 where then-Met/future Red Sox Carl Everett was having a meltdown over balls & strikes. Bobby V. tried to intervene, and Everett literally lifted Bobby off the ground, turned him 180 degrees, and returned to jawing with the HP umpire. The astonished look on Bobby’s face was priceless.

    If BoSox fans haven’t seen that one, they’re in for a visual treat.

  • Dave

    I guess I’m one of the minority of Mets fans who is decidedly not a Bobby V fan. Yes, he managed them to some success. But he’s an ingratiating, narcissistic know-it-all who thinks he’s bigger than the team and bigger than the game, both of which were here before he was and will be long after he’s gone. There have been a lot of managerial hirings in the past 9 years, there’s got to be a reason why he wasn’t among them that whole time…and the job he finally does land is a franchise that is currently as knee-jerk desperate as any in baseball has been for a long time.

    And even at the height of his success as the Mets’ manager, I keeping coming back to game after game, series after series, year after year, we were the Braves’ b-words. And in 2000 when we managed to avoid having to play them in the post-season and got to the Series, that other team hardly even broke a sweat to beat us. Back then, the good teams that we had to beat always made it crystal clear just who was the boss. According to some people around baseball, that’s because everyone hates him so much that they work extra hard to beat his team…sounds respectful, except he didn’t really live up to that level of respect, IMHO.

    • Will in Central NJ

      Dave, I’ve never met Bobby Valentine. But, I consider myself not necessarily a fan of Bobby V. the individual, but of the sum total of the results he has produced by coaxing results above and beyond what was expected of his troops (Reed, Payton, T.Perez, Agbayani, M. Franco, 2005 Chiba Lotte Marines). I won’t challenge the many players (his own and opponents), managers, GMs, and journalists who dislike him. Certainly, I respect your position as a fellow Met fan not to care for Bobby V. However, my prerogative —as a fan only— is to embrace the results Bobby V. has brought to bear for my Mets. He accomplished as Met manager what numerous Met managing predecessors who “never failed” coming in, failed to do in Flushing (i.e., Bamberger, Torborg, Green).

      To use a comparison: I’m sure that General George Patton was despised by his troops for his arrogance and rule bending ways, but history looks positively at his record as a victorious American military field commander. Likewise, many former players and colleagues may feel the same disdain about Bobby V. But it is the results that matter in the end, and Bobby V. did more with less, in my book. And that’s all right with me.

      • Dave

        Will, fair enough, except that I imagine if George Patton were in a line of work in which he could have shopped himself around to any interested bidder, he would have kept working following his most successful body of work. Until last week, Bobby V was batting zero.

        And for every marginal player who very briefly overachieved while playing for Valentine (in Timo Perez’s case, about a month), there was another, usually a pretty useful veteran like Lance Johnson or Pete Harnisch just to name two, who left town never wanting to see him again…and in some cases (such as Harnisch), after Valentine very publicly badmouthed him. And even if we were talking about the greatest manager of all time, comparing him favorably to Jeff Torborg is pretty faint praise, isn’t it? I’ll even give Bobby V more than that.

  • eric b

    I’m with you Greg. I loved Bobby V, and was always holding out hope he’d come back to the Mets post-Jerry Manuel. And I think Dave is wrong… If you look at the respective talents on the 2000 Yankees and the 2000 Mets, it’s not surprise we lost the series easily…. It sucks, but it’s no surprise.

    Will he use Benny Agbayani as his bench coach? That’s what I want to know. Always good to have a guy on the bench who doesn’t know how many outs there are.

  • open the gates

    I like Bobby V, but to me, Davey Johnson will always be the “Mets Manager”. The man just flat-out knew how to win. And flaunt it. He’s the only guy who really turned NY into a genuine Mets town. (Well, Gil Hodges too, but he’s before my time.)

    • Davey was a spectacular force for transformation and victory. The “Mets Manager” thing, however, never occurred to me while he was here. Bobby seemed more about stoking the pride and the faith and all that stuff we love to buy into. Davey was about getting the job done…which there’s not a damn thing wrong with. Bobby simply gave me a visceral feeling Metsian feeling no other manager ever did. But Davey was magnificent in his own way and I’m thrilled he made his mark as he did.

  • […] Faith and Fear reflects upon the Bobby Valentine era in the wake of his hiring by the Red Sox. […]

  • […] on Studio 42. His erstwhile identity may be incidental to why he’s on — I hear he has a new gig — but a couple of clips (here and here) indicate his lively 1996-2002 tenure in the blue, […]