2002-12-28 / Sports

New Mets Have No Valentines for Bobby

Baseball Columnist
By Bryan Hoch

Baseball Columnist

Former Manager Bobby Valentine has received no love from the Mets newly signed free agents.Former Manager Bobby Valentine has received no love from the Mets newly signed free agents.

Add new Mets outfielder Cliff Floyd to the ever-growing list of free agents who said they would never have come to Queens if Bobby Valentine were still at the helm of the club.

"Probably not," Floyd said Monday at Shea Stadium, where he was introduced to the media following his signing of a four-year, $26 million contract with the Mets. "It would have been (a consideration), but it’s 100 times better that it’s a fresh start. I wish Bobby V. the best, but it’s what the team needed."

Floyd’s partial animosity toward the ousted Mets manager, who was replaced in October by former A’s skipper Art Howe, is understandable. The two engaged in a war of words in the weeks leading up to the 2001 All-Star Game, with Valentine reportedly telling Floyd in a telephone call that he’d made the National League squad and then reneging on his promise.

Valentine insisted he’d never made any such statement to Floyd, but after having purchased $15,000 in plane tickets to Seattle for his family and friends, the then-Florida Marlins outfielder – who once called Valentine "a stupid manager" even before the fiasco – was livid.

The two eventually patched things up, with Valentine giving Floyd a framed copy of the All-Star Game lineup card that still hangs in the outfielder’s Florida home.

But the fact remains that all three of the Mets’ major free-agent signings - Floyd, Tom Glavine and Mike Stanton - all said in no uncertain terms that they probably wouldn’t have come to the Mets had Valentine still been at the helm.

"It’s hard to go from a guy like (Braves manager) Bobby Cox to a guy like Bobby V.," Glavine said at his November press conference. "I don’t know him from Adam, and I’m told what you see as a manager isn’t what you see on the field. But probably not."

Which, of course, begs the question – just how many primo free agents did the Mets miss out on during Valentine’s six seasons in charge, based solely upon his presence?

"I make it more about Art," GM Steve Phillips deflected Monday, himself a well-publicized detractor of Valentine’s. "We’re in a new era now, a new direction. I don’t even want to go down that road."

On the flip side, it’s truly a shame to see a string of players continually rubbing salt in the open wounds Valentine still has, especially when it becomes apparent that none of the three new Mets who trashed him ever saw him away from the stadium.

Sure, there was the competitive side to Bobby V., the one that Floyd says gave his Marlins and Expos extra incentive to pound the Mets – the grating voice from the dugout blowing jeers across the diamond, smirking at starting pitchers and doing anything possible to gain an edge.

But there was also the great humanitarian Valentine who gave his all to New York in the dark days after Sept. 11, donating the first $25,000 in funds from his Queens restaurant and forever making an impact in the annals of baseball and city history.

Valentine was partially, but not completely, responsible for the Mets’ 2002 failures – remember, nearly every baseball pundit scored the Mets to finish either first or second in the NL East. And yes, it’s hard to argue that the time hadn’t come for the Mets to make a change at the top, especially after they embarrassingly went 0-for-August at Shea.

The bottom line is, players, you’re totally entitled to your opinions regarding Valentine. But please, let’s stop kicking the guy while he’s down.

• Two items popped up this week connecting the Mets and MLB.com, which I found interesting for reasons that readers familiar with my history will understand.

The Mets had flirted successfully with Japanese third baseman Norihiro Nakamura where the two sides reached an understanding on the terms of a two-year, $7 million contract that would have made the power hitter Edgardo Alfonzo’s successor at the hot corner.

That is, until Nakamura logged onto the Mets’ official website at mets.com, where he was greeted by a photograph of himself and the accompanying write-up which claimed that he and the Mets were close to an agreement.

"We asked the New York Mets, please don't issue the news from New York," Nakamura told Kyodo News, after reversing field and signing a deal to remain in Japan. "They broke our agreement. I can't sign with a team that broke a promise."

Secondly, Floyd made special mention in his press conference’s introductory speech of some disparaging comments out of Boston that he’d read about himself on the Internet regarding a perceived lack of hustle on the playing field.

Which writer had penned that, you ask? As it turns out, Floyd says he found the offending text in his MLB-prepared player profile summary on the Red Sox official website.

"I’m reading it over and over again," Floyd said. "And I’m just thinking, ‘This is not me.’ Never once in my life have I given just 50 percent or even 80 percent. That hurt."
• Finally, let me extend my warmest wishes to our readers for a happy and healthy holiday season. I hope you’ve enjoyed the weekly columns this season, and I’ll see you all right back here in 2003.

Bryan Hoch appears regularly in the Wave. He can be contacted at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.

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