Lengthy absence not uncommon for managers
Valentine latest to return to dugout after being away from field
Since he was dismissed by the New York Mets following the 2002 season, Bobby Valentine has not been out of the minds of baseball fans. He has been a constant presence -- first as a celebrated manager in Japan, the last couple of years as a candid ESPN analyst, all along as a name churned by the rumor mill whenever a managerial vacancy opened up.What Valentine has been out of are Major League dugouts. When he fills out the card for the Boston Red Sox's Opening Day lineup on April 5 in Detroit, it will be his first in 3,476 days. That's nine dog-eared years, a lapse few managers have had to conquer. But, good news Red Sox Nation: Those who tried have done so quite successfully. Of the 675 managers in MLB history, Valentine becomes only the 16th to return following an absence of nine or more seasons. Of the 15 pioneers, eight improved on their teams' records or standings in their predecessors' final season.
Bobby V hits Beantown
Valentine faces a tougher challenge than any of them, and this has nothing to do with the Boston media microscope or the bad September taste he has to wash out of the mouths of Red Sox fans. The predecessors all remained on the big league scene between gigs, on coaching lines or in front offices, while Valentine returned from Japan in the fall of 2009 confessing a total disconnect from the Major Leagues.Valentine has a brilliant mind, for baseball and otherwise. He has been catching up during his two seasons in the TV booth. By the time April 5 rolls around, he'll be good to go. Will his creativity, micromanaging and frequent biting sarcasm play as well as it did in 2002? Valentine returns on accelerated Internet time, making his nine-year gap realistically wider in regards to clubhouse culture than those faced by the trailblazers. Remarkably, Valentine isn't alone in facing that challenge. Although an overall short list -- excluded are situations that involved turn-of-the-last-century player-managers and short-term interim managers -- two other current managers are dealing with the same situation, the Mets' Terry Collins and the Nationals' Davey Johnson. Here's a simple report card which lists the managers according to length of absence, notes their prior jobs, and compares their re-entry records to their teams' prior-season record: 14 -- Paul Richards, 1961 Orioles to 1976 White Sox.
In his one-season managerial comeback, Richards got stuck in the cellar of the old six-team AL West with a record of 64-97 (75-86, fifth). 13 -- Ed Barrow, 1904 Tigers to 1918 Red Sox.
Possibly good karma for Valentine, as Barrow resurfaced from a long absence to guide the BoSox to a 75-51 record (90-62, second) that set up their last pre-Ruth Curse World Series title. 13 -- Charlie Dressen, 1937 Reds to 1951 Dodgers.
He didn't relish the final note -- Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard 'Round the World walk-off homer for the Giants -- Dressen at least masterfully led the Dodgers into those iconic playoffs with a regular-season record of 96-58 (89-65, second). 13 -- Burt Shotton, 1933 Phillies to 1947 Dodgers.
Taking over the Bums in the wake of the suspension of manager Leo Durocher, Shotton handled the controversial debut of Jackie Robinson well enough to lead the club to the NL pennant with a record of 92-60 (96-60, second). 12 -- Larry Bowa, 1988 Padres to 2001 Phillies.
The former shortstop great had an immediate impact on a team that had reeled through seven consecutive losing seasons, goading the Phillies to a second-place 86-76 finish (65-97, last). 11 -- Terry Collins, 1999 Angels to 2011 Mets.
Stepping into a difficult situation compounded by an ownership in crisis, Collins drew favorable reviews for managing a fourth-place finish with a 77-85 record (79-83, fourth). 11 -- Ray Miller, 1986 Twins to 1998 Orioles.
Given another shot by the team for which he had been a celebrated pitching coach, Miller still couldn't find managerial magic, guiding the Birds to a 79-83 (98-64) fourth-place finish in the wake of Davey Johnson's departure after winning what remains the club's last division title. 11 -- Fred Haney, 1941 Browns to 1953 Pirates.
Haney took his time going from one NL doormat to another, and his luck didn't change with the Bucs as he added another 100-loss season to their string, finishing 50-104 (42-112). 10 -- Leo Durocher, 1955 Giants to 1966 Cubs.
Taking over a club that had had one winning season in its last 19, Durocher guided the Cubs to another losing record of 59-103 (72-90), but followed that up with six straight winning seasons. 10 -- Eddie Stanky, 1955 Cardinals to 1966 White Sox.
A one-time player-manager, Muggsy Stanky didn't have a winning record while wearing only one hat until he resurfaced to guide the Sox to an 83-79 record (95-67). 10 -- Frank Robinson, 1991 Orioles to 2002 Expos.
Appointed by MLB as "caretaker" of the Montreal franchise, F. Robby had the Expos in Wild Card contention for most of a season they finished at 83-79 and in second place (68-94, last). 10 -- Cito Gaston, 1997 Blue Jays to 2008 Blue Jays.
The only one on this list brought back by the only team he ever managed, Gaston couldn't rekindle the World Series championships of 1992-93, but after his midseason return, he did ignite a 51-37 finish (35-39 prior to change). 10 -- Davey Johnson, 2000 Dodgers to 2011 Nationals.
Johnson stepped into the toughest midseason challenge imaginable, following Jim Riggleman's resignation at the peak of a run of 11 wins in 12 games, and led the Nats to a credible 40-43 finish (40-38 in first half). 9 -- Jack McKeon, 1978 A's to 1988 Padres.
A decade and a half before he would end a shorter hiatus to lead the 2003 Marlins to a World Series title, McKeon descended from the GM office to revive the Padres and guide them to a 67-48 finish after they had gotten off to a 16-30 start under Bowa. 9 -- Jeff Torborg, 1979 Indians to 1989 White Sox.
The former catcher couldn't immediately extract the White Sox from a pit of 265 losses in three seasons, adding a 69-92 seventh-place finish (71-90, fifth) to that string, but came back from that debut with a 94-win 1990 season.