When last we saw blogger Murray Chass, he was convinced that the new Mets front office was trying to pull a fast one over the fanbase by admitting it had payroll issues. (No, it doesn't make any sense.) But if there's anything Chass likes better than not making sense, it's settling personal scores. Usually he saves his ire for Mike Piazza, against whom he's waged a one-man libelous war for years. Over the weekend, he shifted his crabby gaze toward ex-Mets manager Bobby Valentine.
I'll admit that I am totally biased. Bobby Valentine is my favorite Mets manager by a large margin, so take this post with as much salt as you like. But while Chass takes pains to appear aggrieved and crusading, his piece says a lot more about himself than it does about Valentine.
Chass's piece on Valentine was prompted by the ex-manager's recent appearance at the St. John's Baseball Bullpen Winter Banquet. At least I think it was; Chass also mentions in passing "a YouTube segment someone sent me," and it's unclear if this is the same event Chass is writing about. No link is provided for this "YouTube segment," further confusing the matter. Just hang on, because it doesn't get any less bumpy.
In the speech, according to Chass, Valentine related the story of his infamous Disguise Incident in 1999, when he was ejected from a game and tried to sneak back into the dugout with a laughably fake mustache and change of clothes. During this tale, he accused the ex-New York Times scribe of being "one of the only people I think really has a black heart that I’ve ever met in my life." A little over the top, I grant you. Chass was called out, and he as a right to respond. I just don't think he did a very good job of it.
Valentine said Chass wrote about how much he "disrespected" the game by this act, a charge Chass denies via quotes from the articles he wrote immediately thereafter. While Chass did not use the word "disrespect" in them, the fact that he referred to Valentine as "Inspector Clouseau" heavily implied it, I think. Chass also takes Valentine to task for getting certain small facts wrong (like the length of his suspension, which Valentine overstated by a game), which is a quibbling complaint to lodge against a presumably off-the-cuff remembrance.
However, the piece really goes off the rails is when Chass says Valentine imagined the writer had a vendetta against him--and basically proves he has his own vendetta with a series of poorly sourced and questionably chosen bits of evidence. When he cites "Valentine's obsessive hatred for me," it reads like classic projection.
Chass's big hammer: Valentine should have quit when his coaching staff was sacked in the middle of an eight-game losing streak in the spring of 1999. He contrasts Valentine's refusal to do so with Dallas Green, who, when faced with a similar situation as manager of the Yankees 10 years earlier, basically dared George Steinbrenner to fire him (which he did). Valentine "didn't put his job on the line, as Green did." This, Chass says, proves Valentine is a weasel.
However, the situations are in no way analogous. Nobody wanted to work for Steinbrenner in 1989. The Boss was right in the middle of squabbling with Dave Winfield over payments to the outfielder's charity. For reasons known only to Steinbrenner, this caused him to hire a convicted gambler to dig up dirt on Winfield, which eventually led to his ban from baseball a year later. Add this to the fact that the Yankees were not a very good team at the time, and Green was probably glad to get canned.
Just check out this article from the summer of 1989, when Steinbrenner was blasting Green for outfield positioning. Would you fight to hang on to to a job like that?
Amazingly, Chass even accuses Valentine of "revisionist history" and "patting himself on the back" when he said, back in 1999, that he'd fixed "the abyss that was here two and a half years ago."
However, Valentine’s predecessor, Green, cleared up the mess Valentine referred to before Valentine replaced him.
Wow. Did you hear that, Mets fans? Dallas Green was our savior, the man who guided the team to exactly zero winning seasons in four years. Oh, what fools we've been! I bet the arms of Generation K would like a rebuttal to your statement, Murray.
Chass then includes a few quotes from way back in 1999 from Todd Hundley, the former Mets catcher who feuded with Valentine. He insists this is relevant and fair when in fact it is neither. Also, if your intention is to call a character witness on your behalf, Hundley is not your best choice. He had some great years for the Mets, but he was no choir boy, and he wasn't exactly a model worker, either. Go ask a Cubs fan what a great guy Hundley is, if you can accept the risk that you may get punched in the mouth for your trouble.
The main reason Valentine's beef with Hundley is brought up is because Chass believes that's where his own beef with Valentine started. Apparently, Chass interviewed Hundley about their history once the catcher had been traded to the Dodgers. Problem is, he neglected to get Valentine's side of the story, for reasons that seem sketchy at best. (Valentine had spoken to another Times reporter on the subject, so Chass didn't think he needed to bother to follow up.)
According to Chass, that's when Valentine's vendetta began. However, his detailed scorekeeping of slights and barbs says to me that, if there is a "vendetta," it's a two-way street.
Chass is far from the only reporter who doesn't like Valentine, and they may all have perfectly valid reasons to not like him. However, most of them are professional enough to keep those feelings under their hats, even though Valentine hasn't managed in nine years. Chass's whining about Valentine possibly misconstruing his motives makes it seem like the only reason he ever went into sportswriting was so he could be a jock's Truman Capote in his forced retirement, dishing about all the people who'd done him wrong over the years.
But what I find most curious about Chass's is post is how it opens:
The roster of managers this spring includes 12 managers who did not hold those jobs last spring. None of the new managers is named Bobby Valentine.
Despite his return from a seven-year exile in Japan and a desire to return to the major leagues, Valentine found relatively little interest in his services in the widest-open managerial market in years. The few teams that did consider him and interviewed him obviously opted to hire others, in all instances younger and less experienced managers.
Based on developments, it appears that Valentine’s reputation has finally caught up with him and left him on the outside looking in...
Twelve managerial openings, eh? That's about the same number of sizable daily newspapers within 100 miles of New York City. And yet, not one of them has seen fit to hire Murray Chass since he himself became a free agent. Are you sure you want to invite this comparison, Murray?