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2009 to be Valentine's last in Chiba

by Jim Allen (Dec 22, 2008)

Bobby Valentine, the first foreign-born manager to win the Japan Series, will leave the Chiba Lotte Marines after the 2009 season.

"It's better this way, it gives me a year, and I'm looking forward to the season," Valentine told The Daily Yomiuri by telephone after team president Ryuzo Setoyama announced the team's decision in a meeting on Sunday.

"They did something really good," Valentine said. "They said attendance was up over the past five seasons...revenue was up...the teams results in terms of wins and losses was up, and they thanked me for my contribution to that. And then Setoyama said the team needed a revolution."

Valentine said Setoyama and a new regime will take over the front office functions and baseball operations that the skipper had once overseen.

"This is going to be fun," Valentine said. "I'm not going to have to worry about where the players are going to be three years from now, or whether or not a turnstiles in center field is working."

In the middle of this past season, Valentine said Setoyama had urged him to resign--which Setoyama denied.

"Thinking of the team three years, five years down the road, we've mapped out a plan for a generational changing of the guard," Jiji Press reported Setoyama as saying.

"During the season, some players expressed a desire that [Valentine] would concentrate completely on the games."

Valentine said on Saturday, he came to Japan in the offseason to discuss player acquistions for next season and straighten out a mess concerning Doosan Bears infielder Kim Dong Ju.

Valentine reportedly spoke to Kim's agent during Major League Baseball's recent winter meetings in Las Vegas. The club was apparently angry the skipper did so without informing the club. According to the Jiji report, Valentine apologized for doing so.

But the principle purpose of Sunday's meeting seems to have been to push the skipper aside so Setoyama could undertake his "revolution."

"He said he wanted to 'renovate' all the operations," Valentine said, "'teach everone in Lotte and in the front office and all of baseball.'"

The Marines just missed out on a playoff berth, finishing a half-game back of the third-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Valentine said he was told when he left Japan that his contract situation from 2010 on would depend on results.

With Valentine at the helm, the Marines won the Japan Series in 2005, finished one game shy of a Series berth in 2007 and missed the playoffs by a half a game in 2004. He previously managed the Marines to a surprising second-place finish in 1995 only to be fired at the end of the season.

Despite that, Valentine maintained good relations with the son of the team's owner, and was brought back to manage in 2004, to the delight of the Marines fans.

"At one time I was told I could have the job for life," said Valentine. "But apparently that has changed.

"This is better. Now when someone calls in the middle of the season, I can talk to them."


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