Buried in Topkin's numerous pieces this week is a simple tidbit mentioned in passing:
SI.com's Jon Heyman says the Rays offered Bobby Valentine the manager's job at $1-million a year before hiring Joe Maddon (for about half as much); the Rays say talks were just preliminary
Wow. If you can recall the Rays interviewed the likes of Terry Pendleton, Mike Schmidt, Joe Girardi, Alan Trammel, Billy Hatcher, Tom Foley, Bill Evers, John McLaren, and of course Joe Maddon. Valentine's name was brought up, but it seemed more like a media rumor more so than a factual observation. Of course the numbers were narrowed down to Maddon and McLaren, and just ask Mariner fans what they think of McLaren nowadays while Maddon has improved his stock noticeably.
Yet let's consider the what if aspect of Valentine being hired. Would he be as sold on the "Rays way" as Maddon is? Would the team have attempted to compete sooner, essentially repeating the Lou Piniella and Larry Rothschild disasters? Essentially would the hire have simply been for media attention and name recognition instead of a true chemistry and working relationship between all three levels of the organization?
Perhaps more intriguing would've been the possible increased Japanese presence for the Rays. Sure, we did get Shinji Mori -- he left us with a torn labrum, we (America) left him with a love of Hooters, go figure -- and Akinori Iwamura, but could Valentine's presence resulted in a Trey Hillman like effect? Let's not forget that Valentine is a legend of sorts now in Japan, the Rays Japanese audience would've grown substantially.
Valentine is likely even to Maddon in terms of strategic ability without an airport next to the stadium, but with a clear advantage in vinegar. A lot of people screamed for this during the past two years from Maddon, and as seemingly expected Maddon has all but dropped the "kid gloves" this year while maintaining his commitment to protecting players in the media.
Would Valentine have forced the team to improve quicker, if such a thing was possible?