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09/29/09 1:04 PM ET
Valentine returning to the ESPN family
Stint as 'Baseball Tonight' analyst begins with LCS
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Maybe this is happening only because Bobby Valentine never got the call from "Dancing With the Stars." So instead of appearing on ABC, Valentine has rejoined sister network ESPN as an analyst on "Baseball Tonight." A short background bio distributed by ESPN noted that Valentine, the former Major League manager who has nimbly stepped around his share of controversies, "is also an accomplished ballroom dancer." "Oh, yes, that's the only reason I'm coming back," Valentine deadpanned from Japan during a Tuesday morning conference call in the wake of ESPN's formal announcement. "I figured if Warren Sapp can do it, I can do it." In reality, of course, Valentine is returning because his gig is up with the Chiba Lotte Marines and ESPN offers a window back into Major League Baseball, as well as a forum for eventually resuming his MLB managerial career. "It's fair to assume that I'd be interested in managing again," Valentine said, "but at this time, I'm totally committed to trying to be as good as I can be for the team that showed interest in me." The man who hired him, Norby Williamson, ESPN's executive vice president for production, is perfectly comfortable with Valentine's ambitions. "Teams at some point would be crazy not to approach Bobby about managing their team," Williamson said. "I'm OK with that. It helps us to have people who are connected to the game and relevant." For the past six years, Valentine managed the Marines of Japan's Pacific League, a stint that only enhanced his reputation for getting the most out of his teams. Five years after having led the Mets to the 2000 World Series, he guided the Marines to their first Japan Series victory since 1974. Extremely popular in Japan, Valentine nevertheless wasn't offered a contract extension by Chiba Lotte, making him a managerial free agent and a natural hire for ESPN. Bobby V. will make his formal return to the network -- he worked for ESPN in 2003, between his dismissal by the Mets and hiring by the Marines -- during the 2009 League Championship Series. "I've been with a lot of teams," said Valentine, who managed the Texas Rangers from 1985 to 1992 and played for five teams during a versatile 10-year career, "but the one I enjoyed most was the time I spent with [ESPN's] baseball team. "I'm totally excited and fortunate to have this opportunity, and I want to contribute any way I can. It's a situation only a fool would have refused." Williamson said that the network is "thrilled to welcome him back." "Bobby's global knowledge of the game and dynamic personality make him a great addition to our baseball franchise," Williamson added. "His resume, his knowledge and insight, and his passion will add a lot to our coverage." Valentine, who doesn't plan to return from Japan until Oct. 15, on the eve of the LCS, will have to cram in the interim on the participants, as he admitted having only casually followed the big leagues from Japan. "I had a job here to which I was committed," he said. "I passed many mornings watching whatever game happened to be on TV, and I'm an Internet junkie. I followed it as much as I could, but I wasn't passionate into following MLB the last six years." He did, however, have a perceptive comment on his most recent Major League team. "Disappointment after disappointment," he said of the Mets. "I don't think it was something anyone could have fixed as the season was going on."