Brian Cashman and Bobby Valentine live less than 5 miles apart, Cashman in Darien, Conn., and Valentine, of course, in Stamford.
Over the past couple of years, since Valentine returned from managing in Japan, he and Cashman have gotten to know one another, and Cashman considers Valentine a friend.
No doubt, the injection of a dose of Valentine into the already-intense Yankees-Red Sox rivalry further changes the dynamic of the relationship between the teams and their passionate fan bases.
The civility of the Joe Girardi-Terry Francona relationship will no doubt give way to a more candid, contentious managerial conversation, at least the side coming out of the Red Sox clubhouse.
"He has a tendency to answer the questions that are asked of him," Cashman said. "And we know that anything, even a single comment, can bring more attention to this rivalry."
No one is better at bringing attention to a situation, or to himself, than Valentine. There was the Groucho Marx disguise in the Mets' dugout after an ejection, and the exaggerated, stoner-style "Whoa!" he blurted out at a news conference dealing with some Mets players indulging in some bong hits. There was a public feud with Cliff Floyd (then a Florida Marlin) over an All-Star Game selection, and an ongoing tussle with his own GM, Steve Phillips.
But most of all, Valentine seemed to specialize in tweaking the Yankees, even in an era when the two teams met just three times a year.
In 1997, the first interleague Yankees-Mets series was memorable not only for the otherwise-unmemorable Dave Mlicki's shutout victory at Yankee Stadium in the first-ever regular-season meeting between the teams, but also for Valentine's incessant bench-jockeying in the last game of the series that forced David Cone to balk home a run.
The Yankees weren't too happy about that -- the phrase "bush league," as I recall, was thrown around -- and they were less happy when Valentine, incensed after Roger Clemens beaned Mike Piazza, said the difference between, say, Bob Gibson's brand of beanball and Clemens' was "the difference between wearing pants or wearing a skirt" since Clemens, as an American Leaguer, never came to bat.
The implication was clear, as was the intent when Valentine ordered Shawn Estes to throw at Clemens when the Yankees came to Shea Stadium -- after an anonymous voice in the Mets' clubhouse, presumably the manager's, accused Clemens of deliberately trying to get himself suspended by throwing at Barry Bonds in order to avoid having to play in a non-DH game -- and so was Valentine's disgust when Estes managed to miss his target, which was Clemens' oversized posterior.
"I didn't know Bobby back then," Cashman said. "It's only in the past couple of years that I've gotten to know him, and I like him."
Now, Cashman says, "Bobby's one of the best baseball people I've ever met. I have a great respect for his baseball knowledge. He's very passionate, very determined. I'm sure he's going to be all-in for the Red Sox."
Which means he will be all out for the Yankees, too. The hottest rivalry in sports just got a little hotter, a little nastier, a little more fun.
Said Cashman: "I'm not looking forward to seeing him in their dugout."