Valentine to start with LCS, World Series

Bobby Valentine, fresh off his six-year stint as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan, is returning to ESPN as an analyst on "Baseball Tonight."

Valentine, who led the New York Mets to the World Series in 2000 and the Marines to the Japan Series title in 2005, will make his first on-air appearances during the two League Championship Series and the World Series.

Valentine, who previously worked for ESPN in 2003, will take on expanded duties in 2010. He will appear on "Baseball Tonight" and 1050 ESPN Radio in New York, and contribute to ESPNNewYork.com, the local ESPN sports site that launches next year.

"Bobby's global knowledge of the game and dynamic personality make him a great addition to our baseball franchise," said Norby Williamson, executive vice president, production. "We're thrilled to welcome him back to ESPN."

Valentine, 59, managed the Texas Rangers from 1985 to 1992, and the Mets from 1996 to 2002. Under Valentine, the Mets advanced to the postseason in consecutive years (1999 and 2000) for the first time in club history.

Valentine was manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines in 1995, and again from 2004 to 2009; their Japan Series victory in 2005 was their first since 1974.

"I've had a remarkable experience in Japan the last six years, and I'm excited about returning to ESPN," Valentine said. "I've been following Major League Baseball closely from afar, and look forward to delving back into those conversations across the company's multimedia platforms."

In Japan, Valentine developed a huge following, not only because of the on-field success but because he embraced the nation and its language. Earlier in the year, when Marines management announced it would not retain him after this season because it could no longer afford his salary, fans went on an extensive petition drive.

Fans in the right-field seats at Chiba Marine Stadium wore T-shirts saying "Bobby 2010" and waved huge signs with slogans such as "No Bobby, No Marines," and "Always Behind Bobby."

They presented team management with a petition of 100,000 signatures in support of Valentine, but their efforts did not sway the team.

The standoff between Lotte fans and management was reminiscent of 1995, when Valentine was let go after one season despite leading the team to a second-place finish in the Pacific League.

Valentine, a native of Stamford, Conn., returned to the United States to manage the Mets, and his success only added to his popularity with Lotte fans, who felt betrayed by management.

General manager Tatsuro Hirooka said then that Valentine was let go because he didn't understand Japanese baseball. Others argued his popularity with the players and the fans rubbed Hirooka the wrong way.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.