Bobby V's new gig: Sunday Night Baseball

Mets pitcher Orel Hershiser, center, general manager Steve Mets pitcher Orel Hershiser, center, general manager Steve Phillips, left, and manager Bobby Valentine gather for a photo during a news conference. (March 25, 1999) Photo Credit: AP

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

Bobby Valentine being Bobby Valentine, it is no surprise that it was an eventful offseason for the naturally caffeinated character -- even at age 60 and nearly a decade removed from his term with the Mets.

He interviewed for managerial jobs. He was named director of public safety and health in Stamford, Conn. He admitted to speaking to people exploring partial ownership of the Mets. He planned a fund to aid victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, where he managed in 1995 and from 2004-09.

Oh, and in December, he was given one of the most prestigious, high-profile assignments in televised baseball: as an analyst on ESPN's retooled "Sunday Night Baseball."

"I was honored," he said. "I've been a lucky guy all of my life. To think a job that hadn't been open in so long all of a sudden came open and it happened to be a year after I got my wings back doing TV work, I counted my blessings."

The opening developed when ESPN decided not to bring back Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, who had manned the Sunday booth for 21 years. Orel Hershiser, who joined Miller and Morgan last year, will return as a game analyst, with Dan Shulman doing play-by- play.

On paper, it is a strong, balanced trio, one that should boost the network's weekly national exclusive, which will feature the Yankees or Mets in four of the six weeks from April 10 to May 15. The new booth makes its regular-season debut March 31 for the Giants-Dodgers opener.

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The dynamic between Valentine and Hershiser should be interesting. The latter played for the former with the Mets in 1999, during which they engaged in regular, spirited baseball conversations.

"We haven't always agreed on everything, and I think that will be good for television," Hershiser said, "and usually it's because I'm wrong."

Said Valentine: "We did have a great year together. We didn't always agree, but we both had something in common: We were all about team . . . I think we're going to be a good team."

As with his ESPN "Monday Night Football" counterpart, Jon Gruden, it is assumed that Valentine eventually will return to managing. He said his only focus for now is the job at hand.

"I'm going to do what I do at everything: Give my best effort every day," he said. "I have something to add to these telecasts and to ESPN, hopefully enough where I'll be fulfilled."

Valentine said his seven-day work week will begin with traveling to the site Saturday, covering the game Sunday, then working on "Baseball Tonight" in Bristol on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The rest of his week will focus on his job in his hometown of Stamford, which involves overseeing policemen, firemen and other services.

How has he been enjoying it so far?

"I don't know about that word, 'enjoyable,' " he said, laughing. "It's working out all right. There is a lot to do."

The same can be said of breaking in a new announcing team on a highly visible stage.

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"It's going to be a work in progress, and hopefully progress quickly once we get our timing down," Valentine said. "Hopefully, me being sequenced in between those two guys won't bring them down."

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