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Bobby Valentine To Leave Japan

Bobby Valentine won't be returning to Japan next year, much to the dismay of many Japanese baseball fans.

Valentine, 59, currently manages the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Pacific-League.

Prior to the season the Marines ownership group decided that it wouldn't be able to afford Valentine's contract, and thus the team has elected to part ways with the fan favorite manager.

This has not gone over well with fans of the team, and many have even gone as far to protest outside Chiba Marine stadium.

In a statement on his Web site, Valentine said, leaving the team "is best for the Chiba Lotte Marines."

Valentine managed the Marines to a Japan Series championship in 2005, and has subsequently become somewhat of a celebrity like figure in Japan.

This was actually Valentine's second go-round with the Marines, as he managed the team in 1995, only to be fired due to a personal conflict with the team's general manager.

Prior to managing the Marines in 1995 Valentine managed the Texas Rangers for seven years from 1985-1992. After his brief stint in Japan, Valentine returned to the United States to take the job as manager of the Mets Triple-A affiliate Norfolk, and eventually Valentine was promoted to manager of the Mets at the end of the 1996 season.

Valentine was notorious for his somewhat "quirky" antics, including a stunt he pulled in 1999 when he famously returned to the dugout dressed in disguise, after being previously ejected from the game.

Valentine should garner some interest from a few teams, including both the Washington Nationals, and possibly his former team the New York Mets.

The Nationals have already fired their manager Manny Acta this year, and replaced him with interim manager Jim Riggleman. However, the biggest hurdle for the Nationals may be working out a reasonable contract for Valentine. It's unlikely the Nat's would be able to pay the nearly $4 million that Valentine was making in Japan, and barring Valentine taking a substantial pay cut this might be wishful thinking.

The Mets, unlike the Nationals do have the ability to meet the financial demands of Valentine, but as of right now they don't have an open position. However, speculation is that both GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel might be gone at season's end. Not sure how responsive Met fan's would be to brining Valentine back, but after dealing with Manuel, I'm guessing they'd be willing to give it a shot.