"The rose of love
cascades of grace,
Your darling face."
--John Valentin, maybe
To the lovers out there, welcome to your day, the day of celebration, the night of $200 disappearing into the Great Beyond for the hope of expressing your deepest emotions for someone else. That you have found time to read this article is a testament to your erstwhile commitment to your significant other. Cheers.
This holiday has made me wonder about the Greatest Of All-Time (GOAT) who have ever played the sport, and yet more specifically, it caused me to wonder who was the greatest Valentine in baseball history?
It turns out there have been only 11 players in Major League history with the surname Valentine, and even that number comes with some very loose interpretations. Vito Valentinetti is included, because a name that Italian desires to be remembered, more so than his 13-14 W-L record and career 4.73 ERA in 257 innings. Jose Valentin also gets a nod, because there is nothing that evokes the romantic air of Valentine's Day more than a swarthy, mustachioed Latin man.
Jose Valentin also happens to be the second-best player on our list. With a lifetime accumulation of 30.0 WAR, spread out over 16 major league seasons and a career .243/.321/.448 triple slash, Valentin finished out his career playing 56 games for the Dodgers in 2005 and then 188 games over two seasons with the Mets.
But our winner, aided by one indestructible season, is Sir John Valentin of the Boston Red Sox (although he, much like every aged player of his time, spent the last of his career with the Mets in 2002).
Over his eleven-year career, Valentin hit .279/.360/.454 with a wRC+ of 110. His best year, by far, was in 1995, when he hit .298/.399/.533 with 27 home runs, 108 runs scored, 102 runs batted in, and 20 stolen bases. He also played a killer short stop that year, with 30 Defensive Runs Saved. It capped off a trio of sterling defensive years, where Valentin accrued nearly 7.5 Wins Above Replacement on his defense alone. He finished 9th in the MVP voting that year and took home the Silver Slugger.
On July 8th, 1994, he also managed to turn an unassisted triple play, only the thirteenth in major league history at the time:
Fate, as with so many of our hearts doth play, plays the same with Valentin. He had a down defensive year in 1996, and in 1997 he was moved off of short and over to third to make room for some guy you've probably never even heard of. After an adjustment year, he managed to save 33 more Runs at third between 1998 and 1999.
1999 was the beginning of the end. He suffered through some injuries during the season, managing to play only 113 games. In 2000, he missed 35 games with tendinitis in his knee and, during a game against Kansas City, he crumpled in a heap and had to be taken off of the field in a cart. He played in only 20 games the following season with the Red Sox before signing on with the Mets, making it through 114 games with a .240/.339/.356 triple slash.
On this day we remember all of those who have donned a uniform under the banner Valentine, and of them you, John, as the best of them all.
Note: John Valentin is currently the assistant hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jose Valentin is the first base coach for the San Diego Padres. Bobby Valentine was not mentioned on purpose.
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