Not Valentine's Day In Opener Manager Takes Heat For Protest

Posted: March 30, 2000

TOKYO — With the world watching, baseball history quickly turned into another Bobby Valentine controversy yesterday.

As baseball's first regular-season game outside of North America was concluding, Valentine took heat for filing a protest of the Mets' 5-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Valentine said the protest would be withdrawn, then he returned fire. Chicago manager Don Baylor seemed upset that Valentine had protested his lineup card when the Mets were down to their last strike.

"Too bad," Valentine said. "You mean he was upset that he made a mistake or he was upset that I was trying to do my job?"

Mike Hampton, who walked a career-high nine in five innings, had already failed to win his Mets debut and Chicago home runs by Mark Grace and Shane Andrews off the bullpen provided enough offense to overcome Mike Piazza's 450-foot, two-run blast to the rightfield stands in the eighth inning.

One of Hampton's walks put Chicago ahead, 2-1, in the fifth. Hampton allowed two runs and four hits.

Winning pitcher Jon Lieber allowed one run and five hits in seven innings, and Rick Aguilera got three outs for the save.

Sammy Sosa doubled, singled and walked twice.

But all that didn't seem to matter much when Baylor was seething in the postgame press conference and Cubs players were biting their tongues discussing Valentine.

"Bobby tried to distract the pitcher, which is the right thing to do. I'm not irritated," said Baylor, whose body language implied otherwise. "You just have to understand Bobby, which I'm trying to."

Valentine called Baylor's reaction "totally unprofessional" and held up the lineup card to reporters as he said, "It's not my writing."

The mistake didn't seem as important to Cubs players as the way Valentine's grandstanding, in their view, might have shaken pitcher Rick Aguilera.

Baylor submitted a lineup card with the required 25 names, but without infielder Jeff Huson listed. Instead, backup catcher Jeff Reed's name was written twice. Valentine said he noticed the mistake when Huson entered the game as a defensive replacement in the middle of the ninth inning.

Valentine waited until Aguilera had a 1-2 count on Matt Franco with two outs before protesting the game.

"I didn't want to protest this silly thing," Valentine said. "I figured better be safe than sorry."

The teams conclude their two-game series in Japan with a game scheduled to begin at 5 a.m. today.

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