Valentine's Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan Series

Updated: October 21, 2005, 9:27 AM ET
Associated Press

TOKYO -- Bobby Valentine likes his team's chances in the Japan Series.

And why not? The former New York Mets manager guided the Chiba Lotte Marines to a second-place finish in the Pacific League this season. Then the Marines beat the defending Japan Series champion Seibu Lions and first-place Softbank Hawks in the playoffs.

"This is a very good team," Valentine said Thursday. "Everyone has done what they needed to do to get here."

The Marines, once a Pacific League doormat, have excelled since Valentine returned for his second stint with the club.

When they face the Central League champion Hanshin Tigers in the best-of-seven championship starting Saturday, the Marines will be bidding for their first title since 1974, when they were known as the Lotte Orions.

It will be Valentine's first trip to a championship since he went to the World Series in 2000 as manager of the Mets. They lost to the New York Yankees in five games.

"The Marines and the Mets of 2000 are quite similar," Valentine said. "If it came down to a question of bullpens, I would say the Marines are better."

Former Mets Benny Agbayani and Matt Franco, who were with Valentine in 2000, had productive season and are expected to play a key role in the Japan Series.

Valentine, very popular among Lotte's fans, is the first foreign manager to reach the Japan Series since Hawaiian-born Wally Yonamine in 1974.

Valentine is in the middle of a three-year contract with the Marines. He has repeatedly said he will return to the club next season.

In his first stint with Lotte in 1995, Valentine led the team to a second-place finish but was let go at the end of the season over what was described as a difference of opinion with then general manager Tatsuro Hirooka.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press