While Bobby Valentine’s Japan Series win last year ushered in a commercial bonanza for the former Mets skipper, this year’s title might mean a high profile return home for another gaijin manager writes the Dallas Star-Telegram’s Kat O’Brien.

The Rangers plan to interview Trey Hillman for their managerial opening in person in Arlington Tuesday. Hillman is in the fourth year as manager of the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan.

There was some uncertainty as to whether the Rangers would be able to interview Hillman in person, as his team just won the Japan Series, and he must manage them in the Asian Championships which are in early November.

Hillman, who attended the University of Texas-Arlington and is a former Rangers farm director, has called the Rangers his dream job. However, it is not the only managerial opening in the major leagues which he is a candidate for. Hillman wrote in an email Sunday that he will interview with the Rangers Tuesday, with the Oakland A™s Wednesday and the San Diego Padres on Thursday.

He plans to fly back to Japan from California on Friday, where he has an array of commitments: coaching an All-Star Game on Nov. 5th, managing in the Asian Series which begins Nov. 12th, the national baseball convention Nov. 14th, the Fighter celebration parade Nov. 18th and a fan-fest at the Sapporo Dome Nov. 19th.

Hillman will be the fourth candidate to interview for the Rangers opening. General manager Jon Daniels has already interviewed Oakland A™s third base coach Ron Washington, Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A manager John Russell and New York Mets third base coach Manny Acta.

Newsday’s Ken Davidoff
is already licking his chops at the prospect of Jeff Suppan coming to Flushing.

The Mets, in need of starting pitching, will take a look at impending free agent Suppan, one person familiar with the club’s thinking said. Another such person said that should Suppan express mutual interest, the righthander’s political views would be “a point of discussion.”

Precedent, after all, has been set. Carlos Delgado, who opposes the United States’ occupation of Iraq, obeyed the Mets’ edict to put aside his anti-war views and respect the occasional playing of “God Bless America” at Shea and other ballparks.

So though Cardinals manager Tony La Russa praised Suppan this past week for his community involvement, Suppan would be expected to tone down his beliefs in New York, where, you know, we tend to scrutinize things a bit more (see Benson, Anna).

If the Mets did sign Suppan and wanted to fully capitalize, they could use their off days to hold Delgado-Suppan debates at Shea. How much would you pay to see that? I’d pay $8

Another free-agent arm for Mets fans to keep in mind: lefthander Randy Wolf. The career-long Phillie went 4-0 with a 5.56 ERA in 12 starts in 2006 after returning from Tommy John surgery. The operation occurred in July 2005, so Wolf should be something close to full strength next season.