BOSTON Over the last few years, Bobby Valentine had come to accept that his managing days might be over. Instead, in what he called a dream situation, the Red Sox introduced him Thursday at Fenway Park as the 45th manager in team history.
I was doing good and exciting things, said Valentine, who has been an ESPN analyst, is the director of public safety for his hometown of Stamford, CT, owns a restaurant, and has organized charitable works.
There were a lot of different things I was doing. And I was getting paid to do things a couple days a week at a kings ransom. So how can you not be happy with that situation?"
But . . .
"Did I dream about this situation? Absolutely. Did I wake up and put water on my face whenever I had that dream and said, Hey, cmon, go back to thinking abouthiring a new fire chief for Stamford? Yes, I did. Im a realist. And I saw the game as it was changing and I saw it, obviously, getting younger. I saw it getting kind of different. And I didnt know that I could ever fit in. Now, Im maybe going to fit in.
The Sox signed Valentine to manage for two years, with team options for 2014 and 2015.
Hes the right man for the job, said principal owner John Henry. The right man at the right time for this particular team. We are set to win. We should have won last year. We are built to win. We thought in the end that Bobby was the person most capable of taking us to where we want to go 2012 and 2013 . . .
"Were not at a point right now where were building for the future. We are trying to win now. We always try to do both, but we felt he was the right person as the right time for this team.
Valentine takes over a team that finished third in the American League East, out of the playoffs for the second straight year, after posting the best record in the A.L. through Aug. 31. He is a veteran of 15 major-league managerial seasons with the Rangers and Mets, compiling a record of 1,117-1,072. Hes also managed over parts of seven seasons in Japan. Valentine currently ranks fourth among major league managers in games, with 2,189, and wins. But, he has not managed in the major leagues since 2002, after a tumultuous seventh and final season with the Mets.
Hes learned from those experiences, he said. Still, he prefers not to focus on them.
"To take all this time that we have, which is very valuable time, and delve on the past is not productive, he said.
Valentine, 61, has more than 40 years in the game, since being a first-round pick of the Dodgers in 1968 draft. Words that have been used to describe him range from brilliant and genius to polarizing and egotistical.The Sox were happy with the whole package.
We want him to be a creative, energetic, strategically wise field manager who has learned from his experience from his past and I think he has, said Sox presidentCEO Larry Lucchino. I think he admitted that today.
We did talk about his experience with the Rangers, the Mets andJapan. We talked about all those things.
I feel very strongly we found the right person in Bobby Valentine, said general manager Ben Cherington. He has an enormous baseball intellect. He is creative, he is open-minded. He is certainly passionate and he badly wants to win.
Cherington is not concerned with the perception that Valentine was not his pick, but rather the pick of those above him in the Sox hierarchy.
It's just not true, Cherington said. We went through a very thorough process. We talked to a lot of candidates. We did a lot of research on a lot of candidates. At the end of the process, I think it was Monday, I made a recommendation to ownership, I believe it was sometime Monday, that we offered the position to Bobby.
Ownership, as they absolutely should, was very involved in the process.
For the first time in his major league career, Valentine is taking over a team from the start of a season. With both the Rangers and Mets he was a midseason managerial replacement. He wouldnt allow himself to think his new job was a real possibility until he received an e-mail from Cherington earlier in the week telling Valentine to stand-by for another e-mail.
Valentine is a little uncertain exactly when he got the first e-mail.
I was in Japan, and it was 8:37 a.m. on November 29, he said. But I dont know if that was here or there. It was night.
Valentine, who enjoys hero status in Japan, was there on a charitable mission, an outreach after the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country in March. His new status has not quite sunk in yet.
I wish I was smart enough to explain all this stuff, he said. I think Im going to have to almost look back and reflect and figure out what this whole thing is. Maybe its a little jet lag, too. I keep coming up with the word special. Its the most different day of my life. Ive never, I havent experienced this. Ive had uniforms on for the first day. Ive had a press conference. I could tell you, what the hell, everyone knows, this is different.This is, today was absolutely different. And I feel special.
Valentine grew up in Stamford yes, on the Yankee side of the mythical line that determines loyalties. The first major-league game he saw was as a young boy was a Sox-Yankees doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. He sat between his Yankee fan father, and his fathers younger brother, a Sox fan.He knows all about the ancient rivalry.
I might take a little of that craziness away from some of the players, he said. Because I know that they learn to hate the 18 days they play each other each season. It is an awful lot. And its so big. Its so much. And its so important, not only to the franchises, but to the fans, to front office, the ownership."
Valentine has 80 days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.Hell spend that time poring over stats, watching video, and reaching out to the players. Hes managed just one Sox player previously shortstop Marco Scutaro, who already has a place in Valentine lore. Clashing with then-Mets GM Steve Phillips in 2002, Valentine wanted an outfielder called up. When he was given Scutaro, Valentine sent Scutaro in to play the outfield. Scutaro, inevitably it would seem, misplayed a ball, leading Valentine to say Phillips had told him Scutaro could play the outfield.
Asked if he would treat pitcher Josh Beckett, who was at the center of much of the disreputable behavior that plagued the team in its crippling September spiral, differently, Valentine responded, somewhat cryptically:
I think the most unfair thing you can do is treat people who are different the same way. So I think he will be treated differently. Was that alright? I think I said that right.
And so begins the Bobby Valentine era at Fenway Park.