McAdam: Valentine brings bright lights with him to Fenway


McAdam: Valentine brings bright lights with him to Fenway

BOSTON -- About an hour after he had been formally introduced as the new manager of the Red Sox, Bobby Valentine was surrounded by reporters on the State Street Pavillion at Fenway Park, taking questions and parrying answers.

One reporter noted that this job represents the first time that Valentine had become manager of a quality team. Valentine, as he often does, did the reporter one better, noting that it's also the first time that he's not taken over in the middle of the season.

"This is going to be different," said Valentine.

Is it ever.

Valentine is the 45th manager in the Red Sox history, but the first rock star manager the franchise has ever had.

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The press conference featured reporters from five different New York-area newspapers -- and not just because Valentine's last job in Major League Baseball was as manager of the Mets.

Valentine's introduction was carried live not only by CSNNE and NESN but several of the network affiliates in town.

There were so many cameras and microphones and notebooks in the room that it was difficult to maneuver. Many would have been there if Gene Lamont had been the one being introduced Thursday afternoon, but Valentine's presence made it An Event.

He salivated over the prospect of taking part in the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry. He teared up and let out a sigh as he tried on the uniform for the first time. He smiled, joked and thanked all the right people.

He was "humbled, honored and pretty damn excited," he said.

Never, it seems safe to say, have the Red Sox had a manager like this, who arrives with a built-in star quality.

They've done scrappy first-timers (Dick Williams). They've done loyal organizational men (Eddie Kasko) and they've done grizzled retreads (Ralph Houk, John McNamara). They've done local natives (Joe Morgan) and good ol' sons of the South (Butch Hobson).

They've done old-school lifers (Jimy Williams) and cornpone (Grady Little). They hired someone who had four losing seasons and watched him win two World Series (Terry Francona).

But they've never done this before -- an honest-to-goodness, larger-than-life, scenery-chewing, ready-for-my-closeup manager.

It's not just his TV experience that prepared him for this, the role of a lifetime. Though Valentine was a natural on TV, it was a mere professional layover for him, something to keep him occupied and around the game while waiting for the right opportunity to present itself.

Enter the Red Sox.

For all his polish and savvy and comfort in front of the camera, Valentine is actually a throwback to a time when baseball managers had personalities. He would have fit right in in the 1970s with Billy Martin, Earl Weaver and, of course, his baseball godfather, Tommy Lasorda.

Lately, it's as if the personalities have been scrubbed clean from the game. Too many managers speak Cliche as a second language and measure every response about their starting rotation as though it was a matter of national security.

Valentine doesn't do dull or predictable. He has boundless energy, an unquenchable appetite for baseball and a genuine love of the game. He even married into baseball bloodlines (his wife is the daughter of Ralph Branca).

His postgame press conferences will become appointment viewing and there may be nights that Pam Ganley, the team's media relations director, will have to yank Valentine off the podium with a cane, Vaudeville-style -- not because he's bombing but because he can'twon't stop talking.

Sports is big business, a battle for the entertainment dollar with plenty of competition elsewhere. Don't think for a minute that the Red Sox didn't take that into consideration when they settled on Valentine. They not only have a skipper of the local nine, as Morgan quaintly put it two decades ago, they have a honest-too-goodness personality.

Ultimately, of course, Valentine wasn't brought in to entertain or make the post-game show compelling. He was brought in to win. If he doesn't, or fails to get the reins on the clubhouse, it could get ugly.

Like every other Red Sox manager in the last 30 years, the expectations will be huge and the honeymoon brief.

But it will be an interesting ride along the way. Bobby Valentine may be a lot of things, but "dull" isn't one of them.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.

Red Sox claim RHP Doug Fister off waivers, sign INF Jhonny Peralta

Red Sox claim RHP Doug Fister off waivers, sign INF Jhonny Peralta

BOSTON — They have the right idea, if not yet the right personnel.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has brought on a pair of former Tigers in an effort to help the Red Sox’ depth.

It’s hard to expect much from righty Doug Fister — who mostly throws in the 80s these days and is to start Sunday — or from Jhonny Peralta, who’s going to play some third base at Triple-A Pawtucket. Fister was claimed off waivers from the Angels, who coincidentally started a three-game series with the Red Sox on Friday at Fenway Park. Peralta, meanwhile, was signed as a free agent to a minor league deal.

Neither may prove much help. Fister could move to the bullpen when Eduardo Rodriguez is ready to return, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. The Sox hope E-Rod is back in time for the All-Star break.

That’s assuming Fister is pitching well enough that the Sox want to keep him.

But at least the Sox are being proactive looking for help, and it’s not like either Peralta or Fister is high-risk.

"Doug has been an established major league pitcher," Dombrowski said. "We’ve been looking for starting pitching depth. Really traced an unusual situation, because coming into spring training at that time, [Fister was] looking for a bigger contract guarantee at the major league level, and we didn’t feel we could supply at the time because we didn’t have a guaranteed position. We continued to follow him. ... we sent people to watch him workout and throw batting practice in Fresno where he lived. We continued to stay in contact with him. 

"We finally felt we were going to be able to add him to our major league roster, we made a phone call and he had agreed the day before with the Angels on the contract. They said he was in a position where he had made the agreement and signed a major-league contract, agreed to go to the minor leagues, but he had an out on June 21 if they didn’t put him on the big league roster. We scouted him two outings ago. One of our scouts, Eddie Bane, had seen him pitch before, recommended him, felt he could pitch in the starting rotation at the major-league level, that we should be interested in him."

Fister, 33, threw 180 1/3 innings last year with the Astros, posting a 4.64 ERA. He hasn’t been in the big leagues yet this season.

Said one American League talent evaluator earlier this year about Fister’s 2016: “Had a nice first half. Then struggled vs. left-handed hitters and with finishing hitters. No real putaway pitch. Has ability to pitch around the zone, reliable dude.”