Almost nine weeks after it began, the Red Sox managerial search is wheezing to a close.
Sometime before the end of the week -- but not Tuesday, despite a report to the contrary on Monday night -- the team expects to unveil its replacement for Terry Francona. That the two lone remaining candidates for the job are Bobby Valentine and Gene Lamont , each improbable finalists in his own way, is a somehow fiting conclusion to a bizarre process.
Baseball sources indicated that Toronto Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo has been eliminated from consideration. That much seemed already obvious when Lovullo was not invited to meet with ownership following his initial interview.
That leaves the Sox to choose between Lamont and Valentine, who beyond their ages (Valentine is 61 while Lamont will soon turn 65) and their major league experience (Valentine has managed 15 years in the big leagues; Lamont has 8 seasons under his belt) couldn't be more different.
Where Valentine is loquacious and highly opinionated, Lamont is resolved and unassuming. Where Valentine can be confrontational, Lamont is more likely to resolve issues quietly.
Initially, neither was on general manager Ben Cherington's short list of candidates for the position. That initial group included Sandy Alomar Jr., Mike Maddux, Pete Mackanin and Dale Sveum.
When Maddux ruled himself out of the Boston search, Cherington added Lovullo and Lamont. Of Lamont in particular, Cherington said he wanted to include someone with more major-league experience and Lamont got glowing reviews from a number of people throughout the game as an experienced hand in the dugout.
In retrospect, it may well be that Lamont was added as a concession to the owners, who voiced a desire to have candidates with more experience.
Of course, the owners already had a veteran manager of their own in mind -- Valentine -- though one that they weren't ready to acknowledge publicly.
The public perception has been that Valentine is the choice of both principal owner John Henry -- who has known Valentine for better than a decade -- and team president Larry Lucchino, while Lamont is the compromise choice of Cherington and the baseball operations staff.
If that's the case, the eventual hire will be revealing. If Valentine is the choice, it will signal that ownership took control of the managerial search and imposed their choice on Cherington.
Should Lamont be the hire, it would signal a willingness on Cherington's part to buck ownership's recommendation, and, in turn, a show of faith on by ownership that Cherington can be trusted to make such a decision, even if it's at odds with ownership's preference.
That alone marks a potentially fascinating subtext to a search process which has had more twists and unpredictable turns that anyone could have imagined when it began two months ago.