Valentine picked as Red Sox manager
Accepts the job pending contract
Bobby Valentine is the choice of the Red Sox, emerging from a long and convoluted search to become the 45th manager in franchise history.
The 61-year-old was offered the job by general manager Ben Cherington yesterday, according to major league sources, and accepted it pending agreement on a multiyear contract.
A Connecticut native who has vast experience with the Texas Rangers, New York Mets, and Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan, the fiery and opinionated Valentine will bring a new dimension to the job after eight years of success under Terry Francona, who generally avoided the spotlight.
The Red Sox deliberated for weeks before narrowing a field of six candidates to Valentine and Detroit Tigers third base coach Gene Lamont.
There was support for Lamont, who reminded some in the organization of Francona. But Valentine had the backing of influential team president Larry Lucchino, and ownership ultimately agreed on the choice.
Valentine was in Japan attending to previous commitments when Cherington called yesterday to offer him the job. Valentine is scheduled to return to the United States today.
Once the sides agree on a contract, which is not expected to be an impediment, a news conference will be held at Fenway Park. That is likely to be tomorrow.
As of last night, the Red Sox had not told Lamont of their decision.
“I’ve heard the reports but hopefully they aren’t true,’’ he said.
It took the Red Sox two months to find a manager after Francona left the organization following a historic September collapse in which the team finished in third place for the second consecutive season.
It was then revealed the team had gone awry off the field, Francona losing control of the players to the point where several drank beer and ate fast-food chicken in the clubhouse during games.
Cherington focused at first on low-profile major league coaches with little managerial experience, bringing in Pete Mackanin, Dale Sveum, Sandy Alomar Jr., and Torey Lovullo for all-day interviews.
Sveum, a former Red Sox coach who left the organization for Milwaukee after the 2005 season, immediately emerged as the favorite.
“He’s somebody we know we can work with,’’ Cherington said at the time.
To add an experienced candidate to their list of choices, Lamont was called in for an interview and impressed the Red Sox more than was expected. The 64-year-old has eight years of managerial experience with the White Sox and Pirates.
But Valentine was waiting in the wings, having met in secret with Lucchino and Cherington Nov. 3 in Hartford.
That meeting, brokered by Lucchino, did not change Cherington’s mind. Sveum was presented to ownership as the choice of the baseball operations staff and a second interview was arranged in Milwaukee during Major League Baseball’s owners meetings.
With Cherington and Lucchino in attendance, Sveum met with principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner Nov. 16. No job offer was extended, and minutes later the Red Sox announced they were opening their search and would consider other candidates.
The Chicago Cubs, led by former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, hired Sveum as their manager the next day. At the same time, Valentine was emerging as a strong alternative for the Red Sox.
Valentine interviewed at Fenway Park Nov. 21 and expressed an ardent desire to become the next manager.
“If I was Plan B and I got this job, I would feel like it was Christmas and I was Plan A, the luckiest guy in the world,’’ he said. “It would be cool.’’
Valentine also pledged a willingness to work closely with Cherington and accept advice on how best to put together the team.
“I would expect it,’’ he said. “This is a growth opportunity for me.’’
The relationship between Cherington and Valentine will be one to monitor. Although he has been with the Red Sox since 1999, Cherington is only a month into his tenure as general manager.
Valentine was tabloid fodder in New York, warring with Mets GM Steve Phillips and several veteran players before he was fired in 2002 after finishing in last place.
Praised for his in-game tactics, Valentine was not afraid to be critical of players in the media or question decisions made above him.
Valentine sought refuge in Japan and turned the perennially inept Marines into a champion in 2005. He was wildly popular among baseball fans in Japan, scoring lucrative endorsement deals.
He returned to the United States after the 2009 season and joined ESPN as an analyst. Valentine was a candidate for several openings in recent seasons but waited for the right opportunity.
For him, the Red Sox made sense.
“This is a great organization with a great team and a great city and ballpark,’’ he said during his Nov. 21 interview at Fenway. “That is very attractive. I don’t think that anywhere else where there’s been a job opening that my name has been mentioned there have been as many fabulous factors.’’
With a manager in place, the Red Sox can turn to assembling their roster for 2012. The first order of business is likely to begin negotiating a contract with designated hitter David Ortiz, who became a free agent after the season.
The team also needs several starting pitchers and perhaps a new right fielder.
But for now, at long last, a manager is in place and it could be a wild ride.