It speaks to how badly Bobby Valentine wants to manage the Red Sox that he was a little edgy when meeting with the media late this afternoon at Fenway Park to talk about his interview with the team.
Valentine twice accidentally knocked a microphone off the lapel of his jacket and on other several occasions paused to collect his thoughts before speaking. The glib ESPN analyst was gone, temporarily replaced by a man who hoped he impressed enough to merit one of baseball’s premier jobs.
“If I look a little worn out it’s because I sweat the whole day. I’ve been very excited about this,” Valentine said. “I haven’t been as nervous, I guess, or whatever it is for anything in a long, long time.
“It was invigorating, challenging and stimulating. All those good things.”
It appears Valentine has the approval of team president Larry Lucchino and the Red Sox owners, who he has already met with. The question now is whether rookie general manager Ben Cherington can be comfortable with him.
“Highly intelligent, creative, open-minded,” Cherington said of Valentine. “Certainly experienced. … He has a real passion for the game.”
But Valentine is not necessarily the favorite. In a surprise, the Red Sox have invited Tigers third base coach Gene Lamont back for a meeting with ownership. That is expected to take place later this week.
Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo also remains in consideration, but the Sox have eliminated Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. from their search. There are no plans, Cherington said, to speak with other candidates.
Valentine first became involved with the job on Nov. 3 when he met with Cherington and team president Larry Lucchino in Hartford.
Valentine and Lucchino were part of a panel discussion about international baseball that evening. Lucchino called Valentine the day before and asked him to arrive early to speak to Cherington about the position.
“I got there about five hours early. I waited around for a couple of hours,” Valentine said.
But Cherington ended up presenting Brewers coach Dale Sveum to ownership last week. No offer was made and the Chicago Cubs hired Sveum the next day. Valentine remained on the periphery of the search, out of the public eye in deference to his job with ESPN.
But today Valentine got a chance to prove he would be the right fit and smartly said he would welcome strategic advice from Cherington and the baseball operations staff.
“I would expect it,” he said. “I would hope for it. I haven’t lived with it and I lived hearing about it and thinking about it. … This is a growth opportunity for me. I want to understand what is going on in my life and my life is baseball.”
Valentine was first exposed to statistical analysis in 1985 while managing Texas. General manager Tom Grieve had a sabermetrics pioneer, Craig Wright, on his staff in those days.
“I was weaned on the idea, the concept, as a manager,” said Valentine, who believes analysis and scouting are only part of the puzzle along with the health, condition and preparation of the players.
The 61-year-old Valentine has, by far, he most major-league managerial experience among the six candidates interviewed by the Sox. He was 1,117-1,072 over parts of 15 seasons with the Rangers (1985-92) and Mets (1996-2002).
Valentine led the Mets to the 2000 World Series, where they lost in five games against the Yankees.
He was fired two years later when the Mets finished last in the National League East. Valentine engaged in a public feud with GM Steve Phillips that season and lost the support of several veteran players, who went to owner Fred Wilpon and demanded his ouster.
“I’ve had bad experiences that I hope I learned from and I had good experiences I hope I learned from,” Valentine said. “Some of those bad experiences I think I caused. Some of them were caused by the surroundings. Some of the good experiences I had something to do with them and some of them I was just happy to go along for the ride.
“I hope like hell I’ve learned from whatever experiences I’ve had.”
Said Cherington: “That’s something we need to learn as much about as we can. As with all the candidates, we’ve been doing a lot of research and trying to get to know them.”
Valentine has been with ESPN for two years — his opinions have included the need for Josh Beckett to work faster and for Carl Crawford to close his stance at the plate — and looked into several managerial openings. But talks with the Blue Jays, Brewers and Marlins did not work out.
Now come the Red Sox.
“This is a great organization with a great team and a great city and ballpark,” he said. “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.”
Valentine values the advice of long-time NHL executive Lou Lamoriello and asked him about the idea of managing the Sox.
“He thought that this was something I should give my best shot and do everything that I can to have this opportunity,” Valentine said.
That Valentine could be viewed as Plan B following the loss of Sveum to the Cubs is not his concern.
“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.”