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Red Sox executives discuss removing Valentine and what happens next

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  October 4, 2012 05:35 PM

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Bobby Valentine was relieved of his duties as manager of the Red Sox Thursday morning during a 90-minute meeting at the home of team president/CEO Larry Lucchino in Brookline.

Lucchino, principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and general manager Ben Cherington were the firing squad. The team announced the dismissal only 14 hours and 14 minutes after Wednesday night's 14-2 season-ending loss against the Yankees in New York.

"I informed him that we were making a change, and then we had a rather long and candid conversation about how the year went," Cherington said. "He offered some good constructive advice, criticism on some areas that we'll look at. He handled it with a lot of maturity and class."

The Red Sox will have their third manager in as many years next season. Lucchino conceded that that disturbed him.

"Yeah, it's a little troubling," he said. "We, like most organizations, prefer some stability and continuity in key positions. We had a lot of stability and continuity in other key positions. But we'd like to have the manager's role filled by someone for several years."

Lucchino said he was a supporter of hiring Valentine after the team interviewed five other candidates last fall and ownership rejected the original finalist, Dale Sveum. But the decision, he said, was a collaborative one.

"We thought the decision was a sensible, rational one last year and that what we were looking for at the time seemed to be what Bobby Valentine presented," Lucchino said. "But life is a motion picture, not a still photograph. Things change along the way."

Valentine is the first Red Sox manager since Bucky Harris in 1934 to get just one year on the job. The last time it happened in baseball was with Joe Girardi and the Marlins in 2006.

"I think there was some element of unfairness to it, given the epidemic of injuries that took place," said Lucchino. "That alone, by itself. But our job is really to look forward and see what the most direct path is to a more successful Red Sox baseball team. That obligation trumps any other consideration.

"Ben has said over and over, this is not to scapegoat Bobby Valentine by any means. There were multiple factors that contributed to the disappointing season we had, and we all deserve our full measure of accountability, or blame if you will, for that."

Cherington would not identify any candidates. Four of the men interviewed last year -- Gene Lamont, Torey Lovullo, Pete Mackanin, and Sandy Alomar Jr. -- remain available. Mackanin was just fired as bench coach of the Phillies.

"I'm not ready to talk about candidates," said Cherington. "I would expect there would be some different names on the list."

Cherington said a manager, particularly in Boston, has a better chance to succeed if he has the support of ownership and the general manager.

"That's why in the end it is important to build consensus in the choice," he said. "That's what we tried to do last year and that's what we'll try to do again."

The Red Sox, Cherington said, have not asked any major league teams for permission to speak to any candidates.

Cherington said former Red Sox captain Jason Varitek was not interested in the position. Varitek is on the staff as a special assistant to Cherington.

"Right now, that's not what he's focused on," said Cherington. "He's joined the organization as a special assistant. He's going to get his feet wet in a lot of different areas. He's excited about that.

"He wanted to take a little step back this year from the daily grind of the clubhouse. He's enjoying that. That's what he's focused on and we're happy to have him in that role right now."

Varitek, however, will be on the search committee, joining Cherington and baseball operations executives Mike Hazen, Allard Baird, and Brian O'Halloran.

"I want to get Tek's voice involved and get his advice on it," Cherington said.

Cherington would not say whether there would be any in-house candidates.

Cherington had specific qualities he valued in a manager last time. Because the team will be different, he could be seeking a different kind of manager.

"We can't restrict ourselves to a certain type of candidate or a certain background or resume," he said. "We've got to be open-minded about who the right fit is because this is an important hire. We do need to start to create some stability."

Unlike previous years, Boston may not be viewed as a good job. The American League East is the toughest division in baseball and the organization has taken a sharp downward turn in the last five years. Given the unsettled nature of the organization, premier candidates could look elsewhere.

"I think there's such opportunity here," Cherington said. "We know how great this place is when things go well. The opportunity for a manager to come in here and be a central part of restoring the team to a level that we expect, fans deserve, ownership deserves -- that's a tremendous opportunity. I think most confident baseball people would embrace that opportunity."

Lucchino said that while the Red Sox considered major league managerial experience "highly significant" last year, that is not the case this time.

"We thought wrongly, as it turned out, that we were on the verge of an exceptional season and had the core nucleus of a great team and needed somebody who could manage that kind of team," he said. "Speaking personally, it has opened my eyes."

With former general manager Theo Epstein, former manager Terry Francona, and now Valentine all having left the organization, the burden of turning the Sox back into a contender will fall on Cherington.

"We all share some sense of the burden and some sense of the responsibility and some sense of the challenge," Lucchino said. "So certainly a lot of it falls on baseball operations. That department is headed by Ben. We have great confidence in Ben Cherington and Ben's ability to put together a department that will lead us back to where we want to be with some speed."

The coaching staff came under scrutiny in recent weeks, particularly on Wednesday, when Valentine accused some of disloyalty. Cherington did not reveal any details about the coaches other than to say "some" were still under contract.

The Sox took two months to select Valentine last fall. They hope to move more quickly this season, and that presumably would give the new manager a better opportunity to select a staff he is truly comfortable with.

"The manager should have a very strong voice in filling out the coaching staff," Cherington said.

The Red Sox did not hold a press conference to discus the firing of Valentine. They instead invited reporters to Fenway Park for a series of late-afternoon meetings with Lucchino and Cherington.

Reporters from the same media outlets were grouped together for individual sessions. The interviews were held in Lucchino’s suite overlooking the field.

Three outlets affiliated with the Red Sox — NESN, MLB.com and WEEI — were allowed to go first and get a head start in reporting the details of the story.

Chief operating officer Sam Kennedy, senior advisor to the president Dr. Charles Steinberg and senior manager of corporate communications Zineb Curran monitored the interview done by four Globe reporters.

"The suggestion of our public relations department was this was a better, more effective way for us to communicate," Lucchino said. "There was some thought that just a release would be sufficient."

Team owner John Henry, for the second consecutive year, did not make himself available to answer questions about firing a manager. He did not respond to an email seeking comment.

“John is here in Boston," said Lucchino. "But the job of dealing with the press, for better or for worse, falls on Ben and me.”

In their release, the Sox included a statement that was attributed to Henry.

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