Gene Lamont has been a loyal dugout sidekick to Jim Leyland the last six seasons in Detroit and before that with the Pirates. But he sees himself as more than that.
Lamont, who turns 65 next month, wants to manage his own team again and he’s hoping the Red Sox will give him that chance.
“I wanted to manage all along,” Lamont said after interviewing at Fenway Park today. “I guess I didn’t toot my horn enough. Every game I watch, I manage it. If there’s a better opportunity than this team, I don’t know where it would be.”
Lamont was the fifth and final candidate to interview for the job. General manager Ben Cherington plans to meet with owner John Henry during the MLB meetings that will be held in Milwaukee starting on Tuesday. That will start the process of winnowing the candidates down. The next manager should be place by Thanksgiving.
“All five of those guys, I can envision hiring to manage the Red Sox,” Cherington said. “We’ve got to pick one.”
Lamont is easily the most experienced of the candidates, having spent 47 years as a player, coach and manager.
Lamont spent four seasons (1992-95) as the manager of the White Sox and four more (1997-2000) with the Pirates. Lamont was 553-562. He led the White Sox to the American League Championship Series in 1993 and was the AL manager of the year that season.
After being fired by the Pirates, Lamont said he never lost his “burning desire” to manage. But he settled in as a coach.
Lamont was the third base coach of the Red Sox of the Red Sox in 2001 under Jimy Williams and Joe Kerrigan. He went from there to the Astros and for the last six seasons has been with the Tigers.
“I’ve been at it a long time,” Lamont said. “Sometimes that’s good; sometimes it’s bad.”
The Red Sox think it’s good. Cherington wanted a candidate with major league experience. Those 1,115 games Lamont managed in the majors stand in stark contrast to the other candidates. Pete Mackanin has 106 games of experience, Dale Sveum 12 and others none.
Lamont believes Leyland is the best manager in the game and said he learned a lot from him. But he’s not a Leyland clone.
“If they think they’re getting Jim Leyland, they’re not getting Jim Leyland. They’re getting Gene Lamont,” he said.
Lamont was the last candidate added to the interview list and the one Cherington knew the least about. But the more he learned, the more he was intrigued.
“We did a lot of work on him with people and just kept getting good stuff back on Gene as a baseball guy, as a person,” Cherington said. “When you look at his experience in Chicago and Pittsburgh and dig deeper into it, we feel he did a very good job.”
Cherington was impressed with Lamont’s honesty during the interview process.
“He did not answer questions in a way where I felt like he was telling me what I wanted to hear. He answered questions based on what he felt and that’s what I want,” Cherington said.
Lamont, Cherington said, was open-minded and had a broad perspective on the game.
“Some things that we learned about him were refreshing if not surprising,” the GM said.