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 according to Major League sources and accepted it pending agreement on a multi-year 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.
His choice was not an easy one for the Red Sox, who deliberated for weeks before narrowing a field of six candidates to Valentine and Detroit Tigers third base coach Gene Lamont.
There was sentiment 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 some previous commitments when Cherington called 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 any sort of impediment, a press conference will be held at Fenway Park. That is likely to be Thursday.
As of 90 minutes ago, 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 new manager after Francona left the organization following a historic September collapse that saw the team finish in third place for the second consecutive season.
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 at Fenway Park.
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 lurking on the outskirts, having met in secret with Lucchino and Cherington on Nov. 3 in Hartford.
Valentine interviewed at Fenway Park on 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.
With a manager in place, the Red Sox can turn to assembling their roster for 2012. The first order of business is likely to be 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.