Valentine makes case to become Sox skipper
ESPN analyst would embrace challenge of managing in Boston
BOSTON -- Even after he finished what was an admittedly exhaustive interview to be the next manager of the Red Sox, and it was time to sit down with the media, Bobby Valentine still possessed the type of charisma and energy that has made him a polarizing figure throughout his many decades in the game.
So now that Valentine is 61 years old, and gainfully employed as a prominent analyst for ESPN, why would he want to engage in a pressure-cooking job like managing in Boston?
"Well, other than they have one of the best teams in baseball, one of the best organizations in baseball, one of the greatest places and venues in baseball, with a great, now, winning tradition over the last 10 years, other than that, there's really no reason that I want to be here," quipped Valentine.
In other words, there's no hesitation for Valentine. He'd love to be the man to fill a managerial vacancy that has existed since Sept. 30, the day Terry Francona had a parting of ways with the Red Sox.
Now, the Red Sox will continue to do their due diligence and see if the feeling is mutual.
What intrigues Boston's brass most about Valentine?
"Highly intelligent, creative, open-minded, certainly experienced, [he] has won titles in Japan, he's won in a major market and has a real passion for the game," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington.
Though Valentine hasn't managed in the Majors since 2002, when his Mets' tenure ended, he's had a few interviews. However, he admitted this circumstance is a little different.
"This is a great organization with a great team and a great city and ballpark," Valentine said. "That is very attractive. I don't think that anywhere else there's been a job opening where my name has been mentioned, there have been as many fabulous factors."
But that didn't mean the day was easy. This wasn't merely a meet-and-greet day for Valentine. This day at Fenway was a work day.
"Totally different than anything I've ever gone through before," Valentine said. "If I look a little worn out, it's because I sweated the whole day. I haven't been as nervous for anything in a long, long time. It was invigorating, challenging, stimulating, all those good things, but much different."
Valentine managed the Rangers from 1986-92, the Mets from 1996-2002, and for the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan from 2003-09. There was some controversy at every stop, but also some measure of success. Valentine's Mets got to the National League Championship Series in 1999, and the World Series -- where they lost to the Yankees -- a year later.
All of those experiences have helped shape Valentine heading into what could be his next managerial endeavor.
"You know, one thing you can't teach is experience, so you have experiences," Valentine said. "If only all your experiences could be good then we'd live in this fairly land that Fenway Park is built around. You can't. I've had bad experiences that I hope I learn from and I've had good experiences that I hope I've learned from.
"Some of those bad experiences, I think I caused. Some of them were caused by the surroundings. Some of the good experiences I had, I had something to do with them, and some of them I was just happy to go along for the ride. I hope like [heck] I've learned from whatever experiences I've had."
Cherington is still in the process of digging deeper into Valentine's past experiences.
"It's something that we need to learn as much about as we can. As with all the candidates, we've been doing a lot of research and been talking to hundreds of people about all these guys and trying to get to know them as best we can," Cherington said. "The formal interview, which happened today for Bobby, is really just one small part of the process. A lot of the work goes on outside of that, and we need to get to know him as well as we can, just like we do the other candidates."
While the Red Sox were public about five of their original candidates, they took a different approach with Valentine. Cherington and club president/CEO Larry Lucchino had a more informal meeting with Valentine prior to a charity event in Connecticut on Nov. 3.
"I met with Larry, who I had talked to in the past and known a bit. I don't know if we ever had dinner, but we had spoken in the past," Valentine said. "Then Ben, of course, was there. Larry left Ben and I together for a good part of that time. We did the discussion. Basically Larry said, 'Hey, if Ben thinks we could move forward with you, we might continue the process.' So that's when I started thinking about it."
"I think I remember saying that my expectations would be that we'd find someone from within those candidates, but I never ruled out another candidate," Cherington said. "As Bobby referenced, we felt like, because of the situation he's in with ESPN and because it was looking like a more drawn-out process, it wasn't fair to him to include him publicly in the process for that long a period of time because he was also being asked to go on TV and talk about the game, et cetera. While we were talking about all the candidates and doing research, including on Bobby, we just felt like including him in a public sort of way wasn't in his best interest and wasn't in our best interest."
But now, the situation is reaching the late innings, so to speak.
From Cherington's original list of five, Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin and Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar have been informed they won't get the job. Dale Sveum, who had two interviews with the Red Sox, was hired by the Cubs. Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont will have a follow-up interview that will include Red Sox ownership at some point in the near future. Blue Jays first-base coach Torey Lovullo is also still in the mix, according to Cherington.
Then, there is Valentine.
"This was the formal interview. This was important to us," Cherington said. "There was always going to be multiple phases of the process with all the candidates. There was going to be a formal interview. There were going to be other conversations. There was going to be a meeting with ownership with certain candidates. Today was the formal interview for Bobby."
Valentine said he likes both sabermetrics and traditional scouting. And he said he would expect to have open dialogue with the front office.
"I would expect it," Valentine said. "I would hope for it. I haven't lived with it and I lived hearing about it and thinking about it. As I told Ben, as I told Mike [Hazen] as I told Brian [O'Halloran] as I told [Allard Baird], this is a growth opportunity for me.
"I'm one of these guys ... I know I'm old. The back of my card gives my date of birth, but I want to understand what's going in my life, and my life is baseball."
In light of all the reports that came out about Boston's demise at the end of the season, where does Valentine stand on the art of discipline?
"Discipline is not 30 whacks with a whip these days, but I think everyone likes discipline," Valentine said. "I think everyone likes structure. And I think everyone likes to be acknowledged when they do things properly. When they don't do things properly, believe it or not most people, athletes in particular, like to be noticed that they're not doing things right.
"When you're talking about discipline and rules and all that, it's just about right and wrong. It's just about an expectation of a person who's representing a great organization like the Boston Red Sox. A passionate, committed team like they have in the front office and an ownership that expects them to know the difference between right and wrong, on the field and off the field, and when they're talking to you and when they're living their life. That's the discipline kind of thing I try to bring to a team."
And in the coming days -- probably by next week -- it will be known if Valentine's next team is going to be the Red Sox.