Valentine returns to MLB as Red Sox skipper
Bobby V back in big leagues as franchise's 45th skipper
BOSTON -- Bobby Valentine's managerial career, which started in Texas, moved to New York and then all the way to Japan, will begin what should be a fascinating next chapter on Thursday, when he is unveiled by the Red Sox at a 5:30 p.m. ET Fenway Park news conference.
The man known throughout baseball as "Bobby V" is relinquishing his ESPN microphone to become the 45th manager in the storied history of the Red Sox.
Valentine, 61, ends a near decade-long absence from the Major Leagues to fill the position vacated by Terry Francona, who led the Red Sox to two World Series championships in eight years.
The hiring of Valentine is the first major move by Ben Cherington, who became Boston's general manager on Oct. 25.
Initially, the Red Sox were looking at a pool of candidates (Pete Mackanin, Dale Sveum, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Torey Lovullo) who didn't have much experience. Sveum was considered the favorite of that bunch, but that became academic when he was hired by the Cubs.
Considering the pressure that exists in Boston and the fact the team is already built to win, Cherington and Red Sox ownership ultimately decided this wasn't a job for a first-timer.
It came down to Valentine and another veteran candidate in Gene Lamont.
While the understated Lamont, who has spent much of his career as a trusted coach for Jim Leyland, would have been the safer hire, the Red Sox went for spice in Valentine, who has never been shy about expressing his opinion, which has led him to some controversies in the past.
Bobby V back in bigs
In Valentine, the Red Sox get one of the smarter baseball minds around, someone who loves to teach the game and is known as being a solid tactician.
"It's exciting," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said in an interview with WEEI on Wednesday. "Just excited to have a manager. It took a while. I think the search is kind of over and now we can get ready for next year. I'm sure the fans are excited, too, that someone was named. He's been around. He's done it before and in a big market. It's going to be fun."
The big question entering Valentine's regime will be this: How will he fare managing the personalities in the clubhouse?
This is something that looms not only because of Valentine's past, but also because of what transpired with the Red Sox down the stretch in 2011.
Considered a top World Series contender most of the season, the Sox became the first team in baseball history to have a nine-game lead in the standings during the month of September and not make it to the postseason.
In the aftermath of the collapse, there was a lot of talk about the deterioration in culture, which impacted the club's conduct and work habits.
There were stories of starting pitchers drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games in which they weren't pitching. There were questions about certain players not being in the best possible shape, which led to an overhaul of the team's medical and training staffs.
"The bottom line is Bobby is going to be our manger," Pedroia said. "We're all excited about it. We're ready to play. I've got a lot of built-up stuff inside me to prove to everybody that we're going to be a great team in the future."
In the end, Francona, a steady hand during the bulk of his memorable time in Boston, admitted that the Red Sox probably needed a new voice, and that he could no longer reach players he had in the past.
Now, that will fall on Valentine, who inherits a team that has considerable talent at the plate and on the mound.
"Discipline is not 30 whacks with a whip these days, but I think everyone likes discipline," Valentine said after his follow-up interview with the Red Sox on Nov. 21. "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."
Valentine is excited to get a chance to be back in a Major League dugout at a time there are far more statistics available to a manager than his last go-around.
That will entail collaboration with Cherington and the front office, something Valentine is confident will go more smoothly than his time in New York, when his clashes with Steve Phillips became frequent tabloid fodder.
"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 [assistant general manager] Mike [Hazen] as I told [assistant GM] Brian [O'Halloran] as I told [special assistant] 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."
A native of Stamford, Conn. -- Valentine is still a fixture in that community -- he was recruited to play baseball and football at the University of Southern California, but was the fifth overall pick by the Dodgers in the 1968 Draft.
He played 225 games for the Dodgers from 1969-72 before moving on to the Angels. In his first year with California, Valentine suffered a compound fracture in his leg after a collision with a chain-link fence and was never the same player again.
Valentine also played for the Padres, Mets and Mariners before finishing his 639-game career in 1979.
The Rangers made Valentine a Major League manager during the 1985 season and he stayed in that post until '92. Valentine's best season in Texas was '86, when an 87-75 record placed the Rangers second behind the Angels. He left Texas with a 581-605 mark.
In between Major League jobs, Valentine's first trip to Japan was a short one when he managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in 1995.
The Mets gave him another chance in the Majors, promoting him from Triple-A Norfolk for the final 31 games of the '96 season.
Over the next four seasons, Valentine's Mets averaged 92 wins, finishing third once and second three times.
In '99, Valentine managed a veteran team led by Mike Piazza to the National League Championship Series, where they were eliminated by the Braves in six games. A year later, the Mets took it a step further, getting to the World Series before losing to the cross-town Yankees in five games.
Valentine's Mets declined over his last two seasons, winning 82 games in '01 and 75 before his dismissal at the end of '02.
Broadcasting was a natural progression for the outspoken Valentine, who worked his first stint for ESPN in 2003.
But then it was back to Japan, where Valentine again managed Chiba Lotte, this time from 2004-09. He led the Marines to a Japan Series championship in 2005 and became a bit of an icon in Japan.
After two more seasons with ESPN, Valentine now returns to the dugout, where his tenure with the Red Sox figures to be memorable no matter what transpires.