Valentine begins Beantown balancing act
The tightrope is being strung from Boston through all the New England hamlets and states that make up sprawling Red Sox Nation. Bobby Valentine must walk that rope.
He's being given two years to make the difficult trek, and he'll either come crashing down or maneuver the treacherous walk with smashing success.
That's the course staring the new Red Sox manager in his face.
Bobby V hits Beantown
When it comes to this storied American League franchise, there's no middle ground. Success is determined by the word championship. The alternative is a virtual purgatory.
Valentine, 61, was introduced Thursday to Boston's demanding media and said: "With all due respect to New York, I can't imagine there's any tougher place to be good at what I'm going to try to do than here.
"I'm honored, I'm humbled and I'm pretty damn excited. This day is a special day, and it's more than a special day. It's the beginning of a life that I think is going to extend beyond anything else that I thought of doing."
It's been written and said in the days leading up to the official coronation that Valentine is the perfect fit for this difficult job. I agree.
But this will be by far the most demanding of any of the previous managerial positions he's held. It will be nothing like the Texas Rangers, the New York Mets or the two stints in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines.
It's Bobby V's first MLB managerial job since he was dismissed in 2002 after six-plus seasons with the Mets. He managed the Rangers for parts of eight seasons (1985-92).
Former President George H. W. Bush once told me he felt it was a huge mistake when his son, former President George W. Bush, who owned the Rangers at the time, let Valentine go.
He has a 1,117-1,072 regular-season record in the Majors.
Valentine is like a swizzle stick that stirs a drink. It's needed, but too much stirring and the drink overflows, spills.
That said, the outspoken Bobby V is ideal to bring the new culture owner John Henry said was needed in the Red Sox's clubhouse after September's colossal collapse.
Terry Francona, who guided the Red Sox to two World Series titles in eight years, left after the 2011 season, saying "it was time for a new voice. I was frustrated in my inability to get some things done here."
Francona seemingly lost control of his players to the point where it was reported several drank beer and ate fast-food chicken in the clubhouse during games.
It will be Bobby V's first task to right this ship, to demand that each of his players can recite his rules and are on the same page.
That will require a close relationship with new Boston general manager Ben Cherington. It's been highly publicized that there was a gap between Valentine and Steve Phillips, the Mets' GM when Bobby V managed there.
"Delving on the past is not productive," Valentine said during Thursday's media conference. "What I would do differently is that I hopefully learned from mistakes. I can guarantee you no one in this room has made as many mistakes as I have. I think I have learned from most of them.
"One thing we all know is that things get spinning quickly. When they get spinning quickly, sometimes they get out of control. I think that is probably what happened [in New York]."
Valentine was working as an ESPN analyst when the Red Sox were losing 20 of their 27 games in September, an epic fall that allowed the Tampa Bay Rays to win the AL Wild Card. During telecasts, he was often critical of some Boston players.
After the September fall, stories of the clubhouse shenanigans surfaced.
"Something happened in September that I wasn't involved in," Valentine said. "I didn't see it firsthand. I think reputation is something that other people think about you. And right now this group of guys has a reputation that isn't warranted. Everything I've heard about the players that were in uniform last year and the coaching staff says nothing but they had great character.
"There might have been a couple of characters who might have gotten out line, situations that were spinning too fast. I don't know. I can tell you I look forward to working with this group and establishing a culture of excellence."
Bobby V has never been at a loss for words, a trait that has often backfired.
There obviously will be times, especially in the tense environment of Red Sox Nation, when his reputation will not play well. Or be understood.
"I have a lot of adjectives [said] about me," he offered. "I can't describe them all and I won't even defend them all. It's reputation versus character. I think people who know me and take the time to get to know me, understand that I have some qualities in my character that are OK.
"I'm not the genius that I've heard people refer to me as. I'm not the polarizing guy that people refer to me as. I'm not the monster that breathes fire that some people have referred to me as. I'm a guy.
"I'm a regular human being with regular feelings and regular attributes that make me what I am. I think some of them, as I've been told by people who know me, are OK. I don't know if I'm polarizing or any of those other things. It's just what I am."
And for today, as the rope is stretched for his walk, he's Bobby Valentine, Boston Red Sox manager.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.