- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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A Boston Red Sox official told at least one player at the beginning of the managerial search that they "weren't going to hire Bobby Valentine or someone like that," a clubhouse source told ESPNBoston.com last week.
The conversation suggests that Valentine, known as a no-nonsense manager in stints with the Mets and Rangers during 15 years, was perceived by some as a darkhorse candidate who would not be popular with some players.
"They're going to have a mess on their hands," the source said when asked what would happen if Valentine, who at that time was just one of several candidates, was hired.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney had heard similar rumblings, citing sources Wednesday saying that "some Red Sox players have been upset" that Valentine had emerged as a candidate and have been "grumbling to each other, through texts and phone calls."
The Red Sox announced Wednesday that Valentine will be introduced as manager at a Thursday news conference.
When reached at his Connecticut home before Wednesday's announcement, Valentine declined to address reports that some Red Sox players are upset that he emerged as a leading candidate for the job.
Asked if he was surprised it took this long for him to get this close to a big league job after his firing from the Mets in 2002, Valentine told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor, "I enjoy every day of my life, so when I wake up in the morning I do the best I can. I think that's always kept me from worrying or being consumed with what I'm not doing. When I had a job, I wasn't thinking about having another job."
The revelation of player discontent lends further credence to the perception that Valentine was not the initial preferred candidate for some in the organization. After five candidates were publicly known to have interviewed (a list that did not include Valentine) at the beginning of the process, sources indicated to ESPNBoston.com that Dale Sveum was the front-runner.
Valentine's candidacy only became public knowledge after Sveum was announced as Cubs manager on Nov. 17, after leaving a second interview with the Red Sox without a job offer.
Valentine came to Fenway Park for a formal interview on Nov. 21, and revealed that Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, who on Nov. 3 had appeared with Valentine on a panel discussion in Hartford, Conn., had arranged for him to meet with general manager Ben Cherington at that time. Valentine, who had been an analyst for ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball," said he had asked the Red Sox to keep his candidacy quiet out of respect for his employer. But it was clear at his interview that he had emerged as a favorite for the job.
After Valentine's interview, Cherington said he had not spoken with any players about specific candidates.
"I talked to a lot of players about qualities in the next manager and things that might matter to them, but I haven't talked to our current players about specific candidates," Cherington said. "I don't think that's fair (to the players). We're going to hire a manager and if it didn't happen to be the guy that they felt strongly about, it kind of puts them in an awkward spot. I talked to a lot of them about qualities they would be looking for, or appreciate in a manager."
Valentine has a straightforward style and, in the past, has publicly called out players, something his Red Sox predecessor Terry Francona, who was known as a player's manager, never did. He inherits a team that endured a historic September collapse and has been dogged by offseason reports of beer drinking in the clubhouse during games and a perception that the inmates were running the asylum.
As an ESPN analyst, Valentine has questioned some Red Sox players, notably Josh Beckett. During one Sunday night game, Beckett was pitching against the Yankees in August, Valentine was critical of the time Beckett took between pitches. He estimated that Beckett was taking 30-35 seconds between pitches.
"This is a 2-hour-and-40-minute game so far," Valentine said after Beckett left the game in the sixth.
"That's a half-hour added to this game of him standing around and us sitting around watching him do nothing."
When informed that at least one Red Sox player was displeased with the selection of Valentine, one of the manager's former players came to his defense.
"Real baseball players don't care too much about who writes the lineup," said Oil Can Boyd, the long-time Red Sox pitcher who played for Valentine in Texas in 1991. "When they come to play, they come to play. That's the part of the game no manager can really get out of an individual because that's an individual thing, that's a passion for the game that each and every ballplayer should carry onto the ball field -- a passion to win and a passion to play good baseball and a passion to entertain the fans."
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Information from ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes was used in this report.