Red Sox introduce Bobby Valentine
BOSTON -- Bobby Valentine is the 45th manager of the Boston Red Sox.
The 61-year-old former Rangers and Mets skipper was introduced Thursday during a news conference at Fenway Park.
General manager Ben Cherington praised Valentine's passion for the game and desire to win.
"I'm very confident we've found the right person in Bobby Valentine," he said.
Valentine, who received a two-year deal with team options for 2014 and 2015, takes over a team that blew a nine-game lead in the AL wild-card race to miss the playoffs for the second straight season.
"I'm honored, I'm humbled, and I'm pretty damn excited," Valentine said.
He later added: "This day is a special day. It's more than a special day. It's the beginning of a life that I think is going to extend beyond anything that I ever thought. The talent level of the players that we have, and this organization is a gift to anyone and I'm a receiver of that gift."
More than two months have passed since former manager Terry Francona and the Red Sox parted ways.
"I understand how difficult this was for the organization because of the outstanding candidates that were involved in this process," Valentine said.
Cherington thanked the other five candidates who were brought in for interviews: Philadelphia Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, Cleveland Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr., Toronto Blue Jays first-base coach Torey Lovullo, new Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum, and Detroit Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont, who was the other finalist along with Valentine.
Cherington also thanked each candidate's respective team for allowing the candidates' access to interview for the opening.
Cherington said Valentine embodied all the key attributes he wanted in a manager -- the ability to care about players while also being able to have difficult conversations with them, a strong voice who's not afraid to disagree with the front office, a passion for winning -- while praising his "enormous baseball intellect."
Cherington disputed the notion that Valentine wasn't his first choice as manager.
"It's just not true," said Cherington. "We went through a very thorough process. We talked to a lot of candidates, did a lot of research on the candidates. ... That's the truth. It was a collaborative process. Ownership, as they absolutely should be, was heavily involved in the conversation about all the candidates."
The GM said he went to John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino on Monday with his recommendation that the job should be offered to Valentine, they concurred, and Valentine then accepted while in Japan later that day.
For his part, Valentine said he was ready to go to work in Boston.
"I understand the rich tradition of baseball in this city, of sports in this community," he said. "I understand the great rivalries that this team has, and I understand the great talent that has been assembled here."
The Fenway lights were on, and the scoreboard welcomed Valentine to Boston.
The manager's coaching staff is still to be determined at this point. The Red Sox still need to hire a pitching coach and first-base coach.
Currently, hitting coach Dave Magadan, bench coach DeMarlo Hale, third-base coach Tim Bogar and bullpen coach Gary Tuck are in place.
"Bobby needs to talk to them," Cherington said. "As I've said all along, we've got four coaches under contract and we think highly of all of them. It needs to be the right fit for them, it needs to be the right fit for Bobby and Bobby will get a chance to talk to all of them very soon."
One intriguing possibility that emerged Thursday: Bill Buckner returning to Boston as Valentine's hitting coach.
Valentine and Buckner were college roommates who played together in the Los Angeles Dodgers' system. The new Boston skipper said he would consider the former Red Sox first baseman for his staff.
"He's been a friend for years," explained Valentine. "We played together with the Dodgers. We played together in the Dominican Republic. I've watched his kids grow up and I respect his every opinion in baseball and in worldly matters. Whether or not Bill Buckner would be on the staff is a decision that Ben and I will talk about, or if anyone else will be on the staff, Ben and I will talk about to find out the right composition of a staff."
Despite a 21-year career in which he amassed 2,715 hits, Buckner was best remembered in Boston for his ninth-inning error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series that helped the New York Mets come from behind and win. The sting of that loss wasn't diminished until the Red Sox ended their 86-year championship drought in 2004.
It didn't take long for Valentine to make a statement about his players as he attempted to squash the notion that there was a poor clubhouse culture in Boston last season.
"Reputation is something that other people think about you, and right now, this group of guys has a reputation that's not warranted because everything I've heard about the players who were in uniform last year, and the coaching, says nothing but they had great character," Valentine said. "There may have been a couple of characters that got out of line, and there may have been situations that got spinning too fast; I don't know because I wasn't there.
"But I can tell you I'm looking forward to working with this group and establishing a culture of excellence."
During his previous job as an analyst for ESPN, Valentine worked a total of seven Red Sox games last season, and he was critical of certain players, including left fielder Carl Crawford for his open batting stance, and especially pitcher Josh Beckett. Valentine complained that Boston's right-hander took too long between pitches, slowing the pace of the game.
Now, as manager, he'll have a different dynamic with the players, but he believes he did his job as an analyst.
"Part of that job as analyst is to be critical, and I believe if some people are hurt by what I had to say and took exception to it, I get that, and I'm looking forward to the time when it's not a conversation that they're going to hear from me making a comment on television -- our conversation is going to be one-on-one," said Valentine. "I'm looking forward to talking to the players, being with the players, communicating what I think should be done and could be done, and I'm sure they're looking forward to communicating with me to tell me that it's OK to have an open stance or take 20 seconds in between pitches."
Information from ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald and The Associated Press was used in this report.