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BOSTON -- Bobby Valentine will become the 45th manager of the Boston Red Sox, sources close to the situation said Tuesday night.
Valentine, who has been in Japan on personal business and was offered the Red Sox job there, was scheduled to board a flight at around noon Wednesday in Tokyo (Tuesday night at midnight ET) and be in back in Boston by midafternoon. He was one of two finalists for the job, the other being Gene Lamont, a two-time manager currently serving as third-base coach for the Detroit Tigers.
Lamont said in a text message Tuesday night, after ESPN had reported that he was no longer under consideration for the job, that he had not yet heard from the Red Sox."He's got it. I just spoke to him a little while ago," Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, who managed Valentine in the minors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. The club had no comment, spokesperson Pam Ganley told The AP. Valentine also sent the AP a text message at 9:48 p.m. Tuesday saying he had no comment on "the Red Sox situation." "I'm happy for him. I think the Red Sox got themselves a good manager. In all my years, I've never seen a guy prepare a team for a game like he does. That's what makes him unique," Lasorda told The AP.
Valentine's hiring, which is expected to be made official at a press conference Thursday, will come just more than two months after the Red Sox announced on Sept. 30 that they were not exercising the two-year contract option they held on Terry Francona, who in his eight seasons as manager guided the Red Sox to two World Series titles, the one in 2004 ending an 86-year championship drought.
But Francona also presided over the collapse of the Red Sox in a 7-20 September in which they fell out of playoff contention on the final day of the regular season. No team had ever held a lead as large as the Red Sox had for a playoff spot so deep into a season -- the Sox held a nine-game advantage in the wild card on Sept. 3 -- and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
Francona said at the time he parted from the Red Sox that he felt it was "time for a new voice," but also said that he was never asked to return.
"To be honest with you, I didn't know, or I'm not sure, how much support there was from ownership," Francona said at the time. "I don't know if I felt real comfortable. You have to be all-in with this job and I voiced that today. There were some things that maybe -- going through things here and to make it work -- it has to be everybody together and I was questioning some of that a little bit."
Valentine, who has been working as a baseball analyst for ESPN, had been kept under wraps as a candidate after new general manager Ben Cherington publicly announced his plans to choose a manager from a list of five publicly announced suitors for the job.
The Red Sox arranged for one of those candidates, Dale Sveum, to fly to Milwaukee two weeks ago to meet with members of the team's ownership group who were in town for the major league owners' meetings, and appeared to be Cherington's No. 1 choice for the job. But Sveum was not offered the job after meeting with the owners, and instead was hired by former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein to manage the Chicago Cubs.
The Red Sox also had made overtures to the Toronto Blue Jays to interview manager John Farrell, who had been Francona's pitching coach in Boston. When Farrell's contract with the Red Sox ended after the 2010 season, he took the Blue Jays' managing job. After Francona left, Farrell clearly was coveted by the Red Sox, but Toronto GM Alex Anbthopoulos, in what amounted to a reversal of club policy, announced that the team would not grant permission to employees for lateral job moves.
Valentine's candidacy first become public knowledge just hours after Sveum was announced as Cubs manager on Nov. 17. He 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, had arranged for him to meet with Cherington at that time. Valentine also said he had spoken with majority owner John W. Henry, who surely was impressed that Valentine was a Bill James disciple since he was a 35-year-old manager in Texas, and chairman Tom Werner.
Valentine told reporters last week that he did not immediately hear back from the Red Sox after his first meeting with Cherington.
"I didn't get a phone call for a few days," he said. "That made a situation that I was really happy that I only had told my wife I had talked to Ben and didn't have to explain to people why I wasn't getting a phone call."
|Bobby Valentine isn't concerned whether he was the Red Sox's first choice as their new manager.|
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 a week ago Monday that he had emerged as a favorite for the job, and said he was untroubled that he might not have been the team's first choice.
"You know, if I was Plan B and I got this job, I would feel like it was Christmas and I was Plan A," Valentine said. "Luckiest guy in the world."
On Monday, Cherington confirmed that Valentine, 61, and Lamont, who turns 65 on Christmas Day, were the finalists for the job. Lamont, who lives in Sarasota, Fla., drove across the state to Boca Raton to meet with Henry last Tuesday, then flew to New York to meet with Werner the next day.
Lamont and Valentine were the only candidates among those considered by the Red Sox with lengthy terms as big-league managers. Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin had served two stints as an interim manager and Sveum one, while the other candidates -- Jays first-base coach Torey Lovullo and Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. -- had never managed in the big leagues.
But the two finalists could not have been more different in temperament. Lamont, in two four-year tours with first the White Sox, with whom he was AL manager of the year in 1993, and then the Pirates, was low-key and laid-back, content to stay in the background. Valentine, meanwhile, has never known anything but the spotlight, first as a player for the Los Angeles Dodgers, then as Lasorda's protege as a manager, first for eight years with the Texas Rangers, then seven with the New York Mets.
Valentine guided the Mets in 2000 to a wild-card spot and place in the World Series, where they lost to the crosstown Yankees in five games, then was fired two years later, his tenure marked by very public battles with his general manager, players and the media.
He surfaced again as manager in Japan, where he guided the Chiba Lotte Marines to their first Japan Series title in 31 years, an achievement that made him a cult figure in that nation. Upon his return to the U.S. after his firing by Chiba Lotte, which thousands of fans protested in petitions, Valentine was hired by ESPN.Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.