After long process, Valentine the right choice
With the news official on Wednesday that Bobby Valentine is coming aboard, it took the Red Sox no less than 60 days to select their skipper.As has been noted, the last papal conclave lasted just 14. How's that for perspective? This seemingly endless ordeal has seen Dale Sveum, Pete Mackanin, Torey Lovullo and Sandy Alomar Jr. all -- one way or another -- deemed unfit for Fenway Park. It has seen Mike Maddux bail on an interview opportunity. And it has seen Gene Lamont twisting in the wind with Valentine abroad in Japan. It began with the drama of a two-time World Series-winning manager walking away feeling unwanted, became a subplot when Theo Epstein fled to the North Side of Chicago, then was seemingly settled with Sveum, only to begin anew with Valentine brought into the mix. It's been laborious, labyrinthian and, above all else, long.
Bobby V hits Beantown
So, yeah, as managerial searches go, this one's not exactly a blueprint for others to follow. But you know something? It's going to be awfully difficult to dispute that Boston came out of this process with the right man. Given the sheer severity of the Red Sox's need for a shakeup, Valentine sure looks like it. The reason is not simply that Valentine is a brilliant tactician. He is. But the impact of a manager's in-game moves on the big picture that is a 162-game season can be a bit overstated anyway, and the game has obviously evolved quite a bit since Valentine last led a Major League club in 2002. No, the reason Valentine makes more sense than all the other above names at this particular, pivotal point in the Red Sox's team timeline is that a club sorely in need of a strong-armed leader has apparently landed one. It's quite clear, in the kind of retrospect that can only come to light after an epic collapse, that Terry Francona's authority over this bunch had become compromised, in some measure. To what degree? Well, let's start by repeating what Dustin Pedroia told Boston radio station WEEI -- "When you play in an environment like Boston, a manager should not have to motivate you." That is a sound theory, and you could even extend the argument to say that anybody making the kind of money big leaguers make ought to get up for the gig with or without a rah-rah speech here or there. Unfortunately, history and human nature tell us that perspective is not all that realistic. And perhaps it's unavoidable in this game for your voice to lose some of its leadership luster when you spend eight years in one place, as Francona -- the ultimate player's manager -- did. In the search for a new voice, the Red Sox's initial list was startling in the overall lack of Major League managerial experience it involved. Mackanin had his share, albeit in interim roles. Had he been hired, he would have been the first guy in three decades to receive his first full-time managerial position past the age of 60. In the end, both the Red Sox and Cubs passed him over. The saga of Sveum is well-documented. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was sweet on him, ownership wanted to look elsewhere and suddenly Sveum was riding down I-94 with Epstein and Jed Hoyer, bound for the rebuilding project in Wrigley. Having closely observed Alomar in Cleveland and gotten to know Lovullo quite well, I believe both of those men are bound for big things. Their numbers will be called someday soon. But managerial openings are situation-specific, and this particular situation ultimately calls not just for experience, but also a little bluster and bravado. Valentine has all of the above. That's why the Sox will announce Valentine as their choice over Lamont. Both are many moons removed from their last managing gig, but both have a ton of intellect and insight. In the end -- and in this particular position in this particular market -- personality is a powerful point of emphasis. Valentine is going to be all the things we've come to expect him to be, whether he's on the bench or on TV. He's candid, he's cocky, he's colorful, he's confident and he's anything but uninteresting. He'll have his battles with the Boston media and probably quite a few players along the way. He certainly doesn't seem the type to simply fall on the sword for all his players when things go haywire. He's more likely to call them out. And he's going to restore a lot of life to a Boston-New York rivalry that some think has become a little too courteous. Basically, if the Red Sox wanted a strong departure from the Francona era that ended so abruptly, they've got it in Valentine. Now, can this backfire? Oh, brother, you'd better believe it can. The laurels of this decision would ultimately rest in the veterans' ability to embrace a skipper who loves the limelight and takes on the attention. Some players appreciate such a character for deflecting some of the spotlight away from their clubhouse, while others easily grow resentful of a "top-step" skipper like Valentine. It's a certainty that some Red Sox players would have to change the pace of their daily procedures, and that, ultimately, is the point after everything that transpired in September and came out after the fact. No question, this is an interesting marriage. Barring a big surprise, it's the end of an interesting search, allowing the attention to turn to the more meaningful search for starting pitching. It took 60 days, but the Red Sox appear to have their man. And for now, at least, it appears they have the right man.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.