Collaborative effort led Red Sox to Valentine
Cherington made final recommendation to Lucchino, Henry
BOSTON -- Even if there were signs otherwise, the Red Sox's management was firm Thursday that the decision to bring in Bobby Valentine as their manager was born out of full collaboration, and that the final recommendation was always in the hands of general manager Ben Cherington.
"I think it reflects a sort of misunderstanding of the process," team president Larry Lucchino said after Valentine's introductory news conference. "The whole process was spearheaded by Ben. It was a highly collaborative process. That's the way we do things around here. If there's anything, any issue that ownership should be actively involved in, it certainly should be the selection of the general manager and the selection of the manager."
"You keep hearing that there's some sort of instability or we don't know what we're doing here," team owner John Henry said. "I've been reading some of these things, and that's just opinion. If you're actually on the inside, Ben ran a terrific process."
As the Sox decided between finalists Valentine and Gene Lamont -- a decision Cherington said took him through the weekend -- a perception grew publicly that Valentine was Lucchino's man. It is true that Lucchino was the one who entered Valentine into the process, but when Cherington was asked directly about the notion that he was overruled -- with ownership seated just a few feet away -- he denied it.
Bobby V hits Beantown
"We went through a very thorough process, we talked to a lot of candidates, we did a lot of research on a lot of candidates," Cherington said. "At the end of the process, I made a recommendation to ownership. I believe it was some time Monday that we offered the position to Bobby. ... It was a collaborative process. Ownership, as they absolutely should, was heavily involved in the discussion about all the candidates."
What was curious for many was Boston's apparent willingness to hire a green manager in the early going, before eliminating all but the experienced candidates. Pete Mackanin, Dale Sveum, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Torey Lovullo all would have been in their first gig. Lamont, the last candidate interviewed at Fenway Park before Valentine's visit, was the only one of the original five who had sat in the big chair before.
The official explanation: Feelings changed during the process. Lucchino said that experience was an attribute that he in particular wanted, but it was not something that concerned Cherington.
"That was something that developed throughout," Lucchino said. "There's a lot of appeal to catching a young manager-to-be on the rise. I can understand other people putting that near the top of their list. As I looked at the circumstances of this team -- right now, 2011, with the quality of the team we have, the commitments that we made -- it seemed to me that a battle-tested manager in a tough market would be a better fit at this point in time for us.
"I was giving my preference from the outside. You heard Ben talk about a strong voice. He was also inclined to experience, because he's the one who winnowed the list down to the finalists. Throughout the process, it evolved. We debated things. We discussed various characteristics and how important they were throughout the process. It was only at the end of the process that things coalesced into the profile that we thought we really needed for this team at this time."
Lucchino, Cherington and Valentine met for the first time in Hartford, Conn., on Nov. 3 at Lucchino's behest and in secret. That was before Alomar, Lovullo or Lamont interviewed at Fenway Park, although it was not until that November meeting that Valentine fully entered consideration. Cherington and Valentine did not previously know each other.
But there was always the feeling Valentine would be a part of the conversation, Cherington said, adding that it was only because of Valentine's highly visible job at ESPN that they decided to ratchet things up later in the process.
"He was under consideration after I met with him, which was the first week of November," Cherington said. "After that meeting, he was under consideration. We felt, at some point, we were going to interview him formally. We just felt like, given the circumstance, doing that a little later in the process made sense and was more comfortable for everyone -- including him, because of the job he had.
"I didn't know Bobby at the beginning. I guess I knew less people that knew him than I did some of the candidates. Some of the candidates I knew personally. There were some others I had some mutual connection with. I just didn't have that with Bobby. From that standpoint, I needed to meet with him before I could really consider him. I did meet with him, and that's when he became under more consideration."
As for Sveum, the other candidate besides Lamont that the Red Sox had heavy interest in, Lucchino and Cherington both offered the same explanation: They weren't ready to make a decision when he was hired as the Cubs' manager, and they wanted a "slightly different fit," as Lucchino put it.
Once the Sox decided to offer Valentine the job, he said his response time was about 20 minutes. His contract is for two years -- plus two option years -- a length Cherington told Lucchino he believed was fair. It's a win-now deal for a win-now team.
"Ben has said in his recommendations to us that that seemed fair and appropriate and was not that uncommon," Lucchino said. "There were a couple of options in there as well. The negotiations between Ben and Bobby went very quick and very smooth and were very amicable."
"There was no counter offer that I asked for," Valentine said. "I was very comfortable. Let it be known, I would have taken one [year]."