By John Tomase / Red Sox Beat
Now that Tony La Russa is retired, the ranks of the superstar, larger-than-life manager have basically thinned to zero. But there’s one gigantic exception, and the Red Sox [team stats] yesterday introduced him as their 45th manager.
The Bobby Valentine Show opened at Fenway Park [map], and let’s just say the executives at NESN should be hugging and crying like freed miners.
Valentine displayed everything that makes him such a compelling figure during his introductory press conference. He was equal parts charismatic, honest, funny and self-effacing.
The Bobby V. era may have been preceded by no shortage of skepticism — plenty of it in this space — but let’s just call Day 1 a grand slam.
“Nice fit,” club president Larry Lucchino whispered from his front row seat as Valentine donned his Red Sox jersey for the first time, and the entire production felt like an Event with a capital E.
Every major New York paper was represented, most by multiple reporters. The State Street Pavilion was packed with a standing-room-only crowd of inquisitors, and it was hard to tell which was more blinding, the flashes of the cameras or Valentine’s ear-to-ear grin.
“The question is, would (fellow candidate) Torey Lovullo have gotten an ovation?” asked Sox owner John Henry. “Probably not. Bobby’s a big personality.”
Valentine was candid and engaging from start to finish, particularly on the subject of his personality, which has been described as “polarizing” so frequently, it’s almost as if Bobby should be his middle name.
“Polarizing is a tough one,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of adjectives in my life. I can’t describe them all and I won’t defend them all. It’s about reputation vs. character. I think people who take the time to get to know me understand I have some qualities in my character that are OK. I am not the (self-proclaimed) genius that I’ve heard people refer to me as. I’m not the polarizing guy that people refer to me as. I’m not the monster that breathes fire that some people have referred to me as.
“I’m a guy. I’m a regular human being with regular feelings and regular attributes that make me what I am. And I think some of them, as I’ve been told by people who know me, are OK. I don’t know if I’m polarizing and those other things. I’m just what I am.”
At the risk of sounding like a Kool-Aid drinker, even the most cynical among us had to acknowledge that Valentine struck a pitch-perfect tone.
“I’ve had press conferences,” Valentine said. “I’ve put uniforms on for the first day. I can tell you: this is different. Today was absolutely different. And I feel special.”
He explained that he’s wearing No. 25 as a tribute to Tony Conigliaro, his former spring training roommate. He praised predecessor Terry Francona for the “fabulous” job he did while winning two World Series. He admitted growing up a Yankees fan on the fault line in Stamford, Conn., and said he’s looking forward to experiencing baseball’s biggest rivalry.
“I think it does add a little bit of kerosene to that fire,” Lucchino acknowledged.
Valentine even joked about the criticisms he has made of Red Sox players while serving as an ESPN analyst, when Carl Crawford’s batting stance and Josh Beckett [stats]’s deliberate pace earned his ire.
“I’m sure they’re looking forward to communicating with me to tell me that it’s OK to have an open stance or to take 20 seconds in between pitches,” he said to laughter.
The true measure of Valentine as a manager will obviously come when he takes the field, cleans up the mess that was the end of last season, and tries to lead the Red Sox [team stats] back to the World Series.
But for one day, September didn’t matter. The perceived tug of war between Lucchino and Cherington didn’t matter. The holes on the roster didn’t matter.
Bobby V. is here. This could be quite the ride