BOSTON — With more than 75 reporters, about 15 television cameras and a half-dozen photographers crammed in a room inside Fenway Park, it was time for the Red Sox to introduce their new manager.
Welcome to Boston, Bobby Valentine. You'd better get used to this.
"This," of course, is the circus-like atmosphere that can surround the Red Sox, and while Valentine is no stranger to the media, he's never worked in Boston. Sure, he spent plenty of time in New York, the largest media market on the continent, but that was for the city's second team. Boston has just one baseball team, and despite the successes of the Patriots, Bruins and Celtics, it remains a Red Sox-centric city.
Will Bobby V be ready?
"I am honored, I'm humbled and I'm pretty damn excited," Valentine said to begin his remarks. And with that, the Valentine Era was under way in Boston.
Valentine didn't look overly excited at the onset of his meeting with the media, as the 61-year-old appeared slightly stiffer than we've become used to seeing him. That was in part because he appeared to be genuinely emotional about this day. It didn't take long, though, for Valentine to open up, and he said he's spent the past couple of months trying to temper his own expectations.
"I wanted this from the first time I heard the job was open," Valentine said. "I would wake up at night thinking there's a chance and then say, 'Don't go there. You're gonna get your heart broken.'"
His heart, as it turns out, wasn't broken, but it's now the hearts of fans and players he has to worry about. Red Sox fans are unhappy with the unfathomable manner in which September unfolded, and the players that were in Boston for that collapse don't know what to expect from a new voice leading the way. That burden now falls on the shoulders of a man who hasn't managed a big league game since 2002. Valentine certainly wasn't shying away from that on Thursday.
"I understand the rich tradition of baseball in this city, of sports in this community," Valentine said. "I understand the great rivalries that this team has, and I understand the great talent that has been assembled here.
"This isn't easy stuff," he later added. "With all due respect to New York, I can't imagine that there's any tougher place to be good at what I'm going to try to do than here."
It was largely that experience in New York with the Mets from 1996-2002, as well as his 40 years in baseball overall that were the biggest selling points with the Red Sox' front office.
"One of the things that we settled on during the course of this dynamic process — you saw who the two finalists were [Valentine and Gene Lamont], they were people who were battle-tested and have been in Chicago or in New York," president and CEO Larry Lucchino said. "Part of that has to do with, I think we have a team that has the capacity and capability of winning in the short term, and we wanted someone who could hit the ground running."
Principal owner John Henry said timing was as big a factor as anything.
"I think that's the way I'd put it — he's the right man for the job," Henry said. "The right man, at the right time, for this particular team. We are set to win. We should have won last year, we are built to win. We thought in the end that Bobby was the person most capable of taking us to where we want to go in 2012 and 2013.
"We're not at a point right now where we're building for the future. We are trying to win now. We always try to do both, but we felt that he was the right person at the right time for this team."
Whether he is that right man won't be known for sure until maybe August, or October, or maybe it won't be evident until 2013. What is clear is that he's diving headfirst into the position, and not even general manager Ben Cherington can say exactly how things are going to work out.
As Valentine grabbed his fresh new Red Sox jersey (No. 25, to honor Tony Conigliaro), Cherington turned to the new manager and said, simply, "Throw it on. See if it works."
Minutes later, Valentine said it will work — or at least he hopes so.
"I think we're gonna do this, man," Valentine told his new boss.
It was all part of a busy day for the Red Sox. While the walk down Yawkey Way may have been dark and quiet, the State Street Pavilion was buzzing with the hundred or so people on hand to see Boston introduce its 45th manager. The room was loud, but as Cherington, Lucchino, Henry and Valentine entered the room, a hush fell over the room.
Henry scanned the crowd before saying, with a smile, "It's quiet."
Not for long. Not in Boston. It's officially baseball season again, and an electric manager with an undeniable charm will have a lot to prove and a lot of people to win over in the coming months. Buckle up.
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