The Red Sox have, mercifully, finally made a decision on who will be the 45th manager in team history, and it’s Bobby Valentine, he of the fake mustache, science fair wins and six touchdowns in one game, he who’s worked as an ambassador for baseball in Japan, he who spouts off every week on Sunday Night Baseball.
Smiling Bobby Valentine, for better or worse, is in charge now.
There are a fair number of reporters applauding this decision. Valentine will be great! He’s a disciplinarian! He ballroom dances! He’s witty! And I understand that. Valentine has a reputation of saying the ridiculous on the record, and he’ll make the life of a beat reporter much more entertaining.
And, in the face of reason, it’s quite disappointing.
This seems more than a little disheartening from the perspective of Ben Cherington, the Red Sox new general manager who, from many reports, didn’t want Valentine in Boston, and didn’t include him in his initial round of interviews. The names he brought in — Dale Sveum, Sandy Alomar Jr., etc. — weren’t big names and wouldn’t sell tickets. But neither did Terry Francona when he was brought in by Theo Epstein in the winter of 2003. Every great manager starts as a no-name. Bring in a good baseball mind, surround him with good players, and things will typically work out the way they should.
But that’s not enough for a front office that’s overreacting to the negative press in the wake of September’s collapse. Cherington wanted a manager. Larry Lucchino and company wanted a splash.
To be fair, the current Red Sox regime has done much more good than bad since taking over in 2002. They’ve beautifully refurbished Fenway Park, they’ve mended bridges burned by the previous ownership and they’ve consistently put a winner on the field. Two World Series trophies don’t come about by accident.
But their consistent need to make headlines and stay on the back pages is nothing short of infuriating. Is Jason Bay leaving for the Mets? Better use that money to make a splash in free agency! Is someone* leaving? Better bad mouth him privately to the Globe so that the fans still like us!
Hire a good baseball man to be manager? No, we need a name! We need a personality! We need Bobby Valentine!
It would be refreshing, to say the least, if the Red Sox brass could acknowledge that, since 1967, the Sox have been the unquestioned kings of New England. Even while the Bruins, Celtics and Patriots amassed championships, no team garnered the curiosity and devotion of the Red Sox, and no team had a better hold on the region than the Fenway Nine.
They don’t need Bobby Valentine to march around the dugout, screaming and making a spectacle. They don’t need to couch and spin every move they make. They don’t need to spend $170 million every year on players.
They just need to field a good, competitive team, something that Boston has had with few gaps through the past 40 years. And they might be fine with Valentine at the helm.
But there’s no need for publicity stunts. In Boston, baseball can sell itself.
* They’ve done this to quite a few folks since 2002. To name a few: Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Jason Bay, and most recently, Terry Francona and Theo Epstein.