Thursday in Boston, the Red Sox introduced Bobby Valentine, the franchise's 45th manager.
The press conference featured Valentine, mostly, though GM Ben Cherington formally introduced Valentine and did answer a couple of questions.
Dan Shaughnessy, of course, asked the toughest question of the day ... "Ben, what do you say to the notion that this was not your pick; your pick was elsewhere, that you were overruled by ownership?"
Cherington's answer was a model of diplomacy:
It's just not true. We went through a very thorough process ... at the end of the process, I made a recommendation to ownership. I believe it was sometime Monday that we offered the position to Bobby ... And he accepted it. And that's the truth. It was a collaborative process. Ownership was heavily involved in the discussion about all of the candidates. John, Tom and Larry met all the finalists ... Ultimately, I made a recommendation to ownership on Monday to offer the job to Bobby.
Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that Valentine was Cherington's first choice. It's quite possible that Valentine was his second or third choice, but he realized Valentine was the consensus pick among the owners, and knew it would be foolish to try to sail against that wind.
I'm not saying this is what happened. I'm saying it might have happened. I'm also saying it's not particularly important. Cherington just got the job; the Red Sox have won exactly zero games under his direct guidance. This decision, like every important decision the organization makes, was the result of the collective rather than the individual. And whether Valentine was Cherington's first choice or not, I expect them to work well together. Or well enough to win, anyway.
I'll miss Bobby Valentine on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Far too many analysts bend over backwards to avoid offending any of their baseball pals, but Valentine rarely seemed to hold back. I can't argue that he was always fair, or right. But he was usually entertaining, which is way more than half the battle.
Joe McDonald, ESPN Boston: "During your days as an analyst for ESPN, sometimes during those games you were critical of Red Sox players. How's that dynamic going to be like, for you to now manage those guys?
Part of that job, as analyst, is to be critical. I believe that if some people heard what I had to say, and took exception with it, I get that. And I'm looking forward to the time when it's not a conversation they're going to hear from me, making a comment on television; our conversation's going to be one-on-one. I'm looking forward to talking to the players, being with the players, communicating what I think could be done, or should be done. And I'm sure they're looking forward to communicating with me, to tell me it's okay to have an open stance, or to take 20 seconds between pitches.
Good answer, good answer ... And here's my favorite section of the press conference, because Valentine graciously mentioned my friend Craig Wright ...
Question: Can you describe to us your philosophy advanced sabermetrics, and also collaborating with the front office in doing your job?
I think it's the most exciting growth period that I'll ever be in, to be able to experience new information and advanced metrics in my daily workplace.
Now, when I was in Texas, we had a sabermetrician, if you will, on staff: Craig Wright, who was a wonderfully talented Bill James disciple, actually. But at the time I wasn't ready for it, nor was, I think, the world of baseball, to actually make the numbers applicable to the day-to-day managing of the game.
I tried to continue the concept through New York and in Japan. But one of the exciting parts of this situation is I know information is available to me. And that information has to get in, it has to be digested with the other information that I get from my ears and my eyes, and my experience, and hopefully it's going to be able to regurgitate some pretty good results.
But it's exciting. I think it's an everyday process, and I think it's going to be a learning process for me.
If Valentine hadn't said things just like that during the interview process, he wouldn't have gotten the job. But saying the right things isn't the same as doing the right things. I'm sure Ben Cherington is anxious to find out just how receptive Valentine is to the wealth of information that will be available to him.
Question: "When in this process did you start to get the feeling that yes, I would like to manage again? And how prepared are you, both mentally and physically for this job, which we've heard Terry Francona say over and over again can be a very difficult job?"
I believe I'm prepared physically. I'm trying to wrap my head around it. To tell you the truth -- when you say "to tell you the truth", everyone says there must be a lie coming right now, but that's not the case -- I tried to not engage myself in this day, because I didn't want to be heartbroken.
I wanted this from the first time I heard the job was opening, and I was sitting next to Karl Ravech, and he said, "Well, maybe you could be the manager," and I said, "Ahhhh, I don't know."
And during the process, which was a long process, from the beginning of November when we first met, I would wake up at night, thinking there was a chance, and then say, "Don't go there. You're gonna get your heart broken."
Mentally, my mind's okay. It's just that I need a lot more information ...
In his 30-some minutes behind the microphone, Bobby Valentine offered something for almost everyone: wit, humility, graciousness, intellectual curiosity, and an intensely heart-felt enthusiasm for his new job.
How sincere is Bobby Valentine? Only he knows. But if Thursday's press conference was all you had to go on, you would probably guess the Boston Red Sox are in excellent managerial hands.