Enigmatic Bobby V is introduced in Boston
So, Boston, welcome to Bobby V’s world.
Based on a 35-minute press conference alone, it’s a place of teary entrances, of unapologetic (and slightly resistive) looks back (for the sake of the New Yorkers in the crowd) and of an admission he dared not hope to become manager of the Red Sox because, he said, “I didn’t want to be heartbroken.”
And, of course, it’s already a time for repair.
The man had barely buttoned his jersey before his boss – the young Ben Cherington sitting at Bobby Valentine’s right shoulder – was asked if this was really the candidate he wanted to manage his ballclub.
The two of them together at the table – alone, without president Larry Lucchino or owner John Henry – breathed for Cherington, “my guy.”
And yet he was going to have to say it. He was going to have to deny that Dale Sveum was his guy, that the Red Sox overlords had insisted on Valentine, that this relationship – fresh young GM, old and hardened baseball man – was doomed from this very moment.
“It’s just not true,” Cherington said.
So, there you go.
It was a remarkable thing, watching Valentine step onto the stage again, feeling the intrigue whip up around him again.
At 61, he appeared emotionally overrun by the size of the day. His eyes went damp a few times, and almost right from his first words. A few of his sentences – his thoughts of gratitude, really – caught on the inside, somewhere near his tie.
Maybe he never believed in this day again, not at his age, not after nine years. Oh sure, he probably could have pulled a job in Miami last season, or maybe in a place like Houston or Washington eventually.
But Boston? A place where he could win today? A franchise with good players and big money, where baseball matters, and he’ll matter?
“I am honored,” he said. “I’m humbled. And I’m pretty damn excited.”
He grabbed Cherington’s hand.
“I think we’re going to do this, man,” he gushed.
It was, all in all, an impressive performance, precisely because it didn’t look like a performance. Had Bobby V’s heart leapt from his chest, danced on the table and sung “Sweet Caroline,” I wouldn’t have been shocked. Had Josh Beckett(notes) rolled off his couch, swept away the Cheetos and banged out 30 crunches, I would not have been shocked.
Had Bobby V gathered Henry, Lucchino and Cherington at the podium, encouraged them to stack their hands on top of his in a collegiate show of unity and … oh, wait, that actually happened.
Really, it was pretty cool. Maybe it’s all too much for Boston in the end. Maybe Sveum was the better guy.
But, more likely, Bobby V is.
Hell, the fact Red Sox players are griping (privately, of course) about the Red Sox hiring Valentine is precisely the reason the Red Sox had to hire Valentine.
Can they be that soft? Is this what the winning and the adulation and the money wrought?
Apparently so. They deposed a whipped Terry Francona. They delivered an unapologetic Valentine.
And now Valentine will get on the telephone and sort through his players. And he’ll get on an airplane and visit some of them.
They’ll have a chance to learn something about their new manager, or turn away and continue the mistakes of September, and the sins that created September.
They’ll judge Valentine as they will.
He was asked if he believed he’d evolved from his days as manager of the Mets. The insinuation being, did he regret his final days, when he was let go, or the difficult days, when he feuded with those above and below him. He was asked, basically, if he was still the polarizing figure he was then.
“ ‘Polarizing’ is a tough one,” Valentine said. “I mean, I’ve had a lot of adjectives about me. I can’t describe them all. Or defend them all.”
He grinned a little. He is who he is. For the uninitiated, he ticked a few off.
He said he’s not a “genius.” He’s not a “polarizing guy.” He’s not “the monster who breathes fire.”
“I’m a guy,” he said, “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.
“It’s just what I am.”
Valentine claimed he viewed this job as joining an organization that belongs to Henry, Lucchino and Cherington, and joining a team that belongs to the players, that he would fit into their orbit, not the other way.
Maybe that’s true today. Maybe that’s true tomorrow. But the moment that’s not going to work, well, we’ll see.
“This isn’t easy stuff,” Valentine said. “With all due respect to New York, I can’t imagine there’s any tougher place to be good at what I’m going to try to do than here.”
Soon after that, Bobby V left the stage, heading for a whole new world.
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