NEW YORK (AP) — The Boston Red Sox have picked Bobby Valentine to be their next manager and the sides were working to complete a contract, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday night.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made. Several media outlets in Boston, citing anonymous sources, reported earlier in the evening that Valentine would be the team’s new manager.
An announcement could come by Thursday.
“He’s got it. I just spoke to him a little while ago,” Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, who managed Valentine in the minors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, said in a telephone interview with the AP.
The Red Sox had no comment, spokesperson Pam Ganley said. Valentine would succeed Terry Francona, who left after eight seasons following Boston’s record collapse in September.
Francona guided the Red Sox to a pair of World Series championships, in 2004 and 2007.
Valentine was in Japan this week, where he managed from 2004-09, and said he was about to take off on a flight when he sent the AP a text message at 9:48 p.m. Tuesday saying he had no comment on “the Red Sox situation.”
Valentine previously managed in the majors with the New York Mets and Texas Rangers. He led the Mets to the 2000 World Series, where they lost to the New York Yankees in five games. He had been working as a baseball analyst for ESPN.
“I’m happy for him. I think the Red Sox got themselves a good manager. In all my years, I’ve never seen a guy prepare a team for a game like he does. That’s what makes him unique,” Lasorda said.
The Red Sox also interviewed Gene Lamont, Torey Lovullo, Dale Sveum, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Pete Mackanin. Sveum was hired to manage the Chicago Cubs by former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. Mackanin and Alomar were told they were no longer in the running.
The Red Sox have gone nearly two months without a manager, but general manager Ben Cherington has noted that Francona wasn’t hired until after Thanksgiving — on Dec. 4, 2003.
Valentine’s last major league managerial job was with the Mets in 2002.
Three years earlier, he was ejected for arguing a catcher’s interference call in the 12th inning of a 14-inning game against Toronto. Valentine then returned to the dugout wearing a fake mustache and sunglasses. The Mets won 4-3, but Major League Baseball suspended him for three games and fined him $5,000.
The energetic Valentine, 61, has a more confrontational style than Francona, who was known as a player’s manager. And that may be just what the Red Sox need after their late-season flop.
They led the AL East for much of the summer but went 7-20 in September, squandering a nine-game lead in the AL wild-card race and finishing in third place in the division, one game behind Tampa Bay.
Francona and the team parted ways two days after the end of the regular season, with Francona saying the players needed a new voice in the clubhouse. The Red Sox didn’t pick up his option for 2012.
Soon after, there were reports of starting pitchers drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games in which they weren’t scheduled to pitch instead of staying on the bench to support their teammates.
Valentine interviewed on Nov. 21 with Cherington and other members of Red Sox management.
Asked then about his philosophy of discipline, he said, “Discipline is not 30 whacks with a whip these days. But I think everyone likes discipline. I think everyone likes structure. Everyone likes to be acknowledged when they do things properly. Discipline and rules and things like that — it’s just about right and wrong.”
He also was enthusiastic about the job.
“They have one of the best teams in baseball, one of the best organizations in baseball, one of the greatest venues in baseball, with a winning tradition over the last 10 years,” he said. “Other than that, there’s really no reason why I want to be here.”
And, he said then, if he got the job, “I would feel like it is Christmas.”
Hiring a manager would now put Boston’s focus on signing free agents. The team has already lost closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Philadelphia Phillies but would like to retain designated hitter David Ortiz. The Red Sox also can use one or two starters and either a setup man or closer in the bullpen.
Valentine was a late addition to the original five-man field of candidates as the Red Sox sought someone with experience as a big league manager. Of the initial group, only Lamont had that.
Valentine managed the Rangers from 1985-92 and the Mets from 1996-2002. He was fired by the Mets after the 2002 season when they finished fifth in the NL East. That was the only one of his six full seasons with the Mets when they ended up below .500.
With the Mets, he clashed publicly with general manager Steve Phillips.
In 2004, Valentine began a six-year managing career in Japan, where he won the Japan Series in 2005 with the Chiba Lotte Marines.
On Nov. 3, he and Red Sox president and part owner Larry Lucchino took part in Hartford in a program put on by the World Affairs Council on the global rise in the popularity of baseball
At the time, both said they hadn’t discussed the job with each other.
“He’s a great man and a great manager and he has a colorful and successful history, so his name inevitably comes up in this day and age,” Lucchino said then.
When Cherington was named general manager on Oct. 25, he was asked about the search for the next manager.
“We’re not looking for the next star manager,” he said. “We’re looking for the right fit for the Red Sox in 2012.”
He may have gotten both.
A Connecticut native, Valentine won MVP awards in the Pioneer League in 1968 and the Pacific Coast League in 1970, both times with Lasorda as his manager.
“This guy would always rise to the occasion. He would always drive in that big run for you,” Lasorda said. “He was sharp. When he came to me in the rookie league, he showed me some real knowledge about the game.”
Valentine played second, shortstop, third base and outfield and made it to the majors with the Dodgers from 1971-73. He also was with the California Angels (1973-75), San Diego Padres (1975-77), the Mets (1977-78) and the Seattle Mariners (1979).
His career was derailed by a broken leg sustained when his spikes caught the chain link fence at Anaheim Stadium in May 1973 as he tried to catch a home run hit by Dick Green. Valentine finished with a .260 career batting average, 12 homers and 157 RBIs.
The son-in-law of former major league pitcher Ralph Branca, Valentine has a 1,117-1,072 record as a major league manager, but has never finished in first place in 15 seasons.
In April 2000, he criticized the Mets front office and several players, specifically Bobby Bonilla and Rickey Henderson, while speaking to students at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
“He’s matured, and I think managing in Japan helped him a great deal,” Lasorda said. “Becoming the manager of the Red Sox, that’s a privilege and an honor, and I’m sure he’s going to do a great job.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)