The new Red Sox manager is one of a kind He was hired by Lou Gorman. He was fired by George W. Bush. He was Bill Buckner’s roommate. He married the daughter of the man who threw the pitch that led to the most celebrated moment in baseball history.
Bobby Valentine has been everywhere and knows everyone.
He comes as advertised. And we are loving it.
Five weeks into spring training, Valentine got combative with the traditionally carnivorous Boston baseball media. He disputed reports of a rift with general manager Ben Cherington. Later that day, Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon (on ESPN’s ‘’Pardon the Interruption’’) suggested Valentine might be fired before the start of the season.
Wow. Talk about buzz. Even by Boston standards, that seems harsh. Has any manager been rumored to be fired before working his first regular-season game?
Valentine rides his bike to the ballpark in spring training, compelling Dustin Pedroia to make fun of his outfits and suggest the manager compete in the Tour de France.
Valentine ordered a suicide squeeze in the ninth inning of a nationally televised exhibition game against the hated Yankees — a grandstand move that prompted New York manager Joe Girardi to send his team back to Tampa with the score tied.
Valentine has “Bobby V’’ stenciled on the tongue of his New Balance baseball shoes. He refers to himself as “Bobby V.’’ He is incapable of uttering the phrase, “I don’t know.’’ He wears out his coaches and players with nonstop involvement in every aspect of their work. He has redefined the term “micromanager.’’
And we are loving it.
Are you eating a wrap sandwich for lunch while you are reading this column? Say a prayer of thanks to Bobby V. He invented the wrap sandwich. Just as Al Gore invented the Internet. And remember that the Japanese think of Bobby Valentine the same way the French think of Jerry Lewis. Bobby is a god in Japan.
Check out Bobby V’s senior yearbook at Rippowam High in Stamford, Conn. Classmates voted Valentine Most Optimistic, Most Versatile, Did Most of ‘68, Most Cheerful, Class Heartbreaker, Best All Around, Most Likely to Succeed, Most Popular, and Most School Spirit. Valentine has been married for 35 years to Mary Branca, the daughter of Ralph Branca, who threw the pitch that resulted in the ‘’Shot Heard ‘Round the World’’ in 1951.
My favorite Bobby V moment of spring training 2012 came in late February, when we were grilling the Red Sox pitchers who misbehaved badly in September of 2011. Josh Beckett had just ripped into “snitches,’’ and reporters asked Valentine if perhaps too much attention was being devoted to the historic implosion during the Final Days of Tito and Theo.
“I don’t think you turn the page on it, personally,’’ said Valentine. “You work through things and time is a great healer, but it’s not the only healer, you know? If someone was burned in there, it’s going to take some time for the sting to leave, and it’s probably going to take some actions, too.
“Saying, ‘Forget it,’ is like saying, ‘Relax’ — those words mean nothing. You have to learn. It takes breathing and confidence and all those wonderful things to relax and it takes time and possibly at times apologies, but apologies come with actions to heal.’’
Beautiful. Valentine rejects the notion that we should forget about fried chicken and beer. He doesn’t pretend that all the bad stuff never happened. He takes the charge, like Dennis Rodman squaring up and standing in the path of locomotive Karl Malone. None of that phony “turn the page’’ stuff for Bobby V.
Last Tuesday in Fort Myers, Fla., Valentine adroitly defused the combustible topic of who will start at shortstop for the Red Sox. Aware that there had been rampant speculation that rookie Jose Iglesias was “Bobby’s guy’’ while Cherington wanted the safer route of veteran Mike Aviles, Valentine sent Iglesias to Pawtucket, denied there had been any debate, and said, “I’d like to think I had a part in the decision.’’
Valentine is curious about everything. At the end of a routine, ho-hum spring training news conference at JetBlue Park, he picked up one of the tape recorders that had been placed in front of him. He wanted to inspect the latest technology. Ted Williams used to do the same thing.
Bobby’s splashdown in Boston closes a circle that was first drawn by the late, great Gorman. Sweet Lou was responsible for getting dozens of executives their first jobs in baseball. Gorman connected with Valentine at a Stamford muscular dystrophy dinner when Gorman was a vice president with the Mets in the early 1980s. Gorman wound up hiring Valentine as a minor league instructor. In 1985, Valentine, 35, became the big league manager of the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers went from 62 wins to 87 wins in Valentine’s first full season. In 1992, Valentine was fired by George W. Bush, just a few years after Bush told him, “Bobby, you’re doing a heck of a job.’’
The Bobby V Show comes to Fenway on Friday the 13th. Valentine is not worried about preseason prognostications. As a former media member, he understands the prediction game.
“I hated ‘em,’’ he said. ‘’When they asked me to pick the division, I cringed at that. I usually asked one of the researchers to give me his picks.
“You can’t put anything into it. If I don’t know what my team is going to look like and what the competition is going to look like, how the heck can anybody else? The Red Sox looked like a great team last year. I probably picked them.
“I have great expectation with this group. I haven’t had a lot of time to figure out what people are picking. I know the Red Sox are not the ‘best team ever assembled’ this year. We expect us to make the playoffs.’’
It won’t be boring. That’s for sure.