DALLAS Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was first-round pick (fifth overall) of the Dodgers out of Rippowan High School in Stamford, Conn. The manager for his first four seasons was future Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda. While Valentine played parts of10 major league seasons, the promise of his draft position never panned out, cut short by a leg injury that limited him to just 639 games with Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Mets and Mariners.
Since those early days, though, Lasorda has been a mentor and friend to Valentine. Lasorda knew early on Valentine would one day be a manager.
Ive seen him plan for a game, Lasorda said. Ive never seen many managers do that. He can plan for that game as good as anybody Ive ever seen.
He was one of my favorite players. He played for me in a rookie league. He played for me in Triple-A. He played for me in the Dominican Republic. So he asked me questions at all times.
Lasorda gave his counsel before Valentine took the Red Sox job with an ultimatum.
He always had a good job, Lasorda said. When you have a good job you always have an opportunity to get another job. But if you dont have a good job, its tough to get another job. He could have gone to two or three other clubs. I know I talked to clubs about him that called me and asked me. He could have gone with three clubs that I know of. But he didnt want to go. When the Boston opportunity came, he grabbed it. And I told him if he didnt, Id kick his ass.
Hes got a lot of enthusiasm. What hes got to do is take that team and get them all to play for the name on the front of their shirt and not for the name back of their shirt. If he can do that, then hell be successful.
But Lasorda knows that's not always easy.
Thats the ability that the manager has to have, Lasorda said. "To be able to put them all together, you got to get them all to be on one end of a rope and pull together. If you can do that, youre going to have success. But if half get on one end and half get on the other end, you can pull all day long. All youre doing is pulling against yourself. You got to take 25 guys and you got to make them believe that theyre the best in baseball, and he can do that.
While Valentine has been called, by turns, a genius and abrasive, brilliant and polarizing, Lasorda does not believe that Valentine's personality will get in the way of his new job.
Ive told him this; Hes got to get along with the general manager. Hes the boss, Lasorda said. And he should know that. He should realize that. In the 20 years I managed the dodgers, my general manager was the boss. And you figure this out. He gets you 25 players and he said, Heres your team. Go out and win. So you got to listen to him. You got to work with him. You got to understand him. And thats what I did for 20 years. The guy was the general manager. I had two general managers, and I feel the same way. Theyre the boss. Lets face it, their job is better or higher than yours. And you got to be together. You got to be good friends. You got to go out. AL Campanis, the general manager, we would discuss players 'til three in the morning. I said, Al, if you want me to say the same thing, youll go to the Grand Canyon. So I think I tried to do my best to always get along with the two general managers I had.
Lasorda thinks Bill Buckner, another long-time friend of Valentine, would be a good addition to the coaching staff.
I think that would be great, Lasorda said. "Buckner was an outstanding hitter. I think Buckner could relate to players. If he selects him, I think that would be a good selection.
Valentine, who turned 61 in May, has managed for 15 seasons in the major leagues, taking the Mets to the 2000 World Series, only to lose to the Yankees. While Lasorda sees the Sox offering Valentine another chance to win, Lasorda said theres another reason Valentine will enjoy managing in Boston.
Heres a place he wanted to come, Lasorda said. He could have been at a few other clubs. I know that. But he didn't want to be there. He wants to be here, Boston. He got the chance to manage Boston, he grabbed it real fast, because he loves Boston. There are a lot of Italians in Boston, and hell get along real good in the city.