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Major piece put in place

With Valentine selected, the Red Sox can start managing their other issues

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By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / November 30, 2011
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Why was it important for the Red Sox to select Bobby Valentine as their manager?

Because the rest of the team business depends on it, that’s why.

When you’re making major decisions on personnel, the manager has to have input on which players the general manager will pursue in free agency and trades. Terry Francona always took the public approach that Theo Epstein picked the groceries. But Francona certainly had his opinions on what he needed.

Valentine surely will want the same consideration.

At times, you have to fit the players to the personality of the manager. You can’t acquire a player who won’t fit with the person in charge.

Obviously, in his first season, Valentine will inherit more players than he will be able to add, so he will have to adapt to some personalities and idiosyncrasies, just as the players will have to adapt to him.

For some players, Valentine will be a shock to their system. Some won’t like him, but nothing says they will hate him, either. Valentine is very engaging and likes the player-manager give-and-take. He likes smart players.

Over time, the players Valentine will flourish with as opposed to the ones he’ll clash with will be sorted out.

It also works in reverse.

Players who are free agents want to know who their manager is going to be. When the Sox courted Curt Schilling, they were reasonably sure they were going to hire Francona. Schilling really wanted to play for Francona again after their time in Philadelphia. He said it was one of the major reasons he agreed to come to Boston.

The Red Sox have needs in right field and with their closer and starting pitching. Maybe Valentine has ideas on which players he feels would fill those needs best. They may be the same ones Ben Cherington and his staff like. They may not. Those are important differences to learn about.

The absence of a manager could be the reason the Red Sox have appeared sluggish out of the gate in the offseason. We understand there’s a lot going on. There’s a new management team here. Yes, Cherington has been around the team for a long time, but this is the first time he has been in charge.

It took a while for Theo Epstein and Red Sox ownership to get in synch. It will take a while with Cherington, too.

The Red Sox appear to be making calls and discussing deals, but nothing appears imminent on that front. The Epstein compensation from the Cubs has been put way on the back burner.

Valentine certainly won’t be afraid to speak his mind on any topic.

He was critical of the Red Sox for the way they handled Daisuke Matsuzaka; Valentine is an expert on Japanese players, having managed for many years with the Chiba Lotte Marines. His pitchers never got hurt in Japan, and in his time with the Mets, he maintained a fairly healthy pitching staff compared with the rest of the league.

Valentine has been critical of the time Josh Beckett takes between pitches.

He won’t be afraid to tell a player he’d better bust it down the line on a ground ball if he knows what’s good for him. He will be fundamentally sound and expect his players to be the same. He is not afraid of repercussions for calling out a player in public.

These are things that haven’t happened here for the last eight years that now will happen. The players will have to be more accountable than ever, especially after the fiasco of last September. And it’s not that Gene Lamont was a softy. Hardly. As one of his longtime friends said, “He’s his own man.’’ He, too, would have his own ideas on how things should be done.

This concept of front office/organizational managing probably wouldn’t have gone over too big with Lamont, either.

Both, however, are open to statistical analysis.

As NESN’s Peter Gammons pointed out, Valentine was one of the early disciples of Bill James’s sabermetrics. He loves the stuff and would be open to receiving all the information he can. But he will want to implement it the way he sees fit. The Red Sox must be on board with the control he would have as a manager.

The Sox brass came around to Valentine. John Farrell was likely their first choice, but if they eventually felt Valentine the best man for the job at this time, the time spent evaluating things was well spent.

The Sox stuck their necks out a little and thought outside the box. They are taking somewhat of a chance. They recognized that desperate times need desperate measures.

But in Valentine, they know they’re getting passion, one of the best in-game managers, and a guy who will speak his mind. Intellectually, he fits what they like.

They also will have the perfect choice for their NESN audience, understanding that the business side of the operation is very important and the manager has to be on TV before and after every game. Valentine’s ESPN experience and his media savvy had to be major selling points for the owners. Winning is the most important thing, obviously, but the business side of things is also important.

He will be a goodwill ambassador for the team. He has a lot of his mentor, Tommy Lasorda, in him. He will bleed Red Sox red. He loves to make charitable appearances, like the one he just made to a hospital in Japan.

All of those things will come with him.

But most important, the Red Sox will be able to accelerate their personnel decisions and will have the manager in place before the start of the winter meetings Monday in Dallas, ready to put the great collapse of 2011 behind them.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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