This was the sign of the times at Fenway Park Thursday welcoming Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "Mission Accomplished?" The display may have conjured up memories of another infamous celebratory sign that hung behind Valentine's former boss, George W. Bush, while the then-president spoke to Naval personnel returning from combat operations in the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003. Valentine's first managerial stop was in Texas, where he managed the Rangers from 1985-92. He was eventually fired by then-managing partner Bush, who discussed the episode in his book "Decision Points" (see below). Red Sox fans hope Thursday's signage doesn't come back to haunt the team. Or maybe it was ownership's way to remind the prima donnas who went 7-20 in September that there's a new 61-year-old boss in town.
"Running the Rangers sharpened my managerial skills. Rusty and I spent our time on the major financial and strategic issues, and left the baseball decisions to baseball men. When people did not perform, we made changes. It wasn't easy to ask decent folks like Bobby Valentine, a dynamic manager who became a friend of mine, to move on. But I tried to deliver the news in a thoughtful way, and Bobby handled it like a professional. I was grateful when, years later, I heard him say, "I voted for George W. Bush, even though he fired me."
- George W. Bush, "Decision Points" (Random House, 2010)
Bush bought his share of the Rangers for $600,000 in 1989 and received $14.9 million when the team was sold in 1994. The Sox might be looking for a similar return on their investment in Valentine, as they announced in the hours after the Valentine story broke that select 2012 tickets are going on sale a week from Saturday. Too bad the Sox didn't get that kind of payback on J.D Drew, whose grand-slam in Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS remains the most expensive home run (at $70 million) in baseball history.
Valentine said all the right things Thursday and was "humbled" to be named Red Sox manager. There's a first for everything. The emotional highpoint of Valentine's introduction was Heidi Watney's NESN farewell. Valentine's debut in Boston was a mushy, love-fest. Infatuation all the way around. Sickening sweet. The only thing missing were the flowers and candy. Valentine spoke with passion, but the show was pure Pink Hat. Even Larry tried to be lovable. All these hugs and kisses and the Red Sox still haven't embraced a closer.
Meanwhile, GM Ben (not to be confused with Bud Fox or Fredo Corleone) said the recommendation to hire Bobby was his, really, seriously. He let everyone know that he and Carmine won't just be handling Bobby's expense reports. Sure, it was Ben's recommendation, after Larry zapped his first five choices. Everyone had their story straight - Ben made the call, Larry, John and Tom approved it and Bobby is part of Ben's group. Got it? Now go online and load up on No. 25 jerseys, they've been discounted since Mike Lowell retired. My favorite No. 25 will always be Tony C. Valentine said he's wearing that number in honor of Conigliaro. You can ask your parents about him. As long as Valentine isn't wearing No. 25 in honor of Steve Renko, Jack Clark or Jeremy Giambi, he should be OK.
But you still have to wonder what the four people in this grip-and-grimace shot from Thursday's press conference were thinking when it was taken. Here's my idea of what might have been going through the heads of Larry, Ben, Bobby and John:
Send us your ideas of what the Fab Four could have been thinking. Maybe Carmine can tell us when his book comes out.
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