Bobby V striving for 'culture of excellence'

December, 2, 2011

BOSTON -- It didn't take the newest manager of the Boston Red Sox long to send a statement to his players.

The first question Bobby Valentine was asked during his introductory news conference Thursday at Fenway Park was in regards to the 2011 clubhouse culture that ultimately contributed to the Red Sox's imploding in September and failing to reach the postseason for the second consecutive season.

Valentine's answer was a clear message to his players, basically telling them "I've got your back."

"Reputation is something that other people think about you, and right now, this group of guys has a reputation that's not warranted because everything I've heard about the players who were in uniform last year, and the coaching, says nothing but they had great character," he said. "There may have been a couple of characters that got out of line, and there may have been situations that got spinning too fast; I don't know because I wasn't there. But I can tell you I'm looking forward to working with this group and establishing a culture of excellence."

[+] EnlargeBobby Valentine
AP Photo/Charles KrupaBobby Valentine knows that the view from Fenway's home dugout entails a true challenge.
When it became apparent that Valentine was the Red Sox's choice, some players were skeptical of the decision by general manager Ben Cherington and ownership.

In fact, a Red Sox official told at least one player at the beginning of the managerial search that the Sox "weren't going to hire Bobby Valentine or someone like that," a clubhouse source told last week.

The conversation suggests that Valentine, known as a no-nonsense manager in stints with the New York Mets and Texas Rangers over 15 years, was perceived by some as a dark-horse candidate who would not be popular with some players.

"They're going to have a mess on their hands," the source said when asked what would happen if the Red Sox hired Valentine, who at the time was one of several candidates.

"If I have to manage up differently, or manage down differently these individuals I'm dealing with, I'm going to work my butt off to do it," Valentine said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge of getting to know Dustin Pedroia and figuring out who and what he is. Getting to know Adrian Gonzalez, getting to know everybody -- Carl Crawford and everybody on this team -- so that I can feel like I'm part of their team.

"They're not part of my team, I'm going to be a part of Ben's group and work with him and for him. I'm going to be part of Dustin's group, or the Boston Red Sox's group and work with them and for them. That's going to be a challenge. This isn't easy stuff."

Valentine also admitted he understands the challenge that faces him in Boston, and marveled at the job Terry Francona did during his eight seasons here.

"With all due respect to New York, I can't imagine that there's any tougher place to be good at what I'm going to try to do than here. Tito did a remarkable job, a fabulous job. From viewing him outside and watching what happened over his tenure, you can do nothing but tip your hat and hope you can replicate some of the wonderful things that he was able to accomplish."

Joe McDonald

ESPN Staff Writer



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