BOSTON — Players eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse during games. If it didn't bother Bobby Valentine as a baseball lifer, it would certainly offend his sensibilities as a self-proclaimed gourmet chef.
"He won't let that happen. There's no way he's going to let that happen," said Tommy Lasorda, Valentine's manager in the minor leagues and a mentor who encouraged him to try for the Red Sox job.
"There's times — in all phases of life — when you've got to kick them in the (rear) when they need it, and there's times when you need to hug them if they need it. Your livelihood depends on those guys. You've got to have them in the right frame of mind, to be loyal to the organization, to put forth all the effort that they have."
Valentine has agreed to terms with the Red Sox to become the team's new manager, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Wednesday. A news conference to introduce Valentine is expected on Thursday, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been signed.
The 61-year-old replaces Terry Francona, who left after eight years in which he guided the Red Sox to two World Series titles but also the biggest September collapse in baseball history. The first job for the former Mets and Rangers manager: reversing a culture in which players ate takeout fried chicken and drank beer in the clubhouse during games instead of sitting on the bench with their teammates.
"You give loyalty, you'll get it back. You give love, you'll get it back," Lasorda said Wednesday in a telephone interview with the AP. "And that's the way it has to be."
At a news conference the day he formally interviewed for the job, Valentine said he learned a lot about discipline while managing in Japan. Although the players there are more respectful of authority and less likely to step out of line, he said, they also appreciated having clearly defined rules so they knew where their limits were.
"Discipline is not 30 whacks with a whip these days," Valentine said. "I think everyone likes discipline. I think everyone likes structure. Everyone likes to be acknowledged when they do things properly. Discipline and rules and things like that — it's just about right and wrong."
Francona admitted he lost his players near the end of a tenure during which he counted on them to police themselves and never said anything negative about them in public. When Valentine was in New York, he did not hesitate to criticize his players and bickered with them, his boss and the media.
Former Mets general manager Omar Minaya said Valentine is every bit a players' manager but one who insists on accountability.
"Bobby is not going to be the guy who's cracking the whip. I can tell you that right now," said Minaya, who was in the Rangers and Mets front offices when Valentine managed there. "He's going to be a players' manager, but he's going to command respect. ... I think what Bobby's going to try to do is demand that players be professional."
The Red Sox topped the AL East for much of the summer and had a nine-game lead in the wild-card race that they squandered by going 7-20 in September, missing the playoffs for the second straight season. Francona left before he could be fired, saying the clubhouse needed a different voice.
And, boy, is Valentine ever different.
A restaurateur who claims to have invented the wrap sandwich; a high school star in football and baseball; a two-time minor-league MVP; the son-in-law of former major leaguer Ralph Branca; the manager of the NL pennant-winning New York Mets and Japanese champion Chiba Lotte Marines; the director of health and public safety in Stamford, Conn.; purveyor of an athletic training facility; a successful TV analyst.
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