BOSTON — Bobby Valentine took over as manager of the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, promising to be hard-working, open-minded and even humble as he tries to help the franchise return to the playoffs and forget after the disappointment of this season’s unprecedented September collapse.
“It’s more than a special day. It’s the beginning of a life that’s going to extend beyond anything I thought I’d be doing,” Valentine said. “The talent level of the players we have in this organization is a gift to anyone, and I think I’m a receiver of this gift.
“I think we’re going to do this, man,” he said, shaking hands with general manager Ben Cherington, “And I really and truly appreciate this opportunity.”
The 61-year-old former Rangers and Mets skipper was introduced during a news conference in a Fenway Park luxury club attended by owner John Henry and his wife, by Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, by dozens of team employees, and by about 100 members of the media, many of them from New York outlets that covered Valentine in his days with the Mets.
The most intriguing part of Valentine’s news conference: The possibility of making Bill Buckner his hitting coach.
Valentine and Buckner were college roommates who played together in the Dodgers’ system. The new Boston skipper said he would consider the former Red Sox first baseman for his staff.
Despite a 21-year career in which he amassed 2,715 hits, Buckner was best remembered in Boston for his ninth-inning error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series that helped the New York Mets come from behind and win.
The sting of that loss wasn’t diminished until the Red Sox ended their 86-year championship drought in 2004.
LABOR: Major League Baseball players have ratified a five-year collective bargaining agreement that runs through the 2016 season and ensures 21 consecutive years of labor peace.
Players said Thursday they approved the deal this week during their annual executive board meeting.
The deal, signed last week, starts blood testing for human growth hormone and institutes restraints on signing bonuses for amateur draft picks and international players coming to the big leagues.
Owners might hold a telephone conference call to approve it rather than wait for their next meeting, in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Jan. 11-12.
YANKEES: Closer Mariano Rivera says he will have surgery today to remove polyps from his vocal chords.
Talking Thursday at a charity event, Rivera said the operation at New York-Presbyterian Hospital will prevent him from speaking from a week.
“I don’t like surgery, but the sooner, the better,” Rivera said.