Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine puts on a cap...

Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine puts on a cap during a news conference at Fenway Park in Boston. (Dec. 1, 2011) Credit: AP

BOSTON -- Sure, a handful of teams had approached him the last couple of years, and in the case of the Marlins, serious negotiations took place. But Bobby Valentine, baseball's Renaissance Man, figured he probably had written his final lineup card -- and he largely accepted that.

"I'm a realist,'' Valentine said yesterday. "I saw the game as it was changing, and I saw it obviously getting younger. I saw it getting kind of different. And I didn't know if I could ever fit in.''

Improbably, then, the 61-year-old Valentine now fits back into the center of baseball's universe. He officially rejoined Major League Baseball's managing fraternity as the Red Sox introduced him as their skipper at a Fenway Park news conference.

It marks Valentine's first MLB job since the Mets fired him at the conclusion of a disappointing 2002 season, ending a largely successful run of six-plus years. Valentine managed Japan's Chiba Lotte Marines from 2004-09 and won the 2005 Japan Series.

Said Red Sox principal owner John Henry: "We think he's the right manager for the right time.''

The Red Sox are looking to move past an epic collapse that resulted in the departures of general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona. With ownership heavily involved in selecting a new manager alongside new GM Ben Cherington, the colorful Valentine won the job over fellow finalist Gene Lamont and a group of far less experienced candidates.

In Valentine, the Red Sox get a man known as being a polarizing force of nature. He spent the last two seasons working as a commentator for ESPN, serving as the public safety director for Stamford, Conn., and aiding charitable causes.

He enters the job as a celebrity in his own right, in other words, but he was so intrigued by this position that when the Red Sox offered him only a two-year contract, he accepted without even countering.

"Let it be known,'' Valentine said, "I would've taken one.''

He has managed 2,189 major- league games, but this will be the first time he takes over a team expected to win immediately. As Valentine pointed out, his first two MLB opportunities -- in 1985 with the Rangers and in 1996 with the Mets -- came at midseason. This will mark his first chance to have preparation time.

His Mets tenure ended badly, thanks largely to a feud with general manager Steve Phillips.

"What I would do differently is that I would have hopefully learned from mistakes,'' Valentine said. " . . . I think I've learned from most of them. I think one thing that we all know is things can get spinning quickly. When things spin quickly, they sometimes get out of control. I think that's what happened.''

Things now will spin faster than ever, he knows. The media world has changed drastically since 2002, and there is the matter of Valentine's new top rival.

"I know the Yankees always have a team that you have to have your best foot forward when you're playing them,'' Valentine said. "I know from doing those games on ESPN, the players take them so seriously.

"I think we're going to be able to match them. It's not going to be the best team that wins. It's going to be the team that plays the best.''

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