This week’s roundtable question for the staff was a simple one: Who should be the next Red Sox manager? Really no explanation needed there. The Red Sox seem determined to take their time on this search, but we all have our preferences, some internal and some from outside the organization.
OK, you can put away your pitchforks. I feel very strongly that the next manager of the Red Sox needs to be someone who isn’t going to cause drama, or be a distraction to the team. Clearly, that’s why Alex Cora isn’t here. So the next manager has to be someone who does what Alex Cora did effectively, and do it without actually being Alex Cora. That’s tricky, especially since in the game of Manager Musical Chairs, there is so little for us to judge a potential hire one.
Matt Quatraro is a popular pick for a lot of armchair GMs but before reports surfaced of him even being a possibility, most people hadn’t even heard of him and are relying on word of mouth to determine what they think makes him a good fit for the roster. Quatraro will be a good managerial candidate this time around, and may even be a good manager one day! But I think today belongs to someone else, someone with less actual coaching experience.
I’m speaking about Jason Varitek. Before people complain about the homer bias and point out his lack of manager experience, I want to be very clear about one thing: Jason Varitek already looked like a future manager when he was with the Red Sox. He commanded respect and was named the first captain since 1989 when he was appointed the position in 2005. Varitek has also caught no-hitters from four vastly different pitchers, Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester as well as the rain-shortened Devern Hansack “no-hitter” (which isn’t official because it was only five innings). Varitek understands pitchers. That’s why he is so beloved as a catcher, and as a potential manager hire.
”But Jake, that’s all well and good, but why does that matter?” you might be thinking. I’m doubling down on the idea that the key to our success in 2020 is the pitching. Short term, Jason Varitek makes the most sense as a hire, whether it’s as an interim coach (while the pipe-dream of a reunion with Alex Cora floats in the air in some circles) or on a more permanent basis. We need a manager who understands pitchers, when it’s time to take out a starter, which reliever has their A-Game, and who the best matchup is for any situation.
The Red Sox say they are trying to win in 2020. This is a bad situation for any manager to walk into. If there’s anyone who will command respect in that clubhouse, while being able to help with our team’s biggest question mark, it’s the former captain of the Boston Red Sox.
The unexpected departure of Alex Cora for his role in the 2017 Astros Trashcan Scheme (or Banging Scheme, as the commissioner absurdly calls it) has left the Red Sox (along with the Astros) scrambling for a manager with Spring Training just weeks away. Lots of names have been put out there but should the Sox decide not to go with an interim candidate Sam Fuld should be the pull-out-the-stops candidate.
First, he’s a former player tasked with being “a liaison between the front-office wonks and the clubhouse.” If that doesn’t sound like the ideal manager for 2020 I don’t know what does. Second, he’s been all around the league, spending time with the Cubs, Rays, A’s, and Twins as a player, and now the Phillies as a front office employee. While he missed the Theo Epstein era in Chicago, Fuld played under Joe Maddon (and maybe knew Bloom) and with the Oakland A’s. And for what it’s worth is from New Hampshire so those homecoming points, if they exist, are in play. Fuld also turned down opportunities to interview for the Cubs, Mets, and Pirates earlier this offseason. So push in all the chips to make him interested, give him a leash as long as Chaim Bloom gets. Learn the jobs together. Assuming Bloom in on board with Fuld. Why have an interim manager when the solution is out there?
Craig Breslow, former Red Sox champion, would be my pick to replace Alex Cora as manager. Breslow pitched in relief for the Sox from 2012-2015, and while he wasn’t a star he was an integral part of the 2013 championship team’s bullpen. He is currently the Chicago Cubs’ director of strategic operations, and is one of the brightest minds in baseball. He has degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale, and his role with the Cubs is “help to evaluate and implement data-based processes throughout all facets of Baseball Operations”. This is all in addition to his 12 years of playing experience. A forward-thinking guy like Craig would be a perfect combination with new GM Chaim Bloom (also a Yale grad).
Looking for a manager in January is not ideal. It’s obviously not where the Red Sox planned to be. Due to that fact, I think opening up a massive and lengthy search doesn’t make a ton of sense right now, especially since we are still scratching our heads about the future of the team in terms of player personnel. (Give Mookie Betts a long-term extension already).
The Red Sox were still a pretty good team last season and they still have great potential so whoever comes in as manager won’t be asked to completely turn things around. That’s why I think Carlos Febles makes the most sense. He has more than a decade of experience inside the the Red Sox system so he is already familiar with the franchise and current roster and that doesn’t even mention the fact that he has managerial experience in the minor leagues.
There are plenty of candidates to choose from being thrown around, from the realistic to the fantastical, and while Febles may not be the splashiest choice, he deserves the chance to prove he can succeed while allowing the Sox to move on to actual baseball.
There’s a difference between who I want the Red Sox to replace Alex Cora with and who I think they should replace him with. I think Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek are both intriguing options to take the reins and I would love to see either guy back in a Sox uniform. However, I am not sure either player is the right fit to kick-off the post-Cora era. I definitely think Varitek could end up managing the Sox at some point — and as the special assistant to Chaim Bloom right now, maybe sooner rather than later. But with no managerial experience, and serving in only a front office role since 2012, I’m not convinced that he’s ready to move into the manager’s seat right now.
That being said, I think the right guy to fill this vacant spot is Ron Roenicke. He has four years of managerial experience with the Milwaukee Brewers and has been serving as the bench coach for the Sox since the 2018 season. He knows this team (not that Varitek doesn’t) and has the experience that I think it will take to get the Sox back to the postseason. And if this season does end up being a bust, I’ll be honest with you, I would much rather have Roenicke be the fall guy than Varitek.
Alex Cora had to go for what he did, but as a manager he had a lot of qualities a modern team needs. When players are asked about what they liked about Cora it was his communication style. In this day and age it’s very easy for a major league clubhouse to develop cliques of American players and Latin players, having a manager that speaks both languages and can identify with both groups while aiding in the creation of a one team atmosphere is vital to a clubs success.
To this end I would love to see Hensley Meulens become the next manager. Meulens had nothing to do with either the Red Sox or Astros scandal so he represents a fresh start. His reputation from his time with the Giants is stellar and the guy speaks a whopping five languages—including Japanese! Meulens already has a relationship with Xander Bogaerts from managing him during the WBC where Bogey played third for Team Netherlands. This is a perfect fit.
Short of hiring Alex Cora in a fake moustache and glasses, Hensley Meulens seems like the best choice for the next Red Sox manager. Put another way: For a team still reeling from the loss of its beloved leader, Meulens seems like the safest guy to slide into his spot: Not only is he demonstrably qualified, his qualifications — primary among them behind adored by players from around the world — dovetail with Cora’s in a season where a bigger change would feel too big. It’s not time for the Jason Varitek experiment yet, though trade Mookie Betts and maybe that changes. I also don’t think an old salt like Ron Roenicke would be ideal, given how well the team took to Cora, though it would certainly be fine. The Mets had a second (!) chance to hire Meulens full-time after the Carlos Beltrán move fell through, and in classic Mets fashion, they blew it, and what is a Mets morality play without someone to make them pay for it? Hire Meulens and send ‘em the bill.
I have the same answer as Jake D. and Bryan, so there’s no point in me really going too long here. It’s definitely not that I woke up late and with an alarming lack of motivation this morning. Definitely not that. Anyway, Hensley Meulens is the easy choice, at least right now. I’m not opposed to the idea of Reonicke, but without knowing how the investigation is going to turn out it’s hard to go all-in on the bench coach at this point. I think Varitek could be a good manager at some point, but I’m not sure this is a year in which I want to throw him into the fire. Meulens, as pointed out already, can communicate with everyone. More importantly, he can do it well! It’s not just about speaking the language but getting people to like you, which he has done. He also learned under Bruce Bochy, who will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Not the worst mentor!
John Baker gave a Saberseminar presentation in 2016 revolving around some of the work he was doing with the Chicago Cubs. Baker had been working to develop programs to achieve better focus with hitters. I’m guessing that he did something right because he’s still with the team as Mental Skills Program Coordinator and will again be speaking as Saberseminar in 2020. I don’t know whether he would be a good hire. None of us know if first-time managers will be good, but he would be interesting and has tools that you would want. Baker may have bigger goals ahead of him than being a field manager, though, and there’s no guarantee the Cubs would even grant an interview. It’s worth a shot, though.