With the firing of Bobby Valentine, Red Sox fans have gotten what they wanted (at least what they wanted short of Larry Lucchino moving on). The answer seemed so obvious to everyone… except it wasn’t the answer, it was just the first domino in a long line to fall this off season.
So now what?
The presumptive choice to manage the Red Sox next season is John Farrell. The only sports lust that could be greater than the current front office’s desire for Farrell was Brandon Lloyd’s longing to line up alongside Tom Brady. Farrell, however, is anything but an obvious choice. Blue Jay fans will tell you that he did fairly well with a young team full of prospects. Consider:
- Omar Vizquel criticized Farrell for not being forceful in addressing on field play (to which Farrell hinted that Vizquel was not around when it took place). It might just be a disagreement of perspectives but it’s also quite possible that Farrell simply does not have the eye for field play that he does for pitching.
- Yunnel Escobar. Need we really say more about the perception that Farrell will be tough with respect to discipline?
- Rickey Romero. Two years ago he was an emerging front line pitcher that had baseball people drooling. This year he was giving John Lackey a confidence boost.
Truth be told Farrell did not turn a young, talented group of youngsters into a well run machine capable of winning 90+ games. They regressed each season he managed. Before you get that “yeah, but we’re the Red Sox” feeling in your gut, think about what the 2013 Red Sox will look like. First base is currently open and third base is likely to be filled by Will Middlebrooks who has roughly a third of a season of experience. Although Mike Aviles handled shortstop adequately it’s possible that the Sox will choose to shop him and go with Jose Iglesias at short and Ivan DeJesus handling the utility role. Ryan Kalish appears to be a favorite for at least one outfield spot. Ryan Lavarnway appears to be slotted for a catching spot. That’s a lot of youngsters with less than two full seasons… and more than what Farrell had in Toronto. Why is the front office seemingly so convinced that Farrell will have more success in Boston? Why will he turn out to be one of the very few former pitchers who fail as a manager?
There’s also one more reason to consider other candidates than roll the dice with John Farrell: compensation. No team could be more required to pay compensation to free a manager from the final year of his contract than the Red Sox. It has been suggested that the compensation could be along the lines of Drake Britton and Keury De La Cruz, a pitcher and outfielder respectively from the Red Sox top 20 prospects. It doesn’t matter what the compensation would be; John Farrell is not going to be the equivalent of a an ace on their pitching staff, adding 20+ wins to an embarrassing 2012 campaign. The organization as a whole is better served holding and developing its prospects than using them to bait a hook for a manager.
So who else is there? Here are a few more names we hope the Red Sox consider. If any of them stand a chance of equalling the success of John Farrell the Red Sox should think long and hard about sending compensation for the object of their affection.
An easy candidate given that he spent the 2012 campaign with the Sox, Bogar recently interviewed for the Astros opening and has been considered as an upcoming managerial candidate the past two years. That Valentine considered him to be the one who undermined his tenure in Boston should be a plus in the mind of many Sox fans.
The Orioles third base coach was well regarded while serving alongside Terry Francona in Boston. Hale has frequently come up in managerial discussions. Like Bogar, he would already have an internal sense of what it’s like to manage in the fishbowl at Fenway. Seeing the color barrier finally break in the manager’s office would not be the worst thing that the image-conscious front office could do.
So you think it was rough watching the Pawtucket Red Sox play in MLB during the month of September? Try managing a team that started the season looking like that roster and still tried to sell off pieces. That’s what Brad Mills has done for the last two years as skipper of the Astros. Without a single hitter topping 110 OPS+ or a single pitcher with double-digit wins it’s no wonder that the Astros put up back-to-back mid-50s wins seasons. Mills managed to keep the boys together despite no real hope of success and is still well regarded in baseball circles. Unlike Hale and Bogar, Mills’ history with the organization is not tainted by the 9/11 collapse. Mills is considered a strong candidate to serve as the Indians’ bench coach under recently-hired Terry Francona so the Sox should not drag their feet.
Sandy Alomar, Jr.
Speaking of Terry Francona, his hiring in Cleveland over the weekend makes interim manager and one-time Blue Jays managerial candidate Sandy Alomar, Jr. available. Alomar has made the usual progression through the coaching ranks but has not held a manager’s position at any level in any organization for any length of time (6 games as interim doesn’t really count) so his selection would not be without risk. He would seem to have a similar leadership style to Terry Francona which could free the youngsters on the roster to go out and play while he absorbs some of the heat from the media and fan base.
A forceful presence, Martinez has served as bench coach to Joe Maddon for the past four years. That kind of tutelage has landed Martinez several managerial interviews. He is also perceived to be a strong disciplinarian yet young enough to relate to the many prospects likely to fill out the roster. Having served alongside Maddon as a talented group of prospects transformed into a perennial playoff contender would serve him well as the Red Sox seem poised for a similar journey.
Another highly respected outsider, Wallach has managed at the minor league level and was part of the surprising turnaround that left the Dodgers a few games shy of the playoffs this season after the Frank McCourt disaster. The 1979 Golden Spikes award winner was the 2009 PCL manager of the year after leading his club to a franchise record in wins and his MLB tenure at 3B could lead to some interesting teaching for the youngsters on the left side of the Sox infield.
Speaking of PCL managers of the year, Sandberg received the honor after leading the Cubs AAA affiliate to an 82-62 record. Sandberg began his managerial career by taking his first club (Cubs A-level affiliate) to the championship game and he was promoted two seasons in a row with success at each level. Sandberg returned to the Phillies organization (yes, they drafted and developed him) after being passed over for the big league club’s manager’s position and led the AAA Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs to the International League title in 2011. The effort earned him Baseball America’s minor league manager of the year award. He currently serves as third base coach and infield instructor… again a nice combination for an organization brimming with infield prospects.
What would the BloodySox do? Well, there’s admittedly a sense that John Farrell seems inevitable despite his so-so record and the acquisition cost. Notwithstanding, the overwhelming consensus pick here is Ryne Sandberg. His stellar career that included stops around the infield should help the Sox budding young stars manning similar positions in 2013. Likewise, his stellar offensive record as a second baseman and dirt-dog attitude should connect him well with the heart-and-soul leaders of the team like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. Perhaps most impressive is his managerial record that includes three teams playing in championship series in six minor league seasons. He’s proven, more than any other candidate out there, that he can focus talent into a productive, winning machine. Why look for anything less?