If not John Farrell, then who?
Where Red Sox might turn if unable to land presumed top choice for manager
BALTIMORE -- The Boston Red Sox do not seem bothered by the flak Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell has taken in recent days, either in the incident involving shortstop Yunel Escobar or the criticism from retiring shortstop Omar Vizquel. They have made their own judgments on Farrell, which remain positive, and privately concur with the former Red Sox pitching coach when he says Vizquel doesn't know how the Blue Jays manager handles matters with his players behind closed doors.
But the Sox, according to a couple of team sources, are not brimming with confidence that they will be able to pry Farrell loose from the Jays to replace Bobby Valentine, citing the reluctance of the Blue Jays to let him go to another team in the American League East.
Officially, it bears repeating, the Red Sox say both publicly and privately that a decision has yet to be made on Valentine, but there is a broad consensus in baseball circles that he will not last the week.
On Sunday, the Red Sox lost their 90th game, 6-3 to the Baltimore Orioles, leaving Valentine leaning back in his chair, staring at his office ceiling, long after reporters left. That's their worst record since 1966, when they went 72-90.
Billy Herman was fired before the end of that season and replaced by an interim manager, Pete Runnels. That winter, Dick O'Connell hired a former Red Sox utilityman, Dick Williams, who had won back-to-back International League titles. At 37, Williams became the youngest manager in the American League. The Red Sox won the pennant, and Williams eventually went to the Hall of Fame.
Valentine was hired to fix the mess of a 7-20 September collapse that led to the dismissal of Terry Francona. Instead, the Sox got off to a 4-10 start, the pitching collapsed, injuries mounted and Valentine proved to be an ill fit.
The future of general manager Ben Cherington could well depend on his choice to succeed Valentine, although Valentine was widely identified as being picked by CEO Larry Lucchino, with Cherington reluctantly acceding to his boss' wishes. Both Lucchino and Cherington dispute that version of events, although they do acknowledge Lucchino arranged for Cherington to meet with Valentine in November.
Farrell will be entering the last year of his three-year deal with the Blue Jays, and there is a school of thought that if he says he wants to go to Boston, the Jays will let him, but not before extracting some compensation from the Sox.
That's what the Red Sox did last fall when Theo Epstein left to become president of the Cubs, and the Red Sox were awarded pitcher Chris Carpenter as compensation. The White Sox last winter received two prospects from the Miami Marlins for manager Ozzie Guillen, although Chicago originally demanded slugger Logan Morrison before accepting less.
But the dynamic of both teams being in the same division complicates matters here, although Red Sox owners are expected to lobby CEO Paul Beeston vigorously and Cherington is expected to do the same with his counterpart, Alex Anthopoulos. The Jays may simply refuse to do business with a division rival.
Despite a disastrous season in Toronto in 2012, Farrell projects as the ideal candidate for the potential Red Sox job for a number of reasons: He would work well with the team's baseball operations staff, he is highly respected by leaders in the Sox's clubhouse, he has prior relationships with the their pitching staff and is well qualified to tackle that reclamation project, and he is familiar with the challenges particular to managing in the Boston market.
With all the work the Red Sox need to do on their roster this winter, it is incumbent upon them to resolve their managerial situation expeditiously, a point Cherington acknowledged in an interview with WEEI last week.
"I'd always rather get the decision right rather than rush it," Cherington said. "But I think that what we know we need to do is hit the ground running in this offseason. One of the things, as I look back at last offseason, that didn't go perfectly was simply the amount of time that we spent on the manager search and what that did to the rest of the offseason. I would like to spend less time on it this offseason, that's for sure."
Indications are that the Red Sox intend to go with a younger manager this go-round (at 50, Farrell would qualify), and, taking their cue from the White Sox (Robin Ventura) and St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Matheny), are not ruling out candidates without prior experience. That's why Jason Varitek's name surfaced, although the Red Sox put that quickly to rest by naming Varitek as a special assistant to Cherington.
So which names might be expected to be heard during the Red Sox's search, should there be one? Here are 15 possibilities:
1. Farrell. By all indications, the Sox want him, he wants the Sox, and the Blue Jays want no part of allowing that to happen.
2. Mike Maddux, Texas Rangers pitching coach. He declined to be interviewed last year, citing family reasons, but given the importance of getting the pitching staff back on track, the Sox should make another run.
3. Dave Martinez, Tampa Bay Rays bench coach. The Joe Maddon Way certainly has proven to be successful in Tampa Bay, and Maddon delegates a great deal of responsibility to Martinez, who wins high marks for his communication skills with players, especially on delicate issues. Was a finalist for the Houston Astros job.
4. Sandy Alomar Jr., Cleveland Indians interim manager. The former big league catcher served as Manny Acta's bench coach with the Indians until Acta was fired this month, and now looms as a leading candidate to replace Acta, although Francona has signaled his desire for the job. Alomar was interviewed for the Red Sox job last season, but did not make the final cut.
5. Brad Ausmus, San Diego Padres special assistant. Native New Englander (New Haven, Conn.), Dartmouth man, a big league catcher for 18 seasons, Ausmus is an intriguing outside-the-box candidate. He managed Israel's entry in the World Baseball Classic.
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6. Mike Lowell, MLB Network analyst. Another outside-the-box candidate, Lowell stated a desire to spend more time with his family in Miami after retiring from the Red Sox in 2010. Lowell enjoyed tremendous respect in the Sox's clubhouse and was a fan favorite. He also is bilingual, which is a great asset, but as Kevin Millar said last week, "He might be too rich to manage." Lowell's name also has surfaced as a potential candidate in Miami if the Marlins fire Ozzie Guillen.
7. Joey Cora, Miami Marlins bench coach. The Sox saw firsthand how the Cora family approaches the game in infielder Alex, and Joey patiently has been learning his craft under Guillen, both the dos and don'ts. He has waited long enough for a chance.
8. DeMarlo Hale, Baltimore Orioles third-base coach. The Sox didn't grant Hale an interview last year, perhaps because he was too closely associated with Francona and last September's debacle. But the Tito years look like the good old days by comparison to the current mess, and Hale, with minor league managing experience and big league time with three franchises (Rangers, Red Sox, Orioles) has all the right boxes checked off on his dance card.
9. Bill Mueller, Los Angeles Dodgers special assistant. The former Red Sox third baseman is highly regarded by the Dodgers, who would hate to lose him. It's uncertain whether he'd want to return to the dugout. No managerial or coaching experience.
10. Torey Lovullo, Blue Jays first-base coach. Spent the past two seasons on Farrell's coaching staff after several successful years managing in the minors, including one season in Pawtucket. Young and energetic, with an appreciation for statistical analysis that the Sox value, Lovullo might get the chance that Farrell figures to be denied.
11. Ryne Sandberg, minor league manager. The Hall of Fame player was passed over last year by both the Red Sox and Chicago Cubs in their searches, even though he was named minor league manager of the year by Baseball America in 2011 for the job he did with the Phillies' Triple-A team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Makes you think that the Sox feel there's something missing.
12. Joe McEwing, Chicago White Sox third-base coach. Coincidentally, "Super Joe" was one of Valentine's favorite players when he was a reserve on the New York Mets. McEwing's playing career ended with Pawtucket in 2007, he became a minor league hitting coach a year later, and a manager in 2009. He served as Robin Ventura's third-base coach in Chicago this season. He's only 40.
13. Jose Oquendo, St. Louis Cardinals third-base coach. Trained under Tony La Russa, but was passed over by the Cardinals when La Russa retired. Also has interviewed for jobs with the Padres, Mariners and Mets.
14. Tim Bogar, Red Sox bench coach. Also mentored by Maddon and a student of stats-based analytics, Bogar had a strained relationship with Valentine this season, which might impact his chances. Interviewed for the Houston Astros' managing job.
15. Arnie Beyeler, Pawtucket manager. Winning the International League title should at least get Beyeler an interview.