SARASOTA, Fla. — It’s understood that there are all sorts of factors in coming up with the Opening Day roster. Anything from young players who have to be put on the 40-man roster, to players who are out of minor league options, to players with opt-outs, and to adjustments that have to be made because of injuries.
However, what’s become increasingly noticeable in major league baseball is how rare it is that the manager, the person who has to deal with the players for 162 games, gets to pick the 25 players on the roster.
As teams, including the Red Sox, get down to major roster decisions this week, Boston manager John Farrell politely called it a “collaboration.” But the only collaboration there should be is the general manager asking the manager, whom do you want?
“I think it’s important that we all arrive at that decision of what the team looks like on Opening Day, knowing that we have in our current situation guys coming back to us hopefully relatively soon in [Stephen] Drew and [David] Ortiz,” the diplomatic Farrell said.
“I’m sure that there are situations where maybe the manager’s got control over the 25-man roster. Certainly there’s been a lot of input and a lot of dialogue along the way . . . I’m sure there’ll be a lot of dialogue back and forth. That doesn’t mean that’s antagonistic in any way, or disagreement. You voice your opinions and give your input. Hopefully you arrive, and I’m confident we’ll arrive, at the right decisions.”
Asked about front-office input, Farrell said, “We have a lot of people that spent a lot of time working on this. Everyone’s opinion is valued. That’s why we have so many conversations in the course of spring training.”
Will Farrell feel strongly about fighting for someone — say young outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.?
“I’m not running from the fact of that if you’re wanting to try to position it as I’m pounding the table or being adamant about a certain situation, I’m confident that I’ll give my opinion. But yeah, it does matter what they [front office] think,” Farrell said.
General managers generally believe personnel is their responsibility and the manager should manage the players he’s given. While that’s partly true, the manager also should be given the players he feels he can work with, maneuver with, build with, and lean on.
Obviously, each organization is slightly different.
With the Orioles, who beat the Sox, 12-9, Monday, Buck Showalter gets more of his desired 25 players than any manager in baseball. Dan Duquette gives Showalter most of the say. Duquette understands the importance of the manager having the players he feels most comfortable with.
“It’s becoming more the GM picks the players and the manager manages,” said one longtime National League scout. “You have more the organization by committee now. It used to be guys like [Earl] Weaver, [Sparky] Anderson, [Dick] Williams — the old-time managers had more of a say. Even Bobby Cox had the biggest say. Tony La Russa. If he didn’t like a guy or he didn’t fit on the team, he’d want him gone, and the player usually was out. The manager knows better than the GM how a player fits and that’s what a lot of organizations are getting away from, and then they wonder why the chemistry isn’t good.”
Certainly, managers can’t control payroll or whom the GM spends his money on. Managers certainly are consulted over the winter on what their roster needs are, but the GM, for the most part, compiles the roster. But once the players are brought together, shouldn’t the manager be the one to decide roster spots?
Among the Red Sox issues to be resolved before Monday’s Opening Day:
1. Lyle Overbay — He is the most immediate decision since he has an opt-out Tuesday. The Sox have to tell him by noon Tuesday whether he will make the 25-man active roster. If he does not ask for his release and agrees to open the season in Pawtucket, he will receive a $100,000 retention bonus. The Sox might be OK with that as insurance in case something happens to Mike Napoli.
Overbay is also a proven first baseman while Napoli is not. We’re assuming that David Ross, Pedro Ciriaco, and Daniel Nava are on the bench. That leaves one spot for Ryan Sweeney (who has a March 28 opt-out), Mike Carp, and Overbay. Nava is protection at first base and in the outfield and is also a better fielder than Carp. Overbay is a pure first baseman (he made a nice diving stop Monday) and lefthanded bat. Carp went 1 for 2 against the Orioles and is hitting .211.
2. Bradley — It appears he’s made the team, at least that’s the indication after the team reversed its decision not to play him in left. He’s passed every eye test, including facing a tough lefty Sunday in Cliff Lee, whom he took deep for a three-run homer and sacrifice fly in his first two-at bats. He followed that up Monday by coming off the bench with two hits, a two-run single up the middle against Pedro Strop and a triple vs. lefty Chris Petrini.
Jonny Gomes has been an adventure in left field, so it likely would behoove the Sox to consider defense at that position while they’re juggling spots because of Ortiz being out.
3. Daniel Bard — We’re assuming the bullpen spots that are set are Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Andrew Miller, Koji Uehara, Alfredo Aceves, Junichi Tazawa, and Clayton Mortensen. That could change if Aceves or Mortensen is traded. Mortensen, who was touched up for two homers Monday, is out of options and the Sox don’t want to lose him because he’s stretched out and basically fills the same role as Aceves.
Bard has options and could go back to the minors, as his performance hasn’t been smooth this spring. The Sox also could option Tazawa as well.