Just about everyone who has ever watched a Red Sox game or visited Fenway Park has thought “Hey, I could do a better job than the manager of this team.” Never was that feeling more evident than in 2012. Last year, the above sentiment was true for anyone who was in one of the following categories:
1. People over the age of six.
2. People who knows there are three outs in an inning.
3. People not named Bobby Valentine.
All of the 2-for-1 Fenway Franks and $5 beers in the world won’t make watching the Red Sox any easier if they come close to repeating last season’s train, plane and automobile wreck. Things are – mercifully – different in 2013 when it comes to the manager. We all wish John Farrell the best of luck – some of us had the opportunity to do it in person this spring in Fort Myers.
But there’s always a need for a Plan B – just in case things don’t work out or Farrell hits the next $320 million Powerball jackpot.
So here’s our plan if OBF managed the Red Sox: Next
Use Maddon's playbook
Most managers end up eventually being fired – unless they die first. Very few leave on their own terms if they are under the age of 70. There’s never a happy ending when it comes to managing the Red Sox.
While Terry Francona’s reign had run its course, there was no justification for the way he was shanked on the way out the door by management. The most successful managers in baseball – at least the ones I’ve always admired before Joe Maddon – were outspoken, cantankerous, often profane and focused squarely on winning today and not in 2019.
They were also combative with upper management because they knew that they’d be the first ones thrown under the bus when things fall apart. Maddon’s style is a perfect fit for today’s modern game, younger players and less-passionate/crazed fans, especially in a place where the size of the fan base is measured in cowbells.
The 2013 Red Sox aren’t good enough right now for a manager of Maddon’s caliber, nor would he be a good fit in this city. Being stuck with yours truly might be fitting punishment for both.
But Maddon’s unorthodox style is worthy of emulation in parts. His philosophy on losing is to let it hurt for 30 minutes and then move on. That’s in contrast to folks in Boston who are still pissed about that pitch Mike Torrez threw to Bucky Dent 35 years ago and the fact that Torrez didn’t throw a single pitch to stay loose while Dent was hobbling after a foul ball hit his foot. Next
“What do to with Jackie Bradley?” The solution is so painfully obvious that the single fact this question was still being asked shows not all is well in the baseball subsidiary of Fenway Sports Group.
Bradley has clearly been the most productive player of the spring, if not the most-exciting to watch. Managers in 2013 aren’t concerned with 2019. In this case, the chance of Farrell managing the Red Sox in 2019 is about the same as mine. Therefore, if one wants to win know and he gives you the best chance of winning now you play him now.
Just ask 1975 American League MVP and Rookie of the Year Fred Lynn. Coming up early didn’t bother him one bit. It will be easy enough to hide Bradley for 12 days during the course of the season should that become a concern. It’s vital for the Red Sox to have a strong start this season or what’s left of interest in this team will melt with the snow cover in May.
Anyone who hit over .400 in the spring is worth giving a shot to help make that happen. Next
No beer in clubhouse
The next big question: “Do you allow beer in the clubhouse?” Most managers, Maddon and Farrell included, would likely lean toward the side of “the players are adults and they can handle it.”
However, beer in the clubhouse is the third rail of Red Sox politics. My general rule on alcohol in any workplace – unless you’re tending bar, working at restaurant or a sales person trying so schmooze a client – is that it doesn’t usually enhance productivity. Baseball players are allegedly athletes and alcohol, beer in particular, tends to slow you down on the field.
As far as alcohol in the clubhouse, it’s fine with me after you clinch a playoff berth, division title, American League pennant or World Series. Until then, my town is a dry town. Next
Part of being a good manager anywhere is dealing with the personnel you have rather than bemoan the folks you don’t. The Stephen Drew signing has always been a mystery. He’s a career .265 hitter and an average to slightly above-average fielder. But he’s also J.D. Drew’s brother.
As a fan, this is quite scarring. As a manager, it’s a non-factor.
With that being said, Jose Iglesias offers the Red Sox better solution at shortstop in the long and short term. He’ll be playing on Opening Day because of Drew’s head injury, but the job is his to lose if he is able to approach hitting .220 and maintain his stellar play in the field.
Plus Iglesias, like Bradley, would give the Red Sox some speed in the lineup and vitality on the bench. Next
Handle with care
Jacoby Ellsbury’s fragile state is another argument for putting Bradley on the roster and keeping him there. Scott Boras has stamped “Handle With Care” on Ellsbury’s rear end. (OK, I wouldn’t know that for sure until I was actually managing the team).
It’s unlikely Ellsbury is going to play all-out and head first this season, especially when he’s ticketed for free-agency and a monstrous payday from the likes of the Rangers or Mets. Ellsbury did prove his doubters – including some of his teammates—wrong when with his production in 2011.
His new manager remains skeptical as long as he is unsigned. The first pulled hangnail will tell us all we need to know. Next
A short leash
John Lackey is on perhaps the shortest leash of all. Lackey, like all of the starters, will be expected to work on conditioning and/or scouting on their non-pitching days with the team. The ballpark is your place of work, treat it as such.
It’s one thing to have fun at work, it’s another to make work nothing but fun. For fans, baseball is a game. For the players and the manager, it’s their job. My first conversation with him would be for both of us to agree to forget the past – once he’s able to throw more than six innings in a start with the lead.
I’d move Lackey up to the No. 2 spot in the rotation to put more pressure on him and less on Buchholz. Standing in the rotation has as much to do with ego as anything else. This is the carrot, which will be stuck as soon as Lackey demonstrates any of his old habits or proves his continued uselessness.
Glad to see Lackey got himself into “baseball” shape in the offseason. He’s been an embarrassment to himself as well as the team. There’s no middle ground with Lackey. He’s either a No. 1 or No. 2 guy or ticketed to the bullpen. Making him a 4th or 5th starter gives him another excuse to hide. There’s no hiding any more. Next
Team captains serve a practical purpose when used correctly. The logical choice on the Red Sox would David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia. But Ortiz may or may not play sometime before the end of hockey season.
The easiest thing for any manager of the Red Sox is to plan on him not being around. Build the lineup for what it is now rather than what it might be when Ortiz (who, for the record, did attend Johnny Pesky’s first memorial service last season) decides to grace us with his presence. No one wants an injured player in the lineup, but it’s always suspicious when that same player is determining his own timetable.
Mike Napoli’s presence in the cleanup spot will be more than sufficient in Big Papi’s extended absence. While a captaincy featuring Ortiz would be necessary and ceremonial, Pedroia and Napoli could serve an important role as a conduit between the players and management. It would be time to thrust leadership roles on both, whether they wanted it or not. Next
Have Bailey up and ready if needed
Alfredo Aceves might be crazy, but the only concern surrounding him is whether or not he can pitch. Managers in all levels in all types of organizations have employees and subordinates who have issues but can still perform. The issue with Aceves isn’t his temper or ability to absorb punches from Canadians, but if he can strike out right-handed batters.
Joel Hanrahan is the closer by default on Opening Day, but that’s only until he blows two or three saves in a row. Then it’s time for the next available candidate – Andrew Bailey.
The Red Sox got this guy once upon a time to replace Jonathan Papelbon. Bailey’s always had the mental makeup to close and looked healthy in the spring. By Memorial Day, he would have a solid shot of fulfilling his original Red Sox destiny.
Pitching him in clutch situations would also increase his trade value, assuming that’s part of the plan that my bosses have for him. Next
The batting order
Given the team’s injury situation. Here’s my opening day lineup against the Yankees.
CF – Jacoby Ellsbury
2B – Dustin Pedroia
RF – Shane Victorino
1B – Mike Napoli
3B – Will Middlebrooks
DH – Jonny Gomes
LF – Jackie Bradley
C – Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS – Jose Iglesias.
Jon Lester is the hands-down opening day starter. Nothing earth-shattering, for sure. But we’re trying to take this assignment as seriously as possible.
With the return of Ortiz and the assumption that the starting pitching doesn’t implode, the Red Sox have the potential to win 80-88 games and – dare we say it – contend for the second wild card.
They also have the potential to repeat as last-place champions in the A.L. East. Next
The manager of the Red Sox has an opportunity unequalled in terms of communication anywhere else in New England because he commands the attention of the media every single day for seven months, sometimes eight. In theory, it’s his job to parrot the party line as the most public figure in the organization.
But that’s where this tenure as Red Sox manager would be the most tenuous. As manager, I’d be fully honest no matter the situation, even if it meant being critical of those above me or those whom I manage.
Think Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner—without the heavy drinking or infidelity. It’s imperative that the manager be nothing but honest, because this fan base both deserves it and also knows when it’s being BS’d.
The Bobby Valentine debacle was the perfect example of what not to do. Not only was Valentine dishonest and disingenuous with the players, his charade was detected by most sober fans on Day One.
On the other side, players should never find out about a manager’s displeasure or concerns before they’re relayed face-to-face. Next
Win as many battles as possible
As Tiger Woods knows, winning cures everything. Any manager can only be judged by wins and losses. Building a bond with players, creating costumed-themed road-trips or even looking the other way when someone sneaks a cold one in the locker room are all a means to end – namely winning.
The manager is the only person working for the Red Sox whose primary job is win every game. Player contracts are guaranteed. Upper management and ownership have other agendas, such as looking ahead at free-agency concerns in 2019, feeding the Monster or shrinking the cups down to 12 ounces to accommodate those $5 beers.
Every single decision a manager makes, from the final roster spot, to who bats third, to how many innings Lester pitches against the Yankees Monday, must be made with the singular focus of winning.
Numerical gimmicks, dedicated pitch counts for front-line starters and Carmine’s metrics about all those runs Adrian Gonzalez will produce would go the way of $10 parking. Video technology, statistical data bases, advancements in medicine (and we’re not talking HGH), physical rehabilitation and nutrition have made baseball players better athletes.
But instinct and logic are just as important when it comes to managing those athletes. Next
I’m the boss
Chemistry is over rated. As a manager, it’s not my priority if players like each other. They just have to be professional and play together.
Think about your own workplace. There are co-workers you can’t stand, but who are good at their jobs. Baseball history is replete with clubhouse acrimony and that became anecdotal (see the 1977 Yankees) en route to a championship.
Everyone must be treated fairly, but not the same. Sometimes, player division can be used by a manager to his – and the team’s advantage. If envy toward a teammate motivates someone to put in the extra effort working out, in the batting cage or in the bullpen, so be it. Sulkers and whiners find themselves waking up in Pawtucket. As far as players on the DL, they need to do whatever the doctors and therapists order, but they won’t travel with the team or be in the dugout or clubhouse during games.
They can watch from a suite along with the rest of the VIPs. Back to the beginning
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