After finishing atop the American League East division for the second consecutive year, the Boston Red Sox has sent manager John Farrell packing. His resume with the Red Sox includes three division wins, a World Series Championship and two last-place finishes. With Farrell completely out of the picture, who will Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, tap next for perhaps the most prestigious managerial position in baseball?
Dombrowski was clear about his intention to fire Farrell after the Houston Astros knocked the Red Sox out of the Divisional Round of this year’s playoff. This marked consecutive years in which the Red Sox won the AL East but failed to advance to the second round of the playoffs. Just two days after their season-ending defeat, Dombrowski fired Farrell, who was five seasons into his role as the Sox’ skipper. To put that in perspective, the only Red Sox managers to stay in town longer than five years in the team’s history are Terry Francona (2004-2011) and Joe Cronin (1935-1947). When the team fails to meet its high annual expectations, as it did this season, something has to change. That change often comes in the form of a new manager.
Recently, changing managers has brought new life to the Red Sox. The team fired Grady Little after he brought them to within a game of the World Series in 2003, and, in Terry Francona’s first season with the Red Sox the next year, the Red Sox won the World Series — its first in 86 years.
Again, in 2013, after the Sox ousted Bobby Valentine, John Farrell won a World Series with the team in his first campaign as manager. Though Farrell’s record with Boston is far from bad, shaking things up has proven effective in getting the team over the hump in the past.
Dombrowski, having fired Farrell so soon after the season, must act quickly to secure a new manager. The Red Sox have a two-year window to win, as many players in the team’s young core are coming up on the end of their contracts after 2019. The time is now, and John Farrell was clearly not making the most out of the tools he was given. The weight of the club falls on Dombrowski’s shoulders as he is tasked with hiring a manager who can turn this team of could-be all-stars into World Series champions.
In the running for the position are three major candidates: Alex Cora, Brad Ausmus and Ron Gardenhire. The media briefly toyed with the possibilities of having former Red Sox captain Jason Varitek and current Red Sox infield coach Brian Butterfield fill the vacancies, but there has been no evidence of Dombrowski giving either a hard look.
Alex Cora played with the Red Sox from 2005-2008, helping the team win a championship in 2007. He is now the bench coach for the Houston Astros and is regarded as an asset within the organization. John Farrell struggled with the constant media pressure in Boston, but Cora may be better equipped after being a baseball analyst for ESPN for four years after retiring from the majors. At 42, Cora would be a young manager in his first season at the Major League level. With a city expecting a championship and only two seasoned clubhouse veterans to aid him, Alex Cora would be in for a roller coaster season.
Next on the list, Brad Ausmus is now without a job after the Detroit Tigers opted not to renew their now ex-manager’s contract past 2017. Dave Dombrowski was with the Tigers when the team hired Ausmus in 2014, and the two worked well together before Dombrowski departed in 2015. Ausmus also managed the Sox’s struggling pitcher David Price for a year, during which he recorded a 13-8 record and a 2.90 ERA. A safe choice, Ausmus would provide little spark for the underperforming Red Sox. But then again, maybe the Sox need someone to underthink things and just let them play.
Finally, Ron Gardenhire, the current Arizona Diamondbacks’ bench coach, met with Dave Dombrowski Wednesday. He brings experience to this role that neither Cora nor Ausmus have, having been a manager or coach in the Major League for 25 years. He managed the Minnesota Twins for thirteen years but definitely lost his touch towards the end. He has been compared to Terry Francona, who is slightly more hands-on than Farrell was, both in keeping players accountable and in creating a positive clubhouse atmosphere.
All three candidates have been interviewed, and, while Dombrowski has left open the possibility for more candidates to be considered, these are the frontrunners for now. The Red Sox would definitely like to act quickly so it can assemble the right cast of coaches to surround the new manager. But with a decision this weighty, I would not be surprised if Dombrowski takes until November to announce Farrell’s replacement. Regardless of who he hires, a change will do the Red Sox good. A fresh perspective on the lineup and a new face in the media will only benefit the team, whether it comes from Cora, Ausmus or Gardenhire.
Charlie Blasberg ’18 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send responses to this opinion to email@example.com and other op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org.