Faced with the resignation of Alex Cora, the manager who led them to the 2018 World Series championship, the Boston Red Sox chose to take their time finding a replacement even though spring training was approaching.
These are uncertain times for the Red Sox. The organization understands it’s being investigated by Major League Baseball for its role in 2018 in the electronic sign-stealing scandal and that an announcement is due soon that will lay out whatever penalties are assigned.
Without knowing what’s in store for them, without an idea about what personnel in their organization might be implicated, the Red Sox decided not to act in haste until they had all the information.
But with their players reporting to camp Wednesday, the Red Sox needed someone to run things and on Tuesday they announced that would be Cora’s bench coach, Ron Roenicke, who once managed the Milwaukee Brewers.
For now, the Red Sox are referring to Roenicke as their interim manager. It’s unknown at this point what they will do once penalties they might face are announced. It’s possible, of course, Roenicke could be caught up along with Cora, who faces a likely suspension for his role in organizing the scheme that began with the 2017 Houston Astros.
“We have no reason to think there would be anything to cause an adverse result for Ron in this investigation, but of course the investigation is not complete,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s not fair for us to determine that. We can’t determine what comes out of the investigation, so we’re going to respect the ongoing investigation.”
Bloom was asked if Roenicke’s interim title would change once the investigation is complete.
“We’ll address permanency when [the investigation] is complete,” Bloom said.
Roenicke is well prepared to handle what could be a very difficult time for the organization. He managed the Brewers from 2011 to 2015 and is well-versed with the Red Sox personnel since he’s been with the team for the last two seasons.
“I said at the beginning of this process, I think it’s really important to evaluate people for who they are in total, the whole person, and everybody who does this type of job, you bring your whole self to the job so you really look at everything and how it all adds up, putting players in a position to succeed,” Bloom said. “There’s no question that Ron, having been a part of the success here, being as perceptive as he is and combining with the time he spent around this group, it equips him much better to be the guy around.”
Like Dusty Baker in Houston, he will also be expected to navigate his team through what should be an intense media scrum once questions about the scandal begin to be asked.
And there is something else to consider: The Red Sox have just traded the face of their franchise, outfielder Mookie Betts, and pitcher David Price, to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a clear salary dump ordered by ownership.
“You don’t replace Mookie Betts,” Roenicke said. “He’s one of the best players in the game. David Price, who you know who has put together some different seasons and obviously two years ago, helping us win the World Series. You don’t replace him, but you move forward. All of a sudden, guys surprise you. You bring in guys and they step up and do well, and this team, they’re focused on what they can do and showing people wrong.”
Before hiring Roenicke, the Red Sox interviewed Oakland’s quality quality control coach Mark Kotsay, Arizona bench coach Luis Urueta and Red Sox third-base coach Carlos Febles.
“I love him (Roenicke),” Red Sox infielder Michael Chavis told ESPN. “He’s a really good dude. Really knowledgeable about baseball. He’s been around the game a long time, so it’s cool to see his analysis. He’s got a nice combination of the old school from his experience, but he’s also good at understanding how the new game is developing and how it’s changing. Having those sides in one is very interesting.”
With the Brewers, Roenicke won one division title, finished second in Manager of the Year voting, and had a winning record in three of four seasons before he was fired 25 games into the 2015 season. Following his stint in Milwaukee, Roenicke was the third-base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels for three seasons.
“These guys congregated to [Cora]. I would walk down there and you would see four or five players sitting next to him on the bench,” Roenicke said. “You walk in the dugout or the locker room and you see him sitting and you have this group around him. That told me something. It told me that, hey, even if I thought I was good at communication, I could be better. I’m going to try to do that. As open a format as you can have, and communicate as well as I can do it.”
At least for now, the Red Sox appear back on track. They have an experienced manager and a direction.
“It’s positive,” Red Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran told The Athletic. “It’s good news. It’s moving forward. Our guys are going to start playing baseball tomorrow, and that’s exciting, and we have a manager to lead them. And he’s the right guy.”