The Red Sox are looking for a new manager.
After two straight very disappointing seasons, and after axing two the game's two most well-known and accomplished skippers, the club is desperately seeking an answer.
The Red Sox need to fill a major void at manager. But, despite their status as one of the wealthiest, and greatest teams in the history of American sports, they're going to have a tough time finding a top-shelf skipper that actually wants to take the job.
First of all, any qualified manager is going to want to manage a team of qualified players. Unless they can woo a top-shelf candidate, by offering an extra-large salary, guys as good as Terry Francona or Bobby Valentine aren't going to shake on a deal. Veteran mangers like these two, already have extensive playoff success—maybe even a World Series ring or two—and unless they've really messed up recently, they're not going to want to take a step backward.
But this is the Red Sox. They're not a step backward. Right?
Last August, Ben Cherington traded away nearly all of the team's veteran, star-level talent. Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett have departed, as has Carl Crawford. No doubt, the trade was a step in the right direction for the team's future—it frees up a ton of payroll, and rids the clubhouse of bad energy. But, Boston's record declined in each of the last three months of the season. Following the trade, they went 9-26. A Hall of Fame skipper isn't going to jump at the opportunity to manage a lineup that relies on Daniel Nava and Cody Ross for run production.
Plus, the Red Sox are locked-in to their rebuilding phase. Their goal isn't to win now, their goal is to win long-term. And generally speaking, that objective necessitates payroll flexibility and a reliance on rookies and young-players, as well as sacrificing present success for the future. Instead of going after the Josh Hamiltons or even the Angel Pagans of the free agent market, they're going to stick with guys like Jerry Sands, Will Middlebrooks and Pedro Ciriaco. Players with promise, but without a lot of experience and with plenty to learn before they can reach their prime years.
Unless the timetable is accelerated and the forecast is especially bright, the best of the best just don't want to manage rebuilding clubs. Because, even if the club they sign with promises that they'll temper their near-term expectations, in practice that usually doesn't happen. After all, just ask Brad Mills, Jim Riggleman, Manny Acta and Bob Melvin, how managing a rebuilding club worked out for them. Each of these guys accepted their managing job knowing that they would trade winning now for success later, and each of them got a pink slip before their teams got it together.
Winning managers on occasion, will takeover rebuilding clubs. However, the new job has to offer a bright future. For instance, when Davey Johnson signed-on as the Nationals new manager in the middle of 2011, he took over a club that had finished last in the division in five of the last six seasons.
Johnson's resume didn't match-up. Not only did he boast an outstanding lifetime record of 1148-888, but he was owner of a 1986 World Series championship ring, and 1997 AL Manager of the Year. But with Bryce Harper in the minors, Stephen Strasburg set to return from elbow surgery and a burgeoning young pitching staff, Johnson had plenty to be optimistic about.
Another major reason for managerial candidates to steer-clear of Boston right now is the poor treatment of Francona and Valentine. The Boston press is notoriously ruthless, and every loss--every mistake--gets scrutinized and magnified 100x. When the Red Sox are winning, it's all champagne and roses, but when things aren't going well, the manager is punished with hell on earth.
The press is one thing, but the organization doesn't really treat their managers well either. The Sox have a win now or leave attitude, and as Francona's departure shows, they don't offer a lot of slack to their coaches-- even to those beloved by their fans.
Terry Francona, who led the team to two World Series Championships, five playoff appearances in eight years, a 744-552 record (57.4% win%) and broke a century-long curse, is hands down the best Red Sox manager in history. He took over a team that had been absolutely demoralized the previous fall; A team that had their hearts ripped-out by the Yankees in the ALCS (Aaron Effin' Boone) and a club that hadn't won a World Series since 1918. And what'd he do? He immediately led the Sox to the promised land and brought home a ring. In fact, he did even better. He won another World Series in 2007.
But after one very bad month, Terry was run out of Boston (he resigned under a hefty burden of pressure).
And then came Bobby Valentine. The guy that led underdog clubs to the World Series in two different countries, couldn't get it done either. Last season, the Red Sox hired him to replace Francona, believing he could resurrect a team of stars from a lowly collapse the previous fall, and guide them back to playoff glory. Despite fielding a star-powered roster with a $173 million payroll (second most in the AL), Bobby's team played terribly, finishing dead-last in their division and posting a the third-worst record in the league.
Valentine's team played poorly, but one season? That's all the man gets? He took over a team that ruined a Hall of Fame manager's tenure and all he got was one year to prove himself? The Red Sox were terrible down the stretch, but let's be reasonable here. Did anyone actually expect the team to win after trading-off fourteen All-Star selections, six Gold Gloves and two Postseason MVP awards during the season?
So, third time's a charm. Right?
After firing Bobby V earlier this month, the Red Sox are in the process of interviewing a number of different candidates to be the team's new skipper. Here are the five most-qualified candidates, who have the best chance of taking the job: