Taking Stock Of Ron Roenicke As Manager (And The Lingering Alex Cora Question)
By Miles Temel
With the PR mess that was the 2019-20 Red Sox offseason, it was only fitting that a replacement for Alex Cora wasn’t announced until the day pitchers and catchers reported. Word had gotten around a few days prior that Ron Roenicke was their choice, but the Sox were hesitant to officially name him manager with the investigation into the 2018 sign-stealing still ongoing. Even with the investigation not expected to be finished until late February, the Sox decided they weren’t worried about Roenicke being heavily implicated—at least not so worried that they couldn’t give him the title of interim manager. In case anyone isn’t up-to-date on his resume, he apprenticed under one of the most successful managers of the early 2000s, Mike Scioscia, as first the third base coach and later as the bench coach for the Angels from 2000-2010. He was then hired to manage the Brewers, and led the club to a 342-331 record over four-plus seasons, including a 96-66 finish in 2011.
When Alex Cora and the Red Sox mutually parted ways, promoting Roenicke to fill the vacancy was immediately the simplest solution. Frankly, it was also the best one. For context, after the Sox fired John Farrell in 2017, Cora interviewed for the position during the 2017 postseason and his hiring was announced right after the end of the 2017 ALCS. That left him all offseason to build relationships with players and strategize with coaches for 2018. Fast-forward to January 14 of this year, which is the date that Cora and the Sox parted ways, just under a month before pitchers and catchers would to Fort Myers. Bringing in an outside candidate would have meant getting him up to speed in the organization while players were getting in shape during Spring Training. If the front office had time to conduct a full-blown search, would Roenicke have been a candidate? Probably. Would he have ended up as their final choice? Impossible to say, but probably not. One name mentioned as a serious candidate was Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta—who could be an interesting name to keep in mind for the future—but with such a condensed window of time, promoting from within made sense. Roenicke has managerial experience, plenty of time spent in baseball, and most importantly, relationships with the players and familiarity with the organization. It was best to plug him in for 2020 and conduct a proper search next offseason.
When the label “interim” was tacked onto Roenicke, it raised speculation that he would merely be keeping the seat warm for Cora, who would take the job back after his suspension. Chaim Bloom, however, commented that Cora’s future with the team didn’t factor into the decision, which I believe. Unfortunately, the Sox found their hands tied with regards to Cora, and cutting ties entirely was justifiable. The Astros made the decision to fire A.J. Hinch after he was suspended for one year, and Cora’s suspension was expected to be much worse, possibly lasting as long as the remainder of the time he was under contract with the Sox (signed through 2021 with a club option for 2022). It is difficult to justify keeping a placeholder in the position if Cora is suspended for any longer than one season. If it so happens that he’s only suspended for 2020, should he be considered for the job again? Absolutely. Yes, the scandal is a black mark. Even so, he possesses the qualities of a successful manager, especially his communication skills and attention to detail. These comments from Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers pretty much say it all about what Cora’s presence meant to that clubhouse. Regardless of what Cora’s punishment and Roenicke’s success in 2020 end up being, the Red Sox are at most a few months removed from having to grapple with questions about their manager all over again.