Ron Roenicke was supposed to meet with reporters via Zoom at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Nearly 20 minutes later, a Red Sox official popped on the screen to say Roenicke had been fired as manager.
After a respectful wait of at least a few seconds, speculation began that the Sox would bring Alex Cora back when his suspension ends after the World Series.
It sounds good. Cora is a proven winner who knows now to handle the many challenges of managing in Boston. Beyond that, he’s attuned to the modern player, a skilled tactician who embraces analytics, and an effective communicator in two languages.
List all the qualities you want in a manager and Cora has them.
But chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, who will be charged with vetting candidates, did all he could to distance himself from the idea of Cora returning.
Going back to February, Bloom has said several times the Red Sox “parted ways” — their euphemistic term — with Cora in January based on his prominent role in Houston’s cheating scandal of 2017.
That the Sox were subsequently cleared of any meaningful wrongdoing during the 2018 season under Cora didn’t change anything.
“You guys know, in brief, my thoughts on Alex,” Bloom said. “I don’t want to elaborate because I don’t want to be saying things about him that I haven’t said to him.”
I asked Bloom if he stood by what he said before. He said he did.
So does that definitively rule out Cora returning?
“I don’t want to say anything about him that I have not been able to say to him,” Bloom said. “So I’m not going to answer a question like that.”
So it’s clear Bloom does not see Cora returning. But John Henry, Tom Werner, and Sam Kennedy could overrule him. Cora still has plenty of supporters in the organization.
The moral high ground the Sox claimed in January has eroded. The pandemic, nationwide protests of systemic racism, and the contentious buildup to the election has created a climate where stealing signs in a baseball game by banging a trashcan seems almost quaint by comparison.
The Sox also have alienated a large segment of their fan base with a series of missteps. Bringing Cora back wouldn’t cure that, but it would signal they’re serious about winning again.
The Sox are a business, after all, and a redemption story sells.
Cora has quietly let the season pass from his home in Puerto Rico waiting to be reinstated. My understanding is he wants to return to the majors and is open to the idea of rejoining the Sox. He also has stayed in touch with a number of players.
“Alex is a good manager. He’s a good person; he cares about the players; he cares about people,” Roenicke said.
Bloom has unquestionably been pondering who the next manager will be for a while now. He’ll want a fellow traveler in the world of analytics who can help develop young players and represent the team effectively.
Prior managerial experience and a familiarity with the Red Sox would be helpful but aren’t prerequisites.
Maybe that’s Dodgers coach George Lombard, a former minor league coach with the Sox, or Phillies baseball operations staff member Sam Fuld, a New Hampshire native. Sox third base coach Carlos Febles should get consideration.
“The relationship between the front office, and particularly somebody in my job, and the manager is obviously really important,” Bloom said. “It’s important to think we’ll have a really good relationship and a good bond there. But our job is to do what’s best for the organization.”
For now, the Tigers are the only other team seeking a manager so the Sox won’t lack choices.
We’ll have plenty of time to bat all that around. But for now, don’t lose sight of how gracefully Roenicke handled an impossible job.
He took over after Cora was prodded out and almost immediately had to deal with Mookie Betts and David Price being traded. Then Chris Sale was lost to Tommy John surgery, the pandemic hit, Eduardo Rodriguez was ruled out for the season, and the Sox traded four more players.
Roenicke handled every setback without complaint and stood particularly tall in August when the Red Sox essentially went on strike for a day and sat out a game to join other teams in protesting racial injustice.
Roenicke was moved to tears discussing the situation and how his own views had changed over time.
The Sox played better over the final weeks of the season but Roenicke was still fired. Bloom called it a forward-thinking move and he’s right. Roenicke was a good choice to get the Sox through a difficult season but he never profiled as a long-term fit. Better to move now than wait.
But this was an unfair one-and-done, not another Bobby Valentine.
“Whether it’s fair or not, I think when a new GM comes in, I think he should have some time to get people that he knows and a manager in place that he wants,” Roenicke said. “It’s not just for this year. I think it’s for the future. I wasn’t his guy for the future.”