Red Sox fans should stop wishing for Varitek or Pedroia to manage the team
By Drew Athans
Many Red Sox fans think that Jason Varitek or Dustin Pedroia should manage the team next, but neither of them would be good choices right now.
In the wake of Alex Cora’s firing on Tuesday night, the Red Sox clubhouse was thrown into chaos. With only one month until pitchers and catchers report to Ft. Myers, the Sox now find themselves needing to figure out who is going to lead this increasingly sinking ship.
Many seem to think they’ll simply elevate bench coach Ron Roenicke to the interim manager spot for the season and then clean house and allow Chaim Bloom to pick his own guy in 2021. However, there is a very vocal faction of Red Sox fans who have been clamoring for two familiar faces instead: Jason Varitek and Dustin Pedroia.
Before I go any further, let me say that I liked both of them a lot as players (and yes, I know Pedroia is technically still on the team and under contract right now, but I consider him a former player at this point). Both were hard-nosed, gritty, talented guys who led by example by leaving it all on the field.
However, I feel like way too many Red Sox fans are conflating those qualities with someone who is a good leader of men and at least from my outside observation during their careers, I don’t think that’s the case.
He was a very good catcher for the Red Sox for a long time. He finished with respectable numbers: .256 BA, 193 HR, 757 RBI, .341 OBP, .776 OPS. He caught four no-hitters, was a three-time All-Star, and won two World Series rings with the Red Sox. From 2005 to the end of his career in 2011, he was named Red Sox team captain, even if he did look goofy with the “C” on his jersey.
He’s a member of the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame and one of the most popular former players in recent memory, forever beloved for punching Alex Rodriguez in the face in 2004.
However, I’ve long thought his leadership qualities and his tenure as captain have been greatly overrated by a lot of the fanbase (and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way). Amidst all of the dirty laundry that aired during the historic Red Sox collapse of September 2011, Varitek was listed as among the veteran players who were “detached” and “failed to show any leadership.” (Only Pedroia was exonerated on that count).
There were also some insider reports at the time that Varitek participated in the fried chicken and beer shenanigans with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey. If he was such a great leader (and the team captain, no less), shouldn’t he as an extension of the manager have stood up to his teammates and demanded accountability and responsible behavior?
Now for Pedroia.
He’s been a fan favorite since his rookie year in 2007 for his play, his hustle, and his scrappiness. He’s a little guy with an attitude who showed us that physical size doesn’t mean anything if you’ve got the talent and determination to work hard.
He’s won Rookie of the Year (2007), an American League MVP award (2008), four Gold Glove awards, been an All-Star four times, and won three World Series rings (contributing to two of them).
He was a really good player for several years and will no doubt someday be inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
As a leader, though, he leaves more than a bit to be desired, at least in my opinion. In 2012 he undermined new manager Bobby Valentine after the skipper made some comments about Kevin Youkilis by telling the press “that’s not how we do things around here.” Regardless of how awful Valentine was, that’s not what a “leader” does.
In 2017 he told Manny Machado, who had just gotten drilled by a Matt Barnes pitch in retaliation for spiking Pedroia in a previous game, that “it’s not me, it’s them.” Also in 2017, Pedroia was reported to have egged on David Price during Price’s infamous and disgraceful confrontation with Dennis Eckersley on the team plane, even reportedly applauding after the shameful act was finished.
When confronted with it later on in the clubhouse, Pedroia sniped to the press “we don’t have a leader…I’m standing right here” echoing the thoughts of many other Red Sox fans.
Beyond what happened in the past during their playing careers, the biggest question I have for those who think either of these former players would be good managers is: why? Why do you think that just because these two were good players, that means they’d make good managers? Neither has coached or managed at any level.
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Since his retirement, Varitek has served as Special Assistant to the GM, a figurehead position that allows him to dress up in uniform and sit on the bench during games every once in a while.
Pedroia is still an active player and is currently in year three of trying to come back from a knee injury and experimental surgery that most likely already ended his career. While I admire his determination and realize the Red Sox still owe him a lot of money, I have no illusions that he’ll ever play again.
Fans need to let go of this notion that good and popular players from the past automatically make good managers. Throughout baseball history, it’s typical to find that the best players usually make the worst managers and vice versa. One thing they all have in common, though, is that they’ve usually spent time in clubhouses and on benches in some capacity. Whether in the Minor Leagues or the Majors, before ascending to the manager’s seat.
Terry Francona managed the Phillies and in the minors before coming to Boston. John Farrell was a long-time pitching coach for the Red Sox and managed the Blue Jays before returning to manage the Sox. The recently departed Alex Cora was a bench coach in Houston and managed the Puerto Rican national team before the Red Sox hired him.
With as chaotic and disruptive as this entire offseason has been, culminating with the firing of Cora, the Red Sox need not only some stability in the clubhouse but someone with experience who can steady the ship and instantly command the respect of the current group of players, especially the veterans.
Tek has no history with this group and Pedey hasn’t been a day-to-day player in three years. That would seem to suggest that Roenicke would be the best choice for at least 2020; he already has a relationship with the guys on the team, has their respect, and has the experience to manage a team, and in Boston, no less
Jason Varitek and Dustin Pedroia were good, tough, hard-working players who were respected in their day. However, they would be thrown to the wolves if they were to become the next Red Sox manager and besides…how do we even know either of them wants to manage the team? The Red Sox can and should do a thorough job in determining who will guide the team next and in my opinion, it’s neither of those guys.