Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke under pressure to prove himself.
It’s still unclear if the MLB season will happen in 2020 but if it does, we know it won’t be a full 162-game schedule. Fewer games isn’t ideal for anyone, aside from perhaps a few cutthroat owners looking for leverage, but some would be harmed more than others by a shorter season. Perhaps no member of the Boston Red Sox would be under more pressure than manager Ron Roenicke.
The last proposal from the player’s union called for a 114-game schedule. Owners want fewer games if the players won’t accept additional pay cuts and they have reportedly floated the idea of proposing a 50-game schedule. That ridiculously low total sounds more like a threat but it’s clear that getting the full prorated salaries players demand will mean sacrificing more games. The guess here is the total lands somewhere in between.
Either way, that leaves Roenicke with less than a full season and perhaps not even half a season to prove himself in his new role. The interim tag has been wiped away from his title but Roenicke is only under contract for this year.
How does the Red Sox organization evaluate their manager in a 50 game sample? Or 82 or 100 games? Whatever the total ends up being, the sample will be limited.
The closest comparison from recent Red Sox history is when Torey Lovullo served as interim manager in 2015. Lovullo led the club to a 28-20 record over the final seven weeks of the season while filling in for John Farrell while the manager was undergoing treatments for lymphoma. His success wasn’t enough for Lovullo to retain the position, as the job went back to Farrell when he returned healthy the following season. It did put Lovullo on the radar though, eventually earning him a managerial spot with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Roenicke has five years of experience as a major league manager. He had a winning record during his tenure with the Milwaukee Brewers, leading them to a division title in 2011 when he finished as the runner-up for the Manager of the Year award.
He hasn’t managed in the big leagues since 2015 though and that previous experience was with a small-market Milwaukee club. How do the Red Sox determine that he’s the right fit for the future of this team?
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By all accounts, Roenicke is well-respected in the organization and has built a solid relationship with the players during his time as bench coach over the last two seasons. However, the manager role is an entirely different beast. That seat heats up quickly at the first sign of trouble, especially under the scrutiny of an intense Boston media.
The whispers about Alex Cora returning once his suspension for his role in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal concludes after this season won’t go away. He still has the support of players and is only two years removed from a franchise-record win total and a World Series championship. Cora has hinted that he might not be interested in managing again but it’s hard to believe he would pass up the opportunity for redemption.
We also can’t overlook the possibility that new Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom will look for a fresh start by hiring his own choice to manage the team rather than stick with an option brought in by the previous regime.
Would the season need to go terribly wrong for it to cost Roenicke his job? Does he need to exceed expectations in order to convince the front office not to go in another direction? We have no idea. What we do know is that the pressure for him to perform in this role increases in a shorter season when every rough patch will be magnified.