Red Sox Mailbag: Starting Managerial Hunt, Looking at John Lackey’s Future in Boston


October 4, 2011

Red Sox Mailbag: Starting Managerial Hunt, Looking at John Lackey's Future in Boston That's it. Let it out. There, there. Everything's going to be OK. Here's some chicken soup and the latest edition of the Red Sox mailbag.

1. Out of all the potential managers, Bobby Valentine and Joe Torre are the only two I'm familiar with. I know that DeMarlo Hale is an option but I just don't see it. I doubt Torre will leave his MLB job so what would it take to get Bobby V. to leave ESPN, and would he even be open to it?
— Jackson

Valentine is a baseball lifer, and he seems to belong in a dugout. He has been linked to a handful of jobs during his days at ESPN and will continue to be as long as there are vacancies. Yes, he would be open to it, and all it might take is a generous offer. Personally, I think Hale would be a great choice, but the ownership will want to deviate from the old regime and Hale may be too similar. Your instincts on this are right.

2. What do you think about Tony Pena as manager? He does have the experience, as he managed the Royals.
— Dave Shevenell

Indeed, the 2003 AL Manager of the Year and current Yankees bench coach could be a nice fit. He was a leader on Red Sox teams from 1990-93 so he knows the scene around Fenway. I like the idea.

Side story. In 1990, I was at a game in Yankee Stadium between the Sox and Yanks. Pena, then the starting catcher in Boston, had recently called out his teammates for not giving their all. They were mired in a September slide that had seen all of a 6 1/2-game lead vanish (sound familiar?). A guy next to me (Red Sox fan) screamed an obscenity at Pena as he played catch in front of the Red Sox dugout, upset with Pena's words, but the Sox catcher thought it came from me. He glared at me for about five solid seconds while I envisioned life ending before I ever had a chance to experience a date.

Anyway, great choice Dave.

3. Would you allow Theo Epstein to go if the Cubbies offered compensation? As for the new manager, do you concur with my short list?: Dave Martinez, Jim Hickey, Tony Pena, Glenn Hoffman, Trey Hillman and Bruce Bochy? Lastly, who would you get rid of off of this present 25-man roster. Thanks for your time.
— Charles ?Sportsbozo? Champagne

The mailbag's always a bit spicier when the Sportsbozo checks in. It's a good week.

I'll provide three quick answers to your three quick questions. If Epstein goes, that's his choice (after getting permission to speak with Chicago, of course), but the Sox would most likely get a prospect or two as compensation. If I was in the chair of the owners, I'd do what I can to keep him around and fix some of the problems.

I like the list. Those are some of the names being thrown around. We already discussed Pena, but I'm a big Martinez fan as well.

As for the roster, we're talking about a 40-man grouping. There are a handful of guys that will come off the books (J.D. Drew, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon among them). Some will return, possibly the last two. As for the others, I'd certainly kick the tires on possible John Lackey deals that do not cost the organization an arm and a leg. You will have to pay a hefty portion of his salary no matter what. That's an unlikely scenario, however. Give it another year.

4. Hey Tony! I'm a longtime Boston fan from central New York. After the free agent dilemma we have had the past couple of seasons with Lackey and Crawford, how are we going to handle free agency this year with dire needs in right field and starting pitching? Is C.J. Wilson a possibility? Also, do you agree Jonathan Papelbon is a must-keep for us seeing that Daniel Bard can't maintain consistency throughout the long baseball season?
— Ray Bennett

Funny you ask about Papelbon. I opined upon that on Monday afternoon.

I like Wilson a lot but it looks as if he will be the big-ticket starting pitcher on the market. With many millions of dollars already locked up in its rotation, Boston may not have the funds to dig deep. There will have to be some money moved around somewhere for that to be a possibility.

5. Tony, I don't know if this is a question or an observation from 2,500 miles away. For years we've heard what a great leader Jason Varitek has been both on the field and in the clubhouse and how valuable he is to the pitching staff. Yet, we have heard very little from him during this debacle. Has his reputation been over-hyped or is he now part of problem?
— Paul

Varitek is a great leader, but he is not the type that screams at guys in the clubhouse or makes big announcements to the media. He's a strong, silent, lead-by-example type who is a wonderful mentor to guys in one-on-one or small group settings. I don't think it is incumbent upon him to come out and say anything right now. If he is around in Fort Myers in February, you can be sure he will say some things to those who matter.

6. What are the chances that the Red Sox could go after Buck Showalter? I think that would be a great move. I'm sure he is still under contract but if there would be any way possible do you think the Sox would take a chance at it?
— Coop

Impossible. Showalter, who took his shot at Epstein this spring, basically has the choice to serve as the general manager or manager in Baltimore next season. He is central in the rebuilding process there.

7. Hello, Mr. Lee. Enjoy our mailbag. Do you think there will be a statement to Red Sox fans from ownership concerning the 2011 season? It would be nice to hear their thoughts and plans for 2012. We are planning a vacation trip to Boston next year, including some Red Sox games. If the owners don't plan to try to improve the team, it might be better so spend the money elsewhere.
— Ted Williams

I can't imagine a worse public relations nightmare than Teddy Ballgame himself threatening to skip some Red Sox games if the organization doesn't get its act in order. And Ted, I agree that more needs to be said. However, much of that will be said (hopefully) after a new manager is named and after the Epstein drama is settled. It doesn't make much sense to say something and then have things change dramatically a week later.

8. With the amount of free agents the Red Sox have on the market, what are the chances they can bring Varitek back, perhaps as bench coach or manager, and maybe shop Lackey for another starter? Will they start Josh Reddick in right field, and re-sign Jacoby Ellsbury?
— Rob

Not so sure the free agency situation has anything to do with where Varitek goes. If they want to bring him back and he wants to play, they can find a way to pay him $2 million, or thereabouts. My guess is Varitek will be a coach and/or manager sometime soon, but it may begin in the minors.

We addressed the Lackey issue in an earlier answer. They may need another year to go by the boards before the value of that contract gets low enough to where they can see moving him and still paying the bulk of the salary.

Depending on how the offseason goes, Reddick will have a chance to compete for that job. And Ellsbury will be entering his second arbitration year. He will get a significant raise and still be worth every penny in 2012.

9. What are the chances we could see Brian Daubach managing the Red Sox in 2012? He has managerial experience in the minors and in the process has dealt with "players with attitude" such as Bryce Harper. Not to mention he was one of the original dirt dogs and would really provide a lift for the team.
— Ed

It's an interesting thought, but Daubach may be a few years away from consideration for a big league job. Most guys do not jump from Single-A to the majors as a manager. He will have to cut his teeth in a few other roles before making that kind of a leap.

10. Mike Lowell?
— Kevin

The fans would love it, wouldn't they? It's about more than just making the fans happy.

11. What will the Red Sox do with the right field? Will they stay with Reddick or go to the market to fill that position? Will they stay with Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate or will they acquire another catcher?
— Hector

As he headed home for the winter, you know Reddick had his sights set on a starting gig in 2012. Drew won't be in the picture. Ryan Kalish might be. And yes, there could be a free agent signing, perhaps someone like Jason Kubel or Josh Willingham or Nick Swisher (if the Yankees don't pick up his option).

Saltalamacchia is your starting catcher in 2012. He ended the season on a bad note, but made great strides and has now been through a full season as a starter for the first time. That can only help. Also, Ryan Lavarnway is in the mix. With two young, slugging catchers in the fold there is no need to acquire another catcher except for depth purposes.

12. Why isn't Epstein being held accountable for his signing of players who do not bring good character and work ethic?
— Jim Punderson

Based on some public talks I've heard, he is. Maybe he hasn't had to swallow hard and move on like Francona, but Epstein is under pressure to make better decisions in a few areas, most notably with free agents. He said as much the other day at Fenway Park.

If you think of it, the Sox haven't had too many serious character issues among players that Epstein himself has brought into the fold. For whatever reason, the mix in 2011 didn't work. As long as he stays around, that will be a focus this offseason.

13. With the departure of Francona, stories surfaced about pitchers drinking in the clubhouse on their non-pitching days, inability to control some players and other incidents within the clubhouse. Will the Red Sox be more inclined to go for a hard-nosed manager? If so, do you think the players will respond or resent a manager with more rules?
— Ryan

While the club just had a miserable month and some lax attitudes on the part of the players may have been one problem, this is still a veteran group that should have done a better job of policing itself. They shouldn't need a taskmaster to be successful. Someone with a few more rules cannot hurt, but I don't see a massive climate change, otherwise you do run the risk of alienating some guys.

14. Terry Francona said in his interview the other day that one of the factors leading to his departure was the uncertainty he felt over whether team ownership stood behind him. Obviously there was a disconnect between him and the bosses. With all the success he and the team had enjoyed, how could one bad season have led to these problems? Or do you think Tito was reacting emotionally to what must have been for him the most difficult and disappointing season during his tenure?
— Chris

Speaking about 40 hours after the end of the worst stretch of Red Sox baseball in recent memory, there had to be some emotions in everything that was said, on both sides. I think he was frustrated with what happened in September, with his inability to get through to some players and probably with the fact that he did not have many options in terms of personnel down the stretch. My guess is there had been some seeds of a disconnect planted earlier than all of that, so it probably didn't take just one season. Sometimes things just run their course, and maybe it was just time for a change, just like Francona said.

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