Why not have Jason Varitek manage the Red Sox?

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Hiring managers without managing experience is the new fad in baseball. The White Sox chose former third baseman Robin Ventura from way out of left field, and the Cardinals just picked their old catcher, Mike Matheny, over a two-time World Series champion manager who seemed like a pretty perfect fit for a veteran team.

So, why shouldn’t the Red Sox hand the reins over to Jason Varitek as they look to replace Terry Francona?

Many believe Varitek will be a manager someday. Boston’s captain since Dec. 2004, he’s well regarded throughout the game for his quiet leadership. It seems he’s mostly escaped the tarnish of Boston’s September collapse last season. To the outside world, he appears to command the respect of every player in the Red Sox clubhouse.

Choosing Varitek as a manager now would certainly be speeding up the timetable a bit. For one thing, there’s no indication that he’s finished playing. Of course, player-managers are still allowed by baseball, even if there hasn’t been one since Pete Rose retired after the 1986 season (he managed the Reds for 2 1/2 years as a player and then two more years after retiring). Realisitically, though, a player-manager probably isn’t going to work in this day and age. There’s too much media scrutiny and too many questions to be asked and answered.

As a retired player, Varitek would make more sense as a candidate. Of course, there’s still nothing to say that the Red Sox would see him as one. The fact that they’d be turning him from teammate to boss might be too problematic. Varitek’s relationship with the 20 or so veterans returning to the Red Sox next year could work against him even more than it would favor him. It’s not always easy dealing with a boss who used to be an equal.

So, it’s likely a fantasy anyway. The shame of it is that Varitek could very well be an excellent manager someday and that it probably won’t be with the Red Sox. While the concept of hiring him now is intriguing enough to at least be worthy of a discussion, his history with the Red Sox isn’t a good enough reason to favor him over experienced candidates.

Major League Baseball issues a statement on Trump’s latest travel ban order

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Last night the Trump Administration announced a new batch of restrictions on people traveling from foreign countries, following up on its previous travel ban on persons from six predominately Muslim countries. The latest restriction could potentially touch on Major League Baseball, however, as it includes Venezuela.

The restriction for Venezuela is far narrower than the others, only blocking visas for government officials on business or tourist travel from Venezuela. There has been considerable uncertainty about the scope and enforcement mechanisms for the previous travel ban, however, and the entire matter is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. With that uncertainty, many around Major League Baseball have asked how and if the league or the union might respond to an order that, while seemingly not facially impacting baseball personnel or their families, could impact them in practice.

To that end, Major League Baseball issued a statement this afternoon, saying “MLB is aware of the travel ban that involves Venezuela and we have contacted the appropriate government officials to confirm that it will not have an effect on our players traveling to the U.S.” It is not clear whether it has, in fact, received such confirmation or if its an ongoing dialog or what.

Again: the ban shouldn’t impact baseball players or their families based on its terms. But based on what we saw with the enforcement of the previous one — and based the unexpected consequences many major leaguers faced when international travel restrictions were tightened following the 9/11 attacks — it’s only prudent for Major League Baseball to make such inquiries and get whatever assurances it can well in advance of next February when players from Venezuela will be coming back to the United States for spring training.

 

Aaron Judge breaks rookie home run record with 49th, 50th blasts

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge made history today, hitting his 49th and 50th home runs, tying and then breaking the rookie record previously held by Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics.

Judge’s first dinger came in the third inning of this afternoon’s Royals-Yankees tilt. It was the sixth pitch from Jake Junis and left via right field. His second came in the bottom of the seventh against Trevor Cahill.

McGwire set his record in 1987, needing 151 games to do it. Judge hit his 50th in his 150th game of the season. He has five more games after today to add to that mark. Through his latest at bat in this game Judge is hitting .283/.417/.620 on the year with 50 HR, 108 RBI, 124 runs scored and 119 walks. Given Judge’s strong finish to the season, the AL MVP race should come down to a contest between him and Jose Altuve. It’s hard to argue against either one.

Here’s Judge’s first bomb:

And here’s the second: