Why not have Jason Varitek manage the Red Sox?

16 Comments

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.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

Getty Images
2 Comments

Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.