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.
CC Sabathia‘s contract is set to expire this offseason, but for the long-tenured left-hander, nowhere feels more like home than New York. “I want to see this through,” Sabathia told reporters after a devastating Game 7 loss in the ALCS. “This is where I want to play.” Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman spoke warmly of the veteran starter, but would make no public guarantees that he’d return to the team next spring.
Sabathia, 37, just topped off his 17th season in the big leagues and his eighth career postseason run. He went 14-5 in 27 starts and put up a 3.69 ERA, 3.0 BB/9 and 7.3 SO/9 in 148 2/3 innings, good for 1.9 fWAR. He looked solid in the playoffs, too, propelling the team to a much-needed win in Game 5 of the ALDS and returning in the Championship Series with six scoreless innings in Game 3. His season ended on a sour note during Game 7, however. He lasted just 3 1/3 innings against a dynamic Astros’ offense, allowing one run on five hits and three walks and failing to record a single strikeout for the first time in 23 career postseason appearances.
Heading into the 2017 offseason, Sabathia finally arrived at the end of his seven-year, $161 million deal with the Yankees. While he’s repeatedly expressed a desire to keep pitching, despite rumors that his career might be on the rocks following the diagnosis of a troublesome degenerative knee condition, the decision isn’t his alone to make. Brian Cashman will also be seeking an extension with the Yankees this winter, so it’s difficult to say which impending free agents the club will try to retain — and Sabathia’s name isn’t the only one on that list. If it were up to skipper Joe Girardi, who is awaiting a decision on his own future with the organization, the decision would be a no-brainer. From MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
CC will always be special to me because of what he stands for and the great player that he is, the great man that he is,” Girardi said. “The wonderful teammate that he is. How he pulls a team together. He’s as good as I’ve ever been around when it comes to a clubhouse guy, a guy that will take the ball when you’re on a losing streak or that you can count on, and knowing that it could be the possible last time.