Identifying Francona's successor


Identifying Francona's successor

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
Now what?

Now that the Red Sox have to undertake their first managerial search since the winter of 2003 -- among current American League managers, only Mike Scioscia and Ron Gardenhire have been in their respective positions longer than Terry Francona was in his -- where do they go?

It's unlikely the Sox will revisit their last interview list, since it was eight years ago.

Joe Maddon has established himself as one of the best managers in the game. Bud Black, who declined to be interviewed because he didn't want to leave the West Coast, just finished his second season with the San Diego Padres. And Glenn Hoffman is Black's third-base coach and unlikely to be a candidate again.

That means the Red Sox will start their search anew.

Much has changed in Boston in that span, too. The Red Sox have won two World Series, enjoy stability in their management and ownership group, and have, the past two seasons excepted, one of the sport's model franchises.

Given that much was made about Francona's difficulties "reaching'' players, especially in the final month or so of this season, communication will be of huge importance.

And because modern players need to vet their new bosses, it's quite likely the new manager will be someone who has already managed in the big leagues, preferrably with some success.

The demands on a manager in Boston are tough enough as it is. To think that someone could succeed here without having at least some exposure to the challenges of the job elsewhere is highly unlikely.

"(Having managed in the big leagues is) preferred,'' said general Theo Epstein, "but I don't think we're in a position to put any formal pre-requisites on the job. Experience is important, but if we found the perfect candidate who hadn't happened to have previous managerial experience, I think we'd be able to look past that.''

Again, though, if some players in the 2011 Red Sox clubhouse tuned out Francona -- who had won two championships and boasted the best winning percentage among big league managers over the last eight seasons -- what are the odds that they would respect and respond to a first-time manager?

DeMarlo Hale, who has interviewed in Houston, Seattle and Toronto in recent offseasons, might otherwise be an attractive candidate. But despite the fact that Hale's association with the Red Sox dates back decades -- he was drafted as a player in 1983 -- he's probably too closely linked to Francona for management's tastes.

Clearly, the Red Sox want a fresh start, which would seem to eliminate third-base coach Tim Bogar, another worthy in-house candidate.

"Name'' managers are unlikely fits. Bobby Valentine, whose name has already been thrown around, is known to be a favorite of owner John Henry, but Valentine is probably a little too strong-willed to mesh with GM Theo Epstein.

As for Joe Torre, it seems his managerial career is over, and at 71, he would represent a short-term commitment.

The new manager will have to be familiar and open to some of the game's advanced metrics and willing to fully utilize the team's extensive advance scouting reports.

An interesting candidate to consider might be Tony Pena, currently serving as the Yankees' bench coach. Pena is widely reagrded as a good communicator, an at-times in-your-face motivator and a brilliant teacher. It helps, too, that Pena enjoyed a long, successful playing career and has managed in the big leagues (Kansas City) before.

Pena is, of course, fluent in Spanish, no small point in today's game, in an organization that boasts plenty of Latino talent on its big-league roster and in its farm system.

And given the obsession that some in the ownership group have with the Yankees, there would be the added bonus to taking away a key part of their rivals' major league staff.

One benefit for the Red Sox is that they're getting an early start, with Francona's departure coming just two days after the season ended. Another point in their favor: only one other major league managerial vacancy currently exists -- Chicago White Sox -- meaning the Sox won't have to compete with many clubs for their top choice.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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