Red Sox

Is Ron Roenicke just keeping seat warm for Alex Cora's return to Red Sox?

Is Ron Roenicke just keeping seat warm for Alex Cora's return to Red Sox?

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Ron Roenicke talked. Chaim Bloom smiled. Brian O'Halloran nodded.

And the only man I could think about as the Red Sox introduced their new manager was their old one.

Alex Cora will not be in charge of a baseball team in 2020. We needn't wait for the commissioner's report on cheating in the 2018 championship season to know that much. Still, as long as he's out there, and as long as the Red Sox don't find someone more permanent-sounding than a respected 63-year-old baseball lifer hired to make the best of a bad situation, we'll all ponder the same question:

With Cora's shadow looming over his old office, might he one day reclaim it?

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It's not beyond the realm of possibility. Roenicke himself called Cora the most gifted communicator he has ever seen on Tuesday, and even as he's expected to lose the "interim" modifier from his title once MLB announces the results of its investigation and presumably clears him, it's questionable to consider the former Brewers manager the long-term solution.

He feels like a placeholder for the predecessor who hired him, because Cora still checks all the boxes that made him such a hot commodity two years ago: great communicator in multiple languages, confident, daring, whip-smart, analytically inclined, a presence in all aspects of baseball operations. The one significant demerit against him -- convicted cheater -- can be overcome, like most things, with the passage of time. A contrition tour wouldn't hurt, either.

Welcome to the manager's office, Ron Roenicke. If the Red Sox struggle in 2020 through no fault of Roenicke's because of an undermanned rotation and lack of organizational depth, and if the Red Sox decide to go manager hunting again in the fall, but this time with an entire offseason to conduct their search, would anyone be surprised if they rehire Cora?

I wouldn't, which is unfair to Roenicke, but also reality, though there are obviously complicating factors. If Cora is suspended for more than a year, it's hard to imagine the Red Sox leaving the light on for him. If he's suspended for life, which felt possible in the days after his ouster but not so much anymore, then it's really time to move on. And considering that Bloom bears little allegiance to him, he'd need to win over the new boss.

But if Cora misses a year and the end of his suspension just happens to coincide with the start of a new managerial search, then it would be easy to see the stars realigning for his return.

I'd be all for it, because I continue to believe Red Sox overreacted by parting ways as abruptly as it did. John Henry and Co. described the split as mutual, and maybe in the heat of the moment, with the world crashing down on him, Cora really did believe he had lost the ability to lead. I suspect, however, that the perspective afforded by even a couple of weeks away has softened his stance. Rather than accept his mutual resignation, the Red Sox could've insisted that he hold off on such a momentous decision until the overheated emotions had cooled.

But they didn't, perhaps because they believed it would buy them some leniency in the investigation that is projected to wrap up any day now, and which seems intent on making Cora its fall guy.

That's too bad, because we know that Henry loves him, that the front office loves working with him, and that he was eager and open to increasing the role of analytics in his game-planning, which, love it or hate it, is the way of the world. Only a handful of former players command respect equally amongst the jocks and the nerds, to colloquialize, and Cora's one of them.

That's a rare combination, and when you find someone featuring those traits, you only let him go under duress, which is what happened here.

So while the Red Sox celebrate Roenicke's arrival and its attendant stability following a tumultuous offseason, let's not forget about the guy who used to man his office.

He may yet find his way home.

 

Lou Merloni destroys MLB, players for bickering over 2020 return plan

Lou Merloni destroys MLB, players for bickering over 2020 return plan

As the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLS prepare to resume play in the near future, Major League Baseball still can't get out of its own way.

MLB reportedly rejected the Players Association's proposal Wednesday for a 114-game season in 2020 and apparently doesn't plan to make a counter-offer.

The league and the players have refused to budge on the issues dividing them: Players don't want to take an additional pay cut after agreeing to prorated salaries in March, while the owners are wary of extending the season too long due to the coronavirus pandemic and want players to agree to further reduced salaries to mitigate lost revenue.

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That stalemate has cost MLB valuable time, however, as the league doesn't appear close to beginning its 2020 regular season as the calendar turns to June.

So, who's to blame here? Lou Merloni believes it's everyone involved.

The former Boston Red Sox infielder ripped into both the league and the union Wednesday night during an appearance on NBC Sports Boston.

"Both sides suck, OK? That's the bottom line," Merloni said. "The Players Association comes back and says, 'Not 82 (games), we want 114' when they know that's the non-starter. The owners don't want to sit there and play until November. They're worried about the pandemic; they've got to get the playoffs in. And then the owners come back and say we're not even going to counter?

"Jesus, we're like a month into this thing. Can you string this thing out (any longer)? How about go in one room together and try to figure this out in a day or two?"

Compounding MLB's issue is that the NBA is expected to announce a return-to-play plan Thursday that would resume the 2019-20 season in late July. The MLS and NHL also have made headwinds toward resuming their seasons this summer -- which means baseball is wasting a much-needed opportunity to showcase itself as the only active pro sports league.

"I mean, you're running out of time and you're only screwing yourself. Even if baseball does come back, people have already said, 'I've had enough of you.' It's been like a month, a year, and you guys talk and bitch about this thing publicly. I don't give a crap anymore. I've got hockey, basketball, football is around the corner, hell, soccer is around the corner. I'm good.

"They don't even realize it! It's like they're in this bubble and they don't even realize what's going on around them right now. Figure this thing out: 70 games, 65, prorated (salaries), start playing some baseball, because your ass better be first coming back. If not, people are going to be done."

There's reportedly some optimism that the players and the union will resolve their differences and put a return plan in place. But with nearly one-third of the season already lost, the clock is ticking.

Check out Merloni's full comments in the video player above.

Who are the best designated hitters in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Who are the best designated hitters in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

There's only one choice for best designated hitter in Red Sox history, but just in case there's any doubt, we'll quote broadcaster Dave O'Brien with the signature call from his WEEI days: "DAVID ORTIZ! DAVID ORTIZ! DAVID ORTIZ!"

No sense in even pretending there's any suspense on this one.

What's fascinating about ranking the Red Sox DHs, however, is just how few of them have actually held down the position for any length of time over the years.

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Only nine players have made at least 200 appearances there with the Red Sox since the DH was introduced in 1973, and four of them — Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, and Manny Ramirez — have already appeared elsewhere in our outfield rankings.

That leaves five men to fill out the list, and about the only difficult omission is slugger Jose Canseco, who made 184 appearances between 1995 and 1996.

Click here for the Top 5 DHs in Red Sox history.