The Red Sox are once again on the hunt for a new manager. The club announced Sunday, just a couple of hours prior to its final game of the season, that Ron Roenicke will not return as manager in 2021.
Roenicke was elevated from bench coach to manager in Spring Training after Alex Cora and the club opted to part ways in January. Roenicke, who was on a one-year deal, managed the Sox to a 9-1 win at Truist Park against the Braves.
“Yeah, so the tough part was talking to [chief baseball officer] Chaim [Bloom] this morning and letting me know their decision,” Roenicke said. “Getting to the ballpark, I wanted the players and staff to know before it came out publicly, so that part was difficult. The game was fine. It’s still concentrating on what I had to do and then afterward was a little tough in the clubhouse. Some guys spoke, so that was a little tough, that was a little emotional.”
The search for a new manager will begin immediately.
“Ron and I spoke this morning in Atlanta about our decision that he’s not going to return as manager in 2021. I just want to reiterate our thanks to Ron,” said Bloom. “He did a tremendous job under really challenging, basically unprecedented, circumstances, and although our on-field results were not what we were looking for this season, the environment that he helped maintain was a productive one and a positive one.
“It allowed a lot of players space to grow and develop. We are so appreciative of how he handled all the challenges thrown his way and certainly wish him well in everything that comes next for him.”
The Red Sox finished the season with a 24-36 record, which put them in last place in the American League East, though Roenicke was hampered from the start after his two top pitchers (Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez) were ruled out for the season. Boston also traded its best player, right fielder Mookie Betts, to the Dodgers in February to land outfielder Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs (now the club’s highest-ranked prospect) and Minor League catcher Connor Wong. David Price, who elected not to play this season, also went to Los Angeles in the blockbuster exchange.
The roster Roenicke had would have been tough for any manager to compete with.
“I think that’s a fair assessment,” said Bloom. “I don’t know if I’d describe it exactly like that, but I think that’s a fair assessment. When I talked to Ron this morning, that’s one of the things we discussed. That’s why I said what I said in our statement and just now to this group. I think the record is not indicative of the job that Ron did.
“This season had so many challenges on the field and off the field. I think what he brought to our group in navigating those and meeting those challenges was really impressive. It was going to be a tough season. It turned out to be tougher than I think anybody could imagine. In that respect, I think that’s a fair assessment.”
What precipitated the change?
“It was really a forward-looking decision, just looking out over the long haul,” said Bloom. “Our responsibility is to do the right thing for the Boston Red Sox over the long term, deciding that a new voice, a different energy is something that would serve us well over the long haul. As highly as we continue to think of the job Ron did, it’s really about looking forward.”
As Bloom begins his search for a new manager, there is bound to be speculation that the Red Sox will turn to a familiar face in Cora, whose season-long suspension expires at the end of the 2020 World Series.
“With respect to Alex -- and I know this is a question I got a couple times during the season, and I think you guys know where I stand on Alex -- but I know I didn’t get into very much detail about it during the season,” said Bloom. “That was really because out of respect to Ron. I thought that Ron deserved to be evaluated without anybody looking over his shoulder. So I know that’s not the case anymore, but I still don’t really want to get into any detail on my thoughts on Alex.
“I don’t want to say anything about Alex that I haven’t already said to Alex, and obviously, I haven’t spoken to Alex. So there will be a time where I can get into more detail on Alex and his situation and my thoughts on it, but that time isn’t now, so I’m hoping everybody will respect that.”
The Red Sox moved on from Cora the day after MLB’s investigation into the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing controversy from 2017 revealed him as a central figure. Cora was the bench coach for that World Series-winning squad.
Independently, MLB also investigated if the 2018 Red Sox improperly used technology to steal signs. In that case, in which Commissioner Rob Manfred revealed his findings on April 22, the club was docked a first-round selection in the '20 Draft and video system operator J.T. Watkins was suspended for the season. Cora, from MLB’s findings, had no knowledge of any improper use of technology during Boston’s World Series championship season in ’18.
Under Cora, the Red Sox notched a franchise record of 108 wins in 2018. However, the club, hurt by a slow start and a steep drop-off in the starting rotation, finished 84-78 while missing the playoffs in ’19.
“I don’t want to get into any specific candidates right now. As this process goes on, I don’t expect us to talk very much about it, but certainly don’t want to get into any specific names,” said Bloom.
The 64-year-old Roenicke came to Boston as Cora’s bench coach in 2019. He was well-liked by the players as both bench coach and manager.
“It’s been a tough situation for him, but he’s handled it like an extreme pro like he is throughout his career,” said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. “The respect he has as a coach, manager, it’s unbelievable.”
Bloom didn’t rule out Roenicke returning to the Red Sox, either as bench coach or in another capacity.
Roenicke made it clear after Sunday’s game that, despite what happened in the past, he believes Cora should be given the chance to manage again.
“Alex should be managing. And I don’t want to go into all the situations that happened in Houston. He knows what he did, he shouldn’t have done [it], but Alex is a good manager,” said Roenicke. “He’s a good person. He cares about the players, he cares about people, and he did a really good job. For just stepping in his first year, it was outstanding. I’m hoping he does this again. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, he should be managing. I’ve seen a lot of managers -- and he’s really good.”
Roenicke has coached at the professional level for 30 seasons. His last Major League managerial stint before his tenure with the Red Sox was with the Brewers from 2011-15, when he went 342-331 and won a National League Central title in his first season.
As for who will replace Roenicke, Bloom will take it step by step and hasn’t set a timetable for naming a successor. He said he hasn’t yet compiled a list of candidates to interview. That will all happen in the coming days and weeks.
Bloom is keeping an open mind on the team’s next manager.
“Different managers can go about this in different ways. I think, at the end of the day, you want someone who is going to put your players in positions to succeed and bring the best out of the group,” said Bloom. "[Those are] two qualities I’ve talked a lot about this year, and I do feel, in his way, that Ron demonstrated consistency and authenticity."
“I think that’s something a lot of good managers have in common. But it really comes down to having someone who can be a leader in this organization and a leader for our clubhouse and our players and put them in positions to succeed and bring the best out of them.”
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.