By Jeff Louderback
Tim Wallach, who was interviewed for the Red Sox managerial vacancy last Friday, is considered a low-key leader like Terry Francona.
Brad Ausmus – who was a well-respected Major League catcher for 18 seasons, currently serves as a special assistant to the general manager in San Diego and has no professional coaching and managing experience – has been lauded for numerous current and retired Major Leaguers for his communication skills and baseball acumen. Ausmus is expected to interview soon with the Red Sox in his bid to replace Bobby Valentine.
John Farrell, who has one year left on his contract as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays and is a former Red Sox pitching coach who understands what it takes to thrive in the heated Boston spotlight, is considered by multiple media members as the favorite to become the next Red Sox skipper, though he reportedly has yet to be contacted by the club.
Should the Red Sox choose any of the aforementioned three names, they will be in able hands for 2013. Yet the most intriguing name is a longtime Major League catcher who won a Gold Glove behind the plate for the Red Sox during his four-year stint (1990-1993) with the team and is currently the bench coach of the rival New York Yankees.
Tony Pena spent six hours with Red Sox officials on Monday interviewing for the manager’s role. After his 18-year Major League career ended, Pena eventually became manager of the Kansas City Royals, where he was hired by then general manager Allard Baird, who is Boston’s vice president of player personnel.
The 55-year-old Pena managed the Royals over parts of four seasons from 2002 to 2005. 198-285 record. In 2003, he guided the club to its only winning season (83-79) since 1994 and was named American League Manager of the Year. Weakened by a lack of pitching, Kansas City lose a franchise-record 104 games the next season and then Pena resigned 33 games into the 2005 campaign.
Kansas City; however, is not Boston. With the Red Sox, Pena will have the resources to win. Since he played in Boston and has served on the Yankees coaching staff since 2006, he knows the expectations and pressures of leading a team in a big market. Pena is also highly regarded catching instructor whose presence would undoubtedly benefit Jarrod Saltalamacchia and especially Ryan Lavarnway. He also know pitching, and he can effectively relate and communicate with Latino players, which is a critical skill for mangers in today’s game.
The Red Sox will conduct more interviews. Former Red Sox bench coach and current Orioles third base coach DeMarlo Hale is another candidate. More could surface if the team waits to make its decision until after the World Series. For example, Jim Leyland’s contract expires when the World Series ends. If the Tigers do not bring him back, he would obviously be appealing to the Sox.
Since it appears the Yankees’ season will soon reach an abrupt end, the Red Sox would be wise to conduct a second interview with Pena, who also has an affable personality and would be the anti-Valentine.
The Red Sox desperately need a skipper who commands respect while injecting life and enthusiasm in the clubhouse and dugout. Pena provides that, along with his wealth of knowledge and pitching and catching. Landing Farrell would require player compensation. Pena would not. Pena is the more logical choice.