BOSTON — As Dave Dombrowski ponders who should be his next manager, the Red Sox president of baseball operations would be wise to take a glimpse at the teams still playing this October.

The quartet of Joe Girardi, A.J. Hinch, Dave Roberts and Joe Maddon says a little about the way the manager’s role has evolved over the last decade and which managerial styles work best in modern baseball.

Dombrowski grew up at a time when certain managers seemed to rule by fiat, when guys like Earl Weaver and Sparky Anderson were the most important men in their respective organizations.

But as baseball’s focus has turned to executive team-builders, the essential role of the manager has changed.

The manager is no longer a boss so much as he is a middleman, reliant upon the relationships he can forge with the executives above him and the players below him.

In seeking their next skipper, the Red Sox must find someone uniquely suited to simultaneously meld his personality to a baby boomer front office and a millennial clubhouse.


In Boston, John Farrell was felled by the disintegration of his relationships in both directions. Early in his tenure with the Red Sox, the manager had a terrific rapport with his mostly veteran clubhouse and an easy chemistry with his front office.

It was a unified operation from top to bottom, the individual pieces in lockstep with one another. It was cited often when the organization extended his contract, even after a last-place finish in 2014.

That dynamic started changing in 2015. The roster turned over, with Boston moving swiftly from a veteran core to a young one.

The front office was overhauled, with Dombrowski replacing Ben Cherington.

This past season solidified those changes. Torey Lovullo was gone as an important go-between for Farrell and his young players, and Mike Hazen’s departure severed yet more links between the old guard and the new one in the front office.

The people Farrell had been in lockstep with were no longer around.

That never seemed more the case than it did on Wednesday, when Dombrowski declined to divulge his reasons for letting Farrell go.


The key for Boston now will be recreating that initial cohesive dynamic by finding someone as at ease with Dombrowski and Co. as he is with David Price and Mookie Betts in the clubhouse.

There are candidates who would seem to satisfy one end of that spectrum more than the other. Arizona bench coach Ron Gardenhire appears to fit the Jim Leyland mold that worked so well for Dombrowski in Florida and Detroit. Houston bench coach Alex Cora played alongside Dustin Pedroia and has had a strong impact on the Astros’ young position player core this season.

Dombrowski interviewed Cora on Sunday in New York, where the Astros were schedule to play the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS on Monday night. Cora played for the Red Sox from 2005-08.

While a perfect candidate may not exist in theory, he can develop into one through practice. Roberts, who has now been to the NLCS in each of his two seasons with Los Angeles, didn’t have much experience with either president Andrew Friedman or General Manager Farhan Zaidi when he interviewed for that job back in 2015. Roberts entered with more of a reputation as a player’s manager.

“I hoped that it was a marriage. We kind of had the same thoughts and beliefs,” Roberts said before his first season of working with Friedman and Zaidi. “I have history with players that I’ve been around, but it’s not about just getting guys I’m friendly with and familiar with. It’s about being good.

“There’s definitely no perfect fit with anything. For this club, they believed it was the right fit.”


Hinch, who took over a team that had lost 416 games the previous four seasons and has now been to the postseason twice in three years, has talked about balancing an analytically minded front office with the everyday realities of the clubhouse.

“The information is valuable; the personal relationships can’t be replaced,” he said before his first season with the club. “It’s why this job is unique from a leadership perspective. I have to decide when that is dominated by analytics or when that is dominated by human relationships. That’s something I hope to bring to the table.”

Managing any major league team is no easy task; managing the Red Sox merely complicates the job with loads of extra scrutiny.

Dombrowski declined to elucidate the reasons behind Farrell’s dismissal; he better have really good ones for hiring his replacement.