Alex Cora’s Boston Red Sox and Dave Roberts’s Los Angeles Dodgers are currently playing each other in the World Series. Gabe Kapler finished his first season as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Kevin Cash has been manager of the Tampa Bay Rays since 2015. The Minnesota Twins this week hired Rocco Baldelli as their new manager, replacing Paul Molitor. And of course, Terry Francona has been manager of the Cleveland Indians since 2013.
For those following at home, six of the 30 field manager jobs in Major League Baseball currently belong to guys who played for the Red Sox when Terry Francona was in Boston, or are Francona himself. Additionally, New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway was Francona’s pitching coach in Cleveland, and that has to count towards his managerial tree as well.
The narrative is not perfect. Roberts and Kapler worked their way up with the Dodgers before getting managerial opportunities (and Kapler was actually involved in Terry’s son Nick Francona’s discrimination allegation against the Dodgers), and Cash and Baldelli are better remembered for their work with the Rays. Cora is the one who got the Red Sox job, but Francona did not leave the organization in the greatest of terms and have had three GMs since Francona and Theo Epstein left Boston following the 2011 season. Callaway is the one Tito can most clearly claim credit for, but from a wider view, it is a great visual example of how good the Red Sox were in the mid-2000s, when Francona took a team that had not won a World Series since 1918 and won two while I was in high school. And it’s crazy to think that all of this perhaps hinged on one move in 2004.
Postseason baseball is the time when a sport that is defined by enormous samples, and puts it under a microscope. If Kevin Millar does not draw a walk, and if Tito does not put in Dave Roberts as a pinch runner, and if Roberts fails to steal second base with Mariano Rivera on the mound and every single person in the ballpark and watching on TV knowing he was going to try to steal, then the Red Sox would have likely been swept. It would have been yet another October disappointment at the hands of New York. In 2005, Alex Cora’s first year playing in Boston, the Red Sox were swept in the ALDS by the eventual World Series champion Chicago White Sox.
In 2006, the Red Sox missed the playoffs, and maybe, had they not won in 2004, John Henry grows impatient and decides a new manager is the easiest way to shake things up. There is a chance that if Dave Roberts does not steal that base and the Red Sox do not mount the greatest comeback in the history of baseball, that only Cash and Baldelli have managing jobs in 2018.
That said, if Grady Little had taken Pedro Martinez out when he was supposed to in 2003, that the Red Sox would have reversed the curse a year early, never have traded for Curt Schilling (and therefore Red Sox fans would not have the baggage of Curt’s post-playing career creeping in the back of their collective heads, but would definitely still be stuck with the fact that Tom Werner became wealthy enough to own a baseball team because of Bill Cosby and Roseanne Barr) and the Yankees would probably have a better manager than Aaron Boone.
The “what if?” game is fun to play until it isn’t.