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"Hire 'Tek!": Red Sox fans make pitch for Varitek as manager

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

By GETHIN COOLBAUGH

Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) The Boston Red Sox have a list of characteristics they want in their next manager, but they haven't yet landed on a name.

Their fans have one in mind.

Three days after the Red Sox fired manager Alex Cora for his involvement in a cheating scandal, supporters pleaded for Boston's front office to hire former catcher and team captain Jason Varitek at a town hall event Friday during the team's winter festival.

Members of the team's leadership group were hit with “Hire 'Tek!” chants throughout the night, and principal owner John Henry was interrupted several times by fans voicing their support. Henry paused and nodded in acknowledgement, and new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom used the opportunity to appease the crowd.

“I think if you poll the audience, they would just get this done right now,” Bloom said to big applause.

Varitek, who was not in attendance, spent 15 seasons with the Red Sox from 1997 to 2011 and was part of two World Series title teams. He is currently a special assistant to the general manager.

“We’re in unusual circumstances. You’re not usually looking for a manager in the middle of January,��� general manager Brian O’Halloran told the crowd. “We take all kinds of recommendations. And if you have any - I’ve heard a few already.”

Cora was dismissed late Tuesday in a decision the team said was mutual. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred identified Cora as “an active participant” in the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme while serving as Houston’s bench coach in 2017.

MLB is also investigating Cora for alleged cheating during the team’s 2018 championship season, and Cora and Boston could still be punished. Henry said in a press conference Wednesday that Cora was let go solely for his actions with Houston.

Cora guided the Red Sox to a franchise-record 108 wins and the franchise’s fourth World Series title in 15 years as a first-year manager in 2018. Boston won just 84 games and missed the playoffs in 2019 in Cora’s second and final season.

“I’ll say that, let’s take a pause and a timeout and let’s see what the investigation reveals before jumping to any conclusions,” team president and CEO Sam Kennedy said to reporters before Friday’s event.

Kennedy said the Red Sox hadn’t made any notable progress in the search for a new manager as of late Friday. He added the team would like to have a manager in place for the start of spring training in mid-February.

“It’s got to be someone who fits the culture of this team and has a knowledge of what it’s going to take to put a championship team on the field in 2020,” Kennedy said. “It’s a tall task to get someone in place, but Chaim and (O’Halloran) will get it done for sure.”

Fans also peppered retired Red Sox legends David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez with questions about the managerial vacancy during a separate panel.

Ortiz was asked if he would accept a managerial or front office job with the team but said that he wasn’t at a good point in his life to do so.

The 44-year-old former designated hitter is still recovering after being shot last June in what authorities called a case of mistaken identity in his native Dominican Republic.

“One day I will be (ready),” Ortiz said.

Martinez said that whoever the Red Sox settle on will be the right choice.

“I guarantee you whoever comes over to manage this great team that we have, it’s probably gonna be the closest to the perfect person that we could ever get,” Martinez said.

Don Clark, a 53-year-old fan living in Guilford, Connecticut, attended the town hall and said he likes the idea of Varitek as skipper but doesn’t think the timing is right.

“I think he’d be very good. I don’t he’s at the point where he wants to do it, and I don’t think he’d take it if they offered it to him,” Clark said. “I don’t think he’s ready."

Karen Vitek, 63 of Tamworth, New Hampshire, hopes the Red Sox won’t veer far from their recent criteria for hiring a manager.

“Well, they have to have someone (with) the same qualities that made Cora so successful,” Vitek said. “I’m hoping they do a comprehensive search, but in an expeditious way so that we can start spring training with a good manager.”

Current Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is also eager to shift the attention back to baseball.

“I know it’s been a tough couple of days for all of us,” Bogaerts told fans. “I think this is the year we have to prove how strong we are as a team and stick together.”

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Updated January 17, 2020

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