Ron Johnson often jokes that he’s in the 18th year of his five-year plan to be a major league manager.
(photo courtesy of Shingo Nogomi of the Nikkon Sports News)
Johnson has been Pawtucket’s skipper for the last five seasons and is under contract to manage the team again in 2010. He’s previously managed in Baseball City (1992), Wilmington (1993), Memphis (1994), Wichita (1995-97), Omaha (1998-99), Sarasota (2000-2001), Trenton (2002), and Portland (2003-04).
As much as I like him personally and respect the job that he does, I hope that RJ isn’t back at McCoy Stadium next season – I hope that he’s the new bench coach in Boston.
That was the first thought that came to mind when I read the news that Brad Mills – Terry Francona’s bench coach for the last six years – was hired to manage the Houston Astros.
Mills’ departure has created an opening on the Red Sox coaching staff, and Francona was asked if he might select an internal candidate for the position.
“I hope so, I really hope so,” Francona told the Boston Globe. “I think that’s something that’s important. I’ve been here long enough now that it’s something that definitely needs to be considered. That doesn’t mean that anybody’s a lock to get a job.”
The Globe speculated that three members of the current coaching staff – DeMarlo Hale, Gary Tuck, and John Farrell – could be candidates to switch to bench coach. The Globe also speculated that minor league field coordinator Rob Leary could get the job.
The Boston Herald mentioned Hale and first base coach Tim Bogar as the logical internal candidates. Reporter Sean McAdam also mentioned the possibility that Hale could follow Mills to Houston which would create another opening in Boston.
Joe McDonald of the Providence Journal was the only Red Sox beat writer to speculate that Johnson could be a prime candidate for the opening in Boston. However, McDonald writes that RJ might be more valuable to the Red Sox by staying in Pawtucket:
Could Johnson serve as a bench coach in the majors? Sure he could. He’s a professional. He’s one of the most jovial guys around the game. He’s respected and trusted. Because of those qualities there’s a pretty good chance he’ll remain the manager for the PawSox.
Johnson gets the idea that winning is secondary to development in the minors. As valuable as he could be sitting on the bench next to Francona in Boston, Johnson’s importance – at least in the Red Sox organization – will remain in Triple-A.
There’s no doubt he will be on Boston’s list of likely candidates, and he’s earned that consideration. But the Red Sox probably believe he’s more valuable in Pawtucket.
I hope that’s not the case, and hate to think that being an outstanding Triple-A manager could cost RJ a well-deserved promotion to the big leagues.
I’ve written before that I think that Johnson would make an excellent major league manager. When I ran into Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Brandon Moss while filling-in on a Cincinnati Reds’ broadcast this summer, Moss agreed:
“I love RJ,” Moss told me. “He’s the best manager I’ve ever had and it’s shame he’s not a big league manager yet. If for some reason he doesn’t get that opportunity one day, I’m going to boycott. RJ would definitely be the biggest memory from those two years in Pawtucket.”
Johnson’s chances of becoming a major league manager would be greatly enhanced if he had “Boston Red Sox bench coach” on his resume. That title helped Brad Mills become the new manager of the Houston Astros.
Ron Johnson is the perfect choice to replace him in Boston.