SPRINGFIELD- The first Red Sox Winter Weekend at MGM Springfield came at a crossroads for the team and fanbase, as two-year manager Alex Cora and the team parted ways days earlier due to the sign stealing scandal.
Despite the loss of a manager that had, until now, been considered a fan favorite, Red Sox fans made the most of the weekend and didn’t seem to pay too much mind to the scandal surrounding the team.
Cora’s departure was concurrent with Major League Baseball’s ongoing investigation into the Sox about their possible use of technology-assisted sign stealing in their 2018 World Series winning season. For the most part, between the fans, players, and team personnel that attended, people seem to be willing to wait for the conclusion of the investigation before casting judgement one way or another.
During the opening Town Hall Jan. 17 at the MassMutual Center, retired right-handed pitcher Pedro Martinez tried to ease the anxiety some people may have about the status of the team while the MLB investigation is pending.
“We love you [the fans]. We love you. We care about you. Everything is going to be alright,” said Martinez to the crowd.
The main buzz and excitement that seemed to permeate through the crowd all weekend was the discussion over who will take the job of Red Sox manager after Cora’s departure. The most prominent name being thrown around by fans was former catcher and captain Jason Varitek.
Varitek happened to be on stage during the question and answer session in the “Reunion of Champions” panel in which members of the 2004, 2007, and 2013 Sox team answered as many fan questions as they could. One fan asked a fairly typical question for such a panel, but before he stepped away from the microphone, he ended it by exclamation that Varitek should become the new skipper.
This statement drew one of the loudest cheers to be heard all weekend, showing that there would be fan support should owner John Henry and Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom pursue the former captain for the role. Varitek did not comment publicly if he would take the job.
The MLB has remained mostly silent on the status of the investigation of the Red Sox, although early reports indicate that any sort of sign stealing they engaged in during the 2018 season was not nearly as severe as that of the Houston Astros. The Astros were punished with a $5 million fine, the loss of many draft picks, and the one-year suspensions of Manager AJ Hinch and General Manager Jeff Lunhow for their sign stealing system during their World Series winning 2017 season.
All-in-all it seemed that those attending Winter Weekend were content to enjoy the moment while they could and celebrate some of the older players and teams that the Sox fielded over the years. Such enjoyment may be fleeting, however, because Spring Training for the MLB begins in exactly one month, and the future of the Red Sox has never been more uncertain.