Getting to know Red Sox managerial candidate James Rowson

John Tomase
·3 min read

Tomase: This Red Sox managerial candidate is arguably the most intriguing originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Calling James Rowson a mere hitting coach understates his impact, so the Marlins reached across sports last winter when they made him Don Mattingly's bench coach and added a new title -- offensive coordinator.

Rowson's résumé spoke for itself.

As Cubs hitting coach for parts of 2012 and 2013, he helped Anthony Rizzo grow into an All-Star.

As Yankees minor league hitting coordinator for the next three years, he oversaw the development of Baby Bombers like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.

And during his three years as Twins hitting coach, he helped transform Minnesota's lineup from punchless to historic, en route to a record-setting 307 home runs in 2019.

If Rowson wanted to manage, however, he'd need a promotion, and that's exactly what the Marlins gave him. He spent the truncated 2020 season at Mattingly's side as Miami shocked the sport by winning 31 games and reaching the playoffs, where it swept the Cubs in the wild card round before falling to the Braves in the division series.

That performance helped boost Rowson's stock, which is how he has come to be the most intriguing of Red Sox managerial candidates.

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The 44-year-old has already interviewed, according to the Boston Globe, and was one of five potential finalists cited by MLB insider Jon Heyman, alongside Phillies player information coordinator Sam Fuld, Pirates bench coach Don Kelly, Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza, and former Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

Rowson's offensive background would make him a unique choice. The Bronx native was drafted in the ninth round in 1994 out of high school by the Mariners, but never advanced beyond High-A. After coaching in the Angels system, he became Yankees minor league hitting coordinator in 2006, helping develop future big leaguers like Austin Jackson, Jesus Montero, and Sanchez.

In Minnesota, he was known for marrying analytics to individual instruction without worshipping at the one-size-fits-all altar of launch angle. "The approach is not to hit home runs," he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 2019. "The approach is to get good pitches and hit them hard, and more than anything to be yourself in each at-bat."

That led to his promotion in Miami and the new unofficial title that better conveys his approach to the offensive side of the game, where he is considered an easygoing and gifted communicator.

"When you look at the NFL and the scheme that they have, they do a good job, and I think baseball can fall into that mold a little bit," Rowson told the Miami Herald. "The hitting side of it is really about run production. You never really look at the hit column as much as you do the runs scored column.

"It just came about looking at the NFL model and thinking maybe there's that one guy that can kind of go in between and help give Donnie the outlook of the offensive side of the game because you have a grip on the hitting, the baserunning, the bunting, the total offensive scheme of how we score runs."

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The Marlins may not have been an offensive powerhouse, but they improved across the board. After ranking last in the NL in runs, homers, and on base percentage in 2019, they improved to 11th, 12th, and ninth in those categories, respectively, with unheralded performers like shortstop Miguel Rojas, third baseman Brian Anderson, and DH Garrett Cooper joining former All-Star Jesus Aguilar as lineup linchpins.

In Boston, Rowson would have an opportunity to put his stamp on an entire organization, and not just the offense. Maybe he'll hire his own coordinator for that.