As a minor league manager, Hobson used his own intimidating style with success: In 1991, at Triple A Pawtucket, he was voted the Minor League Manager of the Year. "He can't stand to see someone who doesn't get the most out of his ability," says Red Sox third baseman Scott Cooper, who played for Hobson last year. "He's the first to let you know when you screw up, but the first to pat you on the back when you do something right. He was hard on me. Real hard."
He was harder on catcher Todd Pratt. "My second year at Double A, in 1989, I was out late one night, and he knew it," says Pratt, now in the Phillie organization. "The next day he had me run 25 poles—corner to corner of the field. Every time I passed him, he cussed me. He dropped some serious F-bombs. He said, 'Do you know how good you are? Do you know how you're wasting your ability?' He said it under his breath; no one heard it but me. That day, he became a father figure to me. He made me more mature. I played three years for him, but he matured me by about six years."
"He has that effect on people," says Cooper. "He'd be so fired up in the dugout, I'd look at him and say to myself, 'Hell, I'm a player, I should be that fired up, too.' "
But will Hobson have that effect on major league millionaires? Will he have a maturing influence on a Clemens? Will he make a Greenwell run 25 poles? Will they respond?
The Red Sox front-office people are counting on it. That's why they promoted him. He's their hired gun, like Newman in Hombre; their tough guy, like Newman in Cool Hand Luke; their emotional leader, like Newman in Slap Shot. "The atmosphere [last year] indicated that we needed a change, a completely fresh look," says Red Sox general partner Haywood Sullivan. "Getting along with the guys, keeping everyone organized and interested, that's the biggest part of managing. He's been in prickly situations already and handled them well. If he gains their respect, they'll behave. They'll test you. Being the manager in Boston, he'll be tested daily."
Morgan, 61, passed most tests but by the end of last year had lost control of the clubhouse and had reportedly been overpowered by some veterans like Clemens, outfielder Tom Brunansky and designated hitter Jack Clark. "I think the game has passed Joe by," says Clark. "That's not a knock. This is the '90s. The game has changed. Salaries are astronomical. If a change had to be made, the right change was made. We get a fired-up manager. You want to play for a guy like him."
Hobson's managing philosophy is simple: "I'm not asking them to do anything I wouldn't do. Just play hard. I don't think today's player has changed much. They want someone to motivate them. They want to know their manager will fight for them. I will. I'm aggressive. If that means I'm a hard-ass, a tough guy, then that's what I am. Does that work as a manager? I think so. We'll be doing things differently here, and I've talked to the players about it. They've told me, 'Hey, you're the manager. It's your decision.' I don't know how I'll react if someone loafs to first base, because I don't think it's going to happen."
Oh, it will. Says Zimmer, "Thirty-five years ago, there were dogs, and there are dogs today. Thirty-five years ago, there were guys who played hard. Today, there are guys who play hard. The game hasn't changed. I think Butch will have discipline, he'll be his own man, he'll be fair. He's going to be a player's manager. He's not coming in here like Hitler."
Hobson's camp looks no different than any other manager's: There are no tackling dummies, no coaching tower, no barbed wire. "He's working us a lot harder than Morgan did, but nobody really minds," Reardon says. Says Pratt, "The first month and a half at Pawtucket last year, some of the older players bitched and complained about all the work. After that, everyone respected him."
Hobson's level of respect here will be measured in part by his ongoing handling of his star pitcher. Clemens has become bigger than the team; his failure to report with everyone else was merely more evidence of that. He then heightened the insult to his new manager by saying from Houston that if he were in camp, he would just "be standing around spitting sunflower seeds." Hobson quietly seethed as he waited: "When Roger gets here, he and I will go in and get our heads together. He's from Texas. I'm from Alabama. I'm tough. I'm gritty. I'm mean."