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Posted on: November 29, 2011 5:13 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:28 pm
 

Giants' Sabean: 'I don't anticipate a big splash'

The news peg for the Giants on Tuesday was the ballclub extending the contracts of general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy through 2013, with club options for 2014.

That order of business out of the way, understand this as the Giants charge full-speed ahead -- such as it is -- toward building their 2012 team this winter: Those fabled splash hits at AT&T Park are a far different thing from a big splash free agent signing.

"There won't be a big splash," Sabean said on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. "We are in concert through Larry Baer [club president] and our partnership that our pitching is our gold standard.

"Whatever we attempt, we have to make sure we take care of that commodity first."

San Francisco's clear goal this winter is to beef up an offense that ranked 29th in the majors in runs scored last summer.

But that also likely will not include another free agent, one who finished 2011 with the Giants: Outfielder Carlos Beltran.

"A lot of conversations," Sabean said. "We're going to have a conference-call update [internal] on where we're at after this call.

"I would say it's a fluid situation, as well as other situations we're in on."

Baer confirmed that the Giants expect to manage a 2012 payroll of about $130 million, up a tick from the $125 million at which San Francisco finished the season. That doesn't leave much wiggle room for normal arbitration raises, let alone free agency.

"The best way to phrase it is, he is a consideration but [length of contract] will be an issue with anybody we pursue," Sabean said of Beltran. "Whether it's him or anybody else. We have a very definitive game plan on each conversation on what we think is a reasonable length."

As they look to upgrade their offense, the logical areas for the Giants -- who already have traded for Melky Cabrera this winter -- are a corner outfield slot or shortstop. One thing Sabean and Bochy will hash out in the coming days is whether they think Brandon Crawford, who started last season at Class A San Jose, is capable of playing there every day in the majors.

Sabean watched Crawford in the Arizona Fall League and was impressed with Crawford's progress, however incremental.

"Around the end of the Fall League, he certainly was impressive," Sabean said. "I was able to see him in person quite a bit. We know what his glove brings. He's trying like hell to make adjustments at home plate. Albeit it's not major league pitching, but he's doing what we asked him to do -- put the ball in play, [swing at pitches] at the belt and below and stay off of the high fastball, which has been his kryptonite."

Crawford hit .204 with 22 runs scored in 64 games for the Giants last season. But unless Sabean can find a hidden gem, it sounds like he may get a real shot this spring. Forget Reyes, Jimmy Rollins right now isn't a fit in San Francisco's payroll.

"It's going to be a function of what's left in the payroll, and what the price point is," Sabean said of Rollins. "Any acquisition is in the eyes of the beholder. A sticker-shock-type, I don't anticipate a big splash. Or let's say a household name, per se."
Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:07 am
 

BoSox manager decision to drag out later in week

The curious case of the Red Sox manager search drags on: Though Boston appears close to choosing between veteran baseball men Bobby Valentine and Gene Lamont, that decision will not come on Tuesday, according to sources with knowledge of the Red Sox plans.

With Valentine apparently flying home from Japan on Tuesday, speculation early Monday centered on the Sox informing the two men of their choice later Tuesday. But Boston is said to not be ready to make a decision by then.

Industry speculation has Valentine, 61, as the favorite to get the job, though he is nowhere close to the parameters of the first group of candidates brought in to interview by the Red Sox. New general manager Ben Cherington appeared to be looking for a solid baseball man without much managerial pedigree, a guy who would grow into the Boston job and may be open to front-office suggestions.

That man is not Valentine, who will do things his own way -- and who was contacted by Red Sox president Larry Lucchino after Dale Sveum accepted the Cubs job. Sveum was among the first group to interview with Boston and appeared to be Cherington's first choice.

Valentine guided the Mets to their last World Series appearance in 2000, managing them for parts of seven seasons after piloting the Rangers for parts of eight seasons.

Lamont, 64, is Detroit's third-base coach, managed the White Sox from 1992-1995 and was named as AL Manager of the Year in '93 when the Sox won the AL West title. He had the Sox in first place again in 1994 when the players' strike occurred and the season was wiped out. He also managed Pittsburgh from 1997-2000.
Posted on: November 28, 2011 10:15 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 11:29 pm
 

Astros obtain permission to talk with Friedman

It's a long way from job offered and job accepted, but the Astros on Tuesday obtained permission from Tampa Bay to speak with general manager Andrew Friedman, sources with knowledge of the talks confirmed to CBSSports.com.

New Astros owner Jim Crane, wasting no time after a firing GM Ed Wade and president of baseball operations Tal Smith, is setting his sights on the man widely considered to be one of the top executives in the game. That Friedman is only 35 and is a Houston native are both happy coincidences -- and, as for Friedman's hometown, one huge chip the Astros apparently hope they can cash in.

With Friedman in the GM's seat, Tampa Bay has won two AL East titles in the past four seasons. The Rays also earned an American League wild-card berth another of those years. The Red Sox, by comparison, have won only one AL East title in the past 16 seasons.

Friedman also spoke with the Angels earlier this winter, though he never reached the point where he waded too deeply into the interview process in either place. He absolutely loves his situation in Tampa Bay with owner Stuart Sternberg, club president Matt Silverman and manager Joe Maddon, according to multiple sources, and is not looking to leave.

Whether the pull of his hometown Astros would be enough will be determined in the near future, though sources indicate that it still would be a surprise if Friedman does leave his current situation. With the baseball winter meetings convening next week in Dallas, Houston is looking to move quickly -- though the Astros almost certainly will not have a new man on the job by then.

News that the Astros have obtained permission from the Rays to speak with Friedman was first reported by Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice.
Posted on: November 28, 2011 9:11 pm
 

Rockies, Angels look to upgrade catching

It's no secret that both the Rockies and the Angels are looking to upgrade behind the plate this winter.

Whether they can do so in tandem remains to be seen, but the Rockies are working on it.

While pursuing free agent Ramon Hernandez, who spent the past three seasons in Cincinnati, the Rockies have approached the Angels about a deal that would send Chris Iannetta to Anaheim.

The Angels, working under new general manager Jerry DiPoto, declined the offer -- sources said Monday that the "talks did not go very far" -- but the proposal is one that bears watching. The Rockies remain hopeful that if they are able to snag Hernandez, the Angels could provide a landing place for Iannetta.

In addition to catching help, the Rockies also are in the market for a second and a third baseman this winter. They made a strong run at both Jamey Carroll (who signed a two-year deal with the Twins) and Mark Ellis (two years with the Dodgers). They did sign ex-Angels and Pirates infielder Brandon Wood.

With ex-Angel Mike Napoli's October exploits for the Rangers serving as a sledgehammer reminding everyone how short Los Angeles is behind the plate, the Angels are hoping to fill the void this winter. They do not view Hank Conger as being close to a finished product yet, and Bobby Wilson is a backup. The Angels are expected to non-tender Jeff Mathis.

Hernandez is coming off of a one-year, $3 million deal in Cincinnati last season. Iannetta is due $3.55 million in 2012. He will become a free agent after that if he is traded, as a deal automatically would void a $5 million club option for 2013.




Posted on: November 18, 2011 6:21 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 6:28 pm
 

Red Sox look directionless in talking Bobby V

News that the Red Sox are talking with Bobby Valentine appears to mean one of two things for the flailing Bostons, who now are the only major-league team without a manager:

1. There is a total lack of direction and the Red Sox don't even know what they want anymore.

2. Ownership has seized the steering wheel from rookie general manager Ben Cherington and now is controlling the process.

Either scenario is not good, a far cry from the well-oiled machine that won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.

The first scenario is evidenced by the dramatic contrast between Valentine and the initial group of candidates they interviewed: Dale Sveum, who was named Cubs manager Friday, Sandy Alomar Jr., Gene Lamont, Pete Mackanin and Torey Lovullo. Of that group, only Lamont has prior major-league managerial experience (Mackanin was the Pirates' interim manager in 2005 and the Reds' interim pilot in 2007). All of those guys veer toward the quiet and unassuming and, to an extent, could be controlled by management. Valentine is brash, has years of experience and is his own man.

The second scenario is evidenced by the fact that Sveum veered in the Cubs' direction in short order following a lunch with Red Sox ownership on Wednesday. He was the only candidate brought back for a second interview. Clearly things did not click between Sveum and Boston's ownership. What we don't know is whether Sveum told Boston the Cubs were his first choice or whether Red Sox ownership pulled the plug on him.

Either way, it speaks volumes.

Obviously, Cherington did not think experience was a necessity when this process started. Valentine was on the shelf, available, when Terry Francona was let go. If the Red Sox were that interested in Valentine, they could have had him in place weeks ago. Why waste time first-dating all those first-timers?

Unless ... they arrived at Valentine once ownership lost confidence in Cherington.

Now there are more questions than answers:

-- Has aggressive president Larry Lucchino been turned loose by co-owners John Henry and Tom Werner to do his thing after being kept away from baseball operations during Theo Epstein's last few years in Boston?

-- By hiring Sveum, did Theo and Co. sting the Red Sox enough that Lucchino and Co. looking to one-up the Cubs with a splashy hire?

-- With his outsized personality, how much fun would Valentine be managing the Red Sox mixing with the outsized egos of ownership, the outsized coverage of the local media and the outsized noise from the New England fans?

-- How does Cherington regain his balance after his legs were cut out from under him this week and command authority going forward? Is it even possible?

At this rate, the Red Sox may take until Valentine's Day to have a manager in place. Or maybe (Bobby) Valentine's Day will come early to Boston.
Posted on: November 17, 2011 12:03 am
Edited on: November 17, 2011 2:41 pm
 

Cubs make it official: Dale Sveum is new manager

Dale Sveum is in place as the new manager of the Chicago Cubs. The club made it official Thursday and will formally introduce him at a Wrigley Field news conference on Friday.

As the Red Sox prepared for an 11th-hour expansion of their managerial search, sources said late Wednesday night that the Cubs had offered their position to Sveum. By midday Wednesday, he had agreed to a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth to replace Mike Quade in the Cubs dugout as the Red Sox regrouped.

Sveum was brought back for a second interview by both the Cubs and the Red Sox as the two venerable franchises lurched toward Thanksgiving looking to fill managerial vacancies. He met with Boston's brass in Milwaukee, site of the general managers' and owners' meetings this week, a second time over lunch on Wednesday.

While there were growing indications in recent days that Sveum preferred the Cubs' job to that of the Red Sox, Boston officials acknowledged late Wednesday night that they will expand their search. Sveum had been the only candidate invited back for a second interview by the Red Sox.

Sveum, who was Boston's third-base coach in 2004 and 2005, will re-join new Chicago president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer as the Cubs look to dig out of the mess of a 91-loss season that left them fifth in the NL Central last summer.

Sveum has been on Milwaukee's coaching staff for the past six seasons, and has served as the Brewers' hitting coach for the past three seasons, and his choice could be viewed as odd given that Milwaukee twice bypassed Sveum when its own manager's job was open.

In 2008, during one of the strangest finishes to a season for a playoff team in memory, the Brewers fired Ned Yost and replaced him on an interim basis with Sveum with just 12 games remaining.

However, instead of making Sveum their full-time manager, general manager Doug Melvin instead hired veteran baseball man Ken Macha. Then, when he fired Macha following the 2010 season, Melvin hired Ron Roenicke.

Reasons? Back in '08, the Brewers weren't sure Sveum, now 47, was ready for a managerial gig. Plus, Melvin philosophically is not a fan of hiring interim managers. The Brewers still weren't convinced that Sveum was ready after the 2010 season.

They are now.

"I think Dale's ready to manage," Melvin said Wednesday afternoon. "He's well-prepared, organized and conscientious. He's someone the players will like."

Both the Cubs and Red Sox viewed Sveum as being ready. And the Brewers have only good things to say about a man who has been loyal throughout when others may have fled the organization after being bypassed for the full-time manager's job.

"It was a very unfortunate situation at the time," Sveum said when we talked in mid-September about his brief interim gig in '08 and his reasons for staying in Milwaukee afterward. "I only managed for 12 days and then the playoffs. It wasn't like I was there for three months or something. It wasn't the norm where you think you deserve the job."

He said in September that he still wanted to manage and thought, given the right situation, he was ready to do so.

The Cubs may not be perfect, but they're the right situation. While Boston's roster is far more talented, Sveum lives in the off-season in Scottsdale, Ariz., not far from the Cubs' spring training base in Mesa. Boston trains in Florida.

Also, as a rookie manager, because the Cubs are not expected to win in 2012, Sveum will not face the same pressure he would have faced in Boston. He will have time to get his feet under him and break into the job (though Cubs fans who suffered while Mike Quade did the same in 2011 surely will not want to hear that).

During Sveum's 12-year major-league playing career, he spent time in Milwaukee (five seasons), Philadelphia, Chicago (White Sox), Oakland, Seattle, Pittsburgh and New York (Yankees). A cousin of former big leaguer John Olerud, Sveum managed Double-A Altoona in Pittsburgh's organization from 2001 through 2003 before joining the Red Sox coaching staff.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 5:35 pm
 

Maddon, Gibson representative of modern managers

More than ever, managers come in all shapes and sizes.

Two new skippers named this offseason -- St. Louis' Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura of the White Sox -- have never managed before in their lives.

Mike Quade had managed more than 2,000 minor-league games when the Cubs hired him last year.

So in this modern context, it couldn't have been more fitting that Joe Maddon (American League) and Kirk Gibson (National League) were named as Managers of the Year on Wednesday in voting by the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America.

Before the Rays named him as manager in 2006, Maddon spent 31 years in professional baseball with the Angels, the first 12 at the minor-league level as a manager or instructor.

When Gibson was named by the Diamondbacks as their manager last winter, before his three-month stint as their interim skipper in 2009, he had never managed at any level.

"As players, and if you talk to Mike and Robin I'm sure they feel this way, you always believe you can do stuff," Gibson said on a conference call Wednesday. "You always want to believe you are something more than you are.

"I was fortunate to fall into a good situation. I was familiar with the team and the organization because I had been in it."

Gibson, who came to the Diamondbacks as their bench coach in 2007, cited the belief and support of a front office led by president Derrick Hall and general manager Kevin Towers, who helped him put together a coaching staff that, philosophically, all hold similar beliefs and core values.

"They stood behind me when I maybe did something unconventional," Gibson, 54, said. "When I hear somebody say I did something unconventional it makes me smile because sabermetrics and numbers are a part of the game where applicable, but sometimes you need to fail to become a good ballplayer. Sometimes you need to fail to become a good team.

"When you've been in the game a long time, it helps you. I coached youth hockey and I coached youth baseball. That was instrumental. I spent five years in the television booth. That was helpful.

"You look at everyone's path, and if you utilize your resources properly, you can do well. [Matheny and Ventura are] great baseball minds. If the support is there, they will succeed."

Maddon, 57, managed rookie ball in Idaho Falls (1981), Single A in Salem, Ore. (1982-1983), and in Peoria, Ill. (1984) and Double-A in Midland, Tex. (1985-1986) before spending several seasons as a roving minor-league instructor before joining the Angels' big-league staff in 1994.

"I like the way I was able to get here," Maddon said Wednesday. "I'm very grateful.

"I'm always interested in the struggle. It's hard to say you have more fun after the struggle than you have during it."

Both Maddon and Gibson prefaced their remarks by noting they were speaking about their own situations, not those of Matheny or Ventura.

Maddon, known for his unconventional and creative way of thinking, honed some of those skills during his journey to the majors -- not after it.

"I'm so grateful I had all those years in the minor leagues," Maddon said. "A lot of things that are so-called 'outside the box', I had a chance to try those things in Salem, Ore., Midland, Tex., Peoria, Ill. I had a chance to try some of that stuff.

"You figure out what mistakes you've made, what you said to a guy and how he reacted. ... For me, I can't imagine what I'd do now without that experience.

"Having said all that, it's a little different now because a lot of the job today is not on the field. It's what happens in the clubhouse, dealing with personalities, having the ability to interact with the media."

But the bottom line today is the same as it was a generation ago: Winning.

Maddon is a new-age thinker in an old-school body.

Gibson, in turning a 97-loss Arizona team into 2011 NL West champions, helped blaze the trail for managerial neophytes like Matheny and Ventura to debut in the majors.

Together on Wednesday, they presented a pretty good snapshot of where today's managers are -- and where they come from.
Posted on: November 14, 2011 4:08 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 4:28 pm
 

Matt Kemp joining elite group with new deal

Turns out, bankruptcy was a minor little inconvenience on the road to forever between the Dodgers and Matt Kemp: The two have agreed to an eight-year, $160 million contract extension pending the outfielder passing a physical examination, CBSSports.com has confirmed.

Talk about a serious commitment. Only six men in baseball history had reached the $160-million mark: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez.

Now, Kemp.

For those with a sense of humor ... or a sense of irony ... Kemp's deal is for the same numbers -- years and dollars -- that Ramirez received from Boston before the 2001 season.

In becoming the face of the Dodgers for years to come and en route to serious MVP consideration, Kemp first had to blow past comeback player of the year.

It was barely more than a year ago when Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti delivered harsh criticism of Kemp's defense and focus.

But after the disappointment of 2010 came a sensational 2011 in which Kemp batted .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBI. He led the league in homers, RBIs, runs (115) and total bases (353), and he swiped 40 bases.

And in one more bit of irony, the man who now will remain in Hollywood will stay in part because he went a little less Hollywood last summer. Those close to Kemp do not think it is a coincidence that he took his game to a different level after his high-profile romance with Rihanna blew up.

"I think he has less distractions in his life -- from my perspective," third baseman Casey Blake, one of Kemp's closest friends on the 2011 team, told me late last summer. "This game, some guys can do it with a million things going on. But this game is tough enough by itself.

"It's a hard game, and it seems like you're always dealing with a lot of thoughts of failure. The more you can lessen those thoughts, the better. The fact that he doesn't have some of those distractions anymore. ..."

Blake told me he thought Kemp had made a conscious effort to simplify things in his life, and it worked.

"I think he was embarrassed by a lot of things," Blake said, referring to Kemp's 2010 season in which he batted just .249 with a .310 on-base percentage, 28 homers and 89 RBIs. "And he made up his mind he was going to get serious about it."

The off-field stuff, the Rihanna romance, "I think they all directly related," Blake said.

Blake could tell Kemp was more focused in 2011 from the first day of spring training.

"He showed it in his attitude and in his play," Blake said. "How he went about it, from day one.

"He's respecting the game a lot more this year. He has an understanding that to be a complete player, you can't take a day off -- whether it's on the bases, on defense, anywhere."

Today, that respect is coming right back at Kemp to the tune of $160 million ... and a trust the Dodgers are placing in him that maybe you can't even hang a price tag on.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com