Posted on: November 18, 2011 6:21 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 6:28 pm
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 13, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2011 6:50 pm
The Cardinals on Sunday named former big league catcher Mike Matheny as their new manager and will formally introduce him in a news conference on Monday morning in St. Louis.
Presumably, they've already handed Matheny a guidebook blueprint for replacing an all-time legend (Tony La Russa), taking over a World Series champion as a rookie skipper and making a managerial debut in the big leagues -- not in the minor leagues.
The truth? The only way Matheny's debut job could be any more difficult is if the club loses icon Albert Pujols via free agency.
Wait, hold that thought!
While Pujols was being wined and dined by the Miami Marlins over the weekend, the Cardinals whittled their short list of La Russa replacements to a final one.
The contrast between him and La Russa could not be more stark:
La Russa managed more games than any manager in major-league history after Connie Mack.
Matheny, 40, spent part of last season as a roving minor-league instructor for the Cardinals, and part of it in the St. Louis broadcast booth. He has never been a manager.
He has, however, managed games from behind the plate as a catcher for 13 years in Milwaukee, Toronto, St. Louis and San Francisco. He spent five years behind the plate for La Russa's Cardinals, from 2000-2004, and during that time forged a solid relationship and earned a tremendous amount of respect from La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan.
How much? As Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote earlier this month, La Russa once described Matheny "as the only big-league ballplayer he'd let one of his daughters marry." As Strauss noted then, the fact that the Cardinals would consider allowing Matheny to become their next manager might be nearly as impressive.
Matheny was said by industry sources to have been very impressive when he went through the Cardinal interview process earlier this month. That surely came as no surprise to general manager John Mozeliak and the club, given that Matheny was a clubhouse leader during his time in St. Louis whose leadership qualities were unquestioned.
That, and Matheny's familiarity with the Cardinals organization are the qualities that the club hopes make for a smooth transition. As a player, his attention to detail was evident, among many other areas, in the four Gold Gloves he won -- three of them while wearing a Cardinals uniform. He also helped mentor a young Yadier Molina, a relationship that should grow further and work as one of St. Louis' strengths in 2012.
One key for an inexperienced manager is his staff, and with Duncan expected to return, Matheny will have the game's most respected pitching coach at his right hand.
Another important hire will be Matheny's bench coach, presumably a veteran man with managerial experience. Colleague Danny Knobler is hearing that former Red Sox and Dodgers manager Grady Little is a possibility to join Matheny in St. Louis.
Matheny was chosen ahead of five other candidates: Terry Francona, who most recently managed the Red Sox; Chris Maloney, who managed St. Louis' Triple-A affiliate in Memphis last year; Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Famer and former Cubs star who managed Philadelphia's Triple-A affiliate; Joe McEwing, who managed the White Sox Triple-A affiliate, and Jose Oquendo, the Cardinals' third-base coach.
Posted on: February 19, 2011 7:56 pm
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Outtakes from the Red Sox camp, and a reminder to look beneath the gaudy exterior of Boston's winter:
"There's no getting around the fact that last year we lost way too many games, or the chance to win games, late," manager Terry Francona says.
For one thing, closer Jonathan Papelbon, eligible for free agency this winter, had his worst season in 2010, posting a 3.90 ERA and blowing seven saves.
For another, partly because of Papelbon's blowups, the Sox ranked 14th among AL bullpens with a 4.24 bullpen ERA. Furthermore, Boston as a team ranked 23rd in the majors in allowing an average of 4.60 runs per game.
Wheeler and Jenks maybe are under the radar to the average fan, but you'd better believe they're not around here.
"There are a lot of ways a good team can get off track and get derailed," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein told me during a weekend conversation on one of the Boston practice fields. "There is no way that's as painful as having a bad bullpen, or running out of quality guys out there."
To that extent, Epstein said, the Sox really wanted to focus on bullpen depth this winter -- and not just the first seven or eight guys, but nine and 10 deep.
"Jenks, we all assumed, was going to get a closer gig," Epstein said. "Everyone in the game thought he was going to be non-tendered, but he actually turned down a couple of closer roles to come here, which we all appreciate."
Working behind Papelbon and set-up man Daniel Bard, and alongside Hideki Okajima, Scott Atchison, Matt Albers and others, mark it down: Jenks and Wheeler will be pivotal weapons for Francona this summer.
"There's no getting around the fact that last year we lost too many games, or the chance to win games, late," the manager said. "We felt like we were going to Bard too much, or wanting to go to Bard too much. I don't think we did. But we lost games late, and then there were games that were close where we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win like good teams should.
"I think we feel like we have some reinforcements. We're a little bit deeper, and that's the hope. Because last year was difficult."
-- Jenks declined to say which clubs he turned down this winter, simply saying the chance to sign not only in Boston, but with a fully loaded Red Sox team, was too good to turn down.
"It's a great organization and somewhere I wanted to play," Jenks said. "I didn't think it would be this soon. But once the opportunity came around, I jumped on it.
"It didn't hurt that they had made all of these moves, too."
The Sox traded for Gonzalez on Dec. 5, signed Crawford on Dec. 13 and signed Jenks on Dec. 21, three days after they signed Wheeler.
After closing for the White Sox for his entire career, Jenks signed specifically to be a set-up man. But you know how things work -- if Papelbon struggles like last summer, Francona has options.
Especially if Jenks feels as good as he does right now. Struck by elbow inflammation last season, Jenks says it's a thing of the past, and various X-rays and MRIs seem to support him.
Jenks is 29, posted a career-high 4.44 ERA last year but has 173 career saves over six seasons. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract with Boston.
"I came here knowing my role," he says. "It's an eighth-inning, seventh-inning thing, a set-up role. I feel very good. Terrific. Nothing from last year is bothering me."
-- Francona on the bullpen: "We've had pretty good teams here, and I think those things have a way of evolving. ... I do know the teams that we've had here that have been really good, our bullpens have always been good. It's hard to have a really good team and not
Likes: The optimism of early spring in every camp. ... Lakeland. Passed through there the other day and it's like a town caught in the 1970s. Love the marquee outside the Southside Cleaners that without fail, every year, keeps cheesy sayings on its marquee. On one side this year, it read: "To err is human, to purr is feline." On the other side: "Synonym: A word you use when you can't spell the other word." ... Then, the marquee at the church down the street checked in with "A daily prayer reduces your cares." ... The gumbo and crawfish etouffee remain superb at Harry's Seafood Bar and Grill in Lakeland. ... Dairy Queen. ... Buddy Guy's performance with the Rolling Stones on Champagne and Reefer is reason alone to Netflix Shine a Light. Knockout stuff.
Dislikes: New year, new batting practice and spring training jerseys. Every chance to try and soak more money out of the fans. Detroit's are navy blue with white shoulders. What the hell? Looks awful. Cincinati's have a ridiculously large "Reds" scripted across the front. Loved Brandon Phillips' tweet in reply to a fan who asked what he thought of them: "It's NOT my cup of tea, but I'm happy to have one, though."
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well, the plane touched down just about 3 o'clock
-- Zac Brown Band, Toes
Posted on: April 14, 2010 1:27 pm
MINNEAPOLIS -- Red Sox leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury was out of the lineup for a second consecutive game Wednesday with bruised ribs, and the Boston left fielder may wind up missing the entire series here.
"Realistically it might be until we get back to Boston [before he plays]," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before Wednesday's game here. "The soreness is getting more centrally isolated, which is good."
Ellsbury was injured Sunday in Kansas City when he collided with third baseman Adrian Beltre trying to make a play in the ninth inning. He left that game and hasn't played since, although X-rays at least showed that there were no breaks.
Moved to center field this year to accommodate Mike Cameron in center, Ellsbury had multiple hits in four of his six games this season. Without him, shortstop Marco Scutaro hit leadoff Monday and again Wednesday in Minnesota.
"We told him this spring that there would be plenty of times he would lead off," Francona said. "He's good at it."
The Sox just hoped it wouldn't be so soon. Though Scutaro did go 2 for 4 with a couple of singles in Monday's 5-2 loss.
Posted on: April 8, 2010 12:02 am
Edited on: April 8, 2010 12:15 am
Yes, it would have made sense on paper for manager Terry Francona to use right-handed hitter Mike Lowell as his designated hitter against Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte on Wednesday instead of Ortiz, who staggered into the game 0-for-7 and already is showing signs of stress by profanely lashing out at reporters after Tuesday's loss.
But Francona isn't managing on paper and, right now, he's not even managing for one night.
He's managing for the rest of the season. And one man he cannot lose in 2010 is Ortiz.
At least, not until an apparently deteriorating Ortiz reaches the point of no return.
And two or three games into a season is not that point.
One month ago, during a conversation in Francona's spring training office, we talked about the possibility of Boston using Lowell as a DH in certain situations. You know, platooning with Ortiz.
"I really don't want to look at [Ortiz] like that," Francona said. "He's our full-time DH. For us to be as good as we want to be, if he is the full-time DH, we're probably a better team.
"If we ever got to the point where he wasn't, something went wrong. That's not what we're looking for."
That's especially not what the Red Sox are looking for two and three games into the season.
Ortiz was hitting .367 against Pettitte over his career when Wednesday night's game started. Lowell was at .345 against Pettitte.
Ortiz struggled badly against lefties last year, going .212 against them with a .298 on-base percentage. The Sox were -- and are -- hoping that those numbers are simply a manifestation of his overall struggles last year and nothing more. Career, including last year, Ortiz is hitting .261 with a .337 OBP against lefties.
"You get into some bad habits, and he was trying to cheat to get to pitches anyway ... you start doing that with lefties, now it opens up both sides of the plate," Francona said this spring. "Because David, I think, career-wise his numbers certainly are lower against left-handers, but they were still dangerous.
"If he's hitting, he's going to hit. We usually pick a guy who he doesn't see well off of to give him a day off, anyway. That's not a problem.
"But we don't want to turn him into a platoon player."
Starting Lowell in place of Ortiz on Wednesday maybe would have made sense, given what has to be considered an alarming start for Ortiz (even if he doesn't see it that way).
But that would have sent a distressing signal to Ortiz, who could easily read that as an early vote of no confidence, and it would have needlessly fueled the Ortiz/Lowell platoon DH debate that is in the beginning stages.
"In my opinion, tonight would have been a good night to play Lowell," Francona told reporters in Boston before the game. "It would have been a bad night not to play David.
"Since they won't give us two DH's, I kind of have to make a decision."
You bet that decision will be to back Ortiz, and to do everything he can think of to get Big Papi going.
As it was, Ortiz went 1-for-4 in Wednesday's 3-1, 10-inning loss. He singled home Boston's only run, but he struck out twice and grounded out in his other three at-bats.
He's now hitting .091 for the season, and while he's even losing support in Fenway Park, he's right, it's still way too early to render any final judgments.
And Francona is right in that Wednesday night would have been a bad night not to play Ortiz.
As the manager said one month ago, if the Red Sox reach the point where Ortiz isn't the full-time DH, then something went wrong.
Three games into the season, it's a little early for things to go permanently wrong.
Posted on: March 8, 2010 11:56 pm
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Not long after third baseman Adrian Beltre arrived at his new home, he and Mike Lowell had a talk. It wasn't a major summit. The two were simply out on one of the practice fields when Lowell approached him, the two said hello and they then carefully broached the 800-pound elephant in the infield.
Lowell, 36 and recovering from thumb surgery, is being moved out to the Shady Acres Rest Home by the Red Sox.
Beltre, who will turn 31 on April 7 and is signed to a one-year, $10 million deal for 2010 with a player option for 2011, is replacing him.
The complicating factor, of course, is that Boston had Lowell traded to Texas over the winter but the Rangers nixed the trade after Lowell failed the physical because of the thumb.
So Lowell, due $12 million this year, is rehabbing while in a holding pattern. The Red Sox quietly pray he shows enough this exhibition season that they'll be able to trade him.
"Most people probably think it's uncomfortable," Beltre says. "But for us, not at all."
That the two are co-existing this spring is a tribute to Lowell's class and grace as one of the club's elder statesmen, and to Beltre's ability to walk gingerly through what is undoubtedly, at times, an uneasy start with his new employer.
"It's not easy," Beltre says. "He's been one of the best third basemen in the big leagues for the last 10 years. I've been a big fan of his. For me, he has one of the best [sets of] hands of any third baseman. It's just a situation where he's been hurt the last couple of years. ... It's not easy to be in his situation. Everybody knows he can play.
"We both want what's best. He wants to play. I want to play."
Lowell was the MVP of the 2007 World Series. He's been a good player for the Red Sox and pure class in the clubhouse. Yet, he committed the cardinal sin of getting older and breaking down. The hip. The thumb. The gray hairs.
He's a fan favorite and beloved by the Red Sox. But, hey, it's a business.
"He's a guy we really respect," manager Terry Francona says. "It can be a little bit difficult, to be honest with you. He's a guy who's earned that. He's been in the game a long time. All those things we talk about loyalty, he's earned it.
"Then, as an organization, we make decisions and they can be hard on guys sometimes. I think they really recognize that.
"So we just try to handle it the best we can. That's about as honest as I can be about that. Sometimes our evaluation doesn't match the player's evaluation And we understand that, too. And they can't. They never do. Anywhere."
Likes: Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia barking good naturedly at somebody across the clubhouse the minute I opened the door at 8 a.m. the other morning. The guy never stops, even before the coffee has kicked in. ... You've got to pull for young Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the nicest guys in the game. ... Long-time Boston radio man Jonny Miller, who always has asked all the hard questions for WBZ and whose non-stop work in the face of nasty back problems is an inspiration. ... I'm perfectly fine with The Hurt Locker winning the Oscar for best picture. I'm really, really happy Avatar, the most overrated flick of the year, didn't win. ... The Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons opening the boys' basketball District Tournament this week at Blissfield. Go get 'em, Falcons.
Dislikes: Exhibition games have barely started and, already, players are dropping left and right: St. Louis' MVP Albert Pujols (back), Minnesota closer Joe Nathan (elbow), Cubs reliever Angel Guzman (shoulder), Dodgers catcher Russell Martin (groin) and Kansas City third baseman Alex Gordon (broken finger) for starters. Martin is probably out four-to-six weeks minimum. Gordon is expected to miss at least two or three weeks. Guzman probably will be sidelined for the entire season and the Twins continue to hold their breath on Nathan. Meantime, the Cards say they aren't concerned with Pujols. Yet. Yikes.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"If midnight is an awful hour
-- B.B. King, Midnight Blues
Posted on: October 9, 2009 11:10 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Boston manager Terry Francona appeared over his food poisoning by the time Game 2 started. He said he felt much better following a rough night and was left with only a headache.
"I had a bad night," Francona said. "I just flat-out got food poisoning. Everybody's probably had it.
"Believe me when I tell you, I got rid of it."
• Staying in their comfort zone: In an unusual move, the Angels have decided to work out in Angel Stadium on Saturday before flying to Boston later in the day for Game 3 on Sunday.
Often, clubs leave immediately after the game and fly through the night to reach their destination and work out in the opposing ballpark the next day. In the past, the Angels have left on the morning of their travel day and then worked out in the opposition ballpark upon arrival.
"We did that last year and waited an hour-and-a-half for our [equipment] bags," manager Mike Scioscia said, recalling yet one more unpleasant Boston experience for the Angels. We finished the workout about midnight. So we're going to work out here [Saturday] before our flight. And then we'll get into Boston and get a good night's sleep and get ready to play."
• Jed Hoyer, Red Sox senior vice-president and assistant manager, is a strong candidate to succeed Kevin Towers as San Diego GM, according to industry sources. Hoyer is with the Sox here but declined comment on his candidacy for the Padres job, going so far as to refuse to even say whether or not he's interviewed. It's believed that he has.
• Most fascinating story of the weekend might be watching how the Cardinals respond following their gut-wrenching Game 2 loss to the Dodgers. Tony La Russa always is incredibly tightly wound anyway. If he's even worse and it reflects in his team, it could be three and out for the Cards. Here's their best chance: Joel Pineiro, who is underrated and has had a very good year, steps up to the challenge in Game 3. Then, you've got to like ace Chris Carpenter on short rest over the Dodgers' backsliding Chad Billingsley. Then, you could be looking at 2-2 and everyone heading back to Dodger Stadium for Game 5 on Tuesday.
Likes: Watching the Phillies' Charlie Manuel manage and never knowing what to expect next. Do you think he'll use any of his relievers the rest of the way? ... Love the time of year when every single pitch carries far-reaching and dramatic implications. ... Heroic effort from Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn in Game 2, but the Yankees are just too talented and too deep. ... Bobby Abreu's batting eye. The guy walked in each of four plate appearances in Game 1. Not the most exciting stuff, but you've really got to admire his discipline. "I've got my strike zone and I swing whenever I have to swing," Abreu says. "It's not like I'm going to waste my at-bat to make somebody happy." ... Dance the Night Away remains Van Halen's best song (and I like a lot of them). ... KLOS, 95.5 FM, Los Angeles' classic -- in every sense of the word -- rock station. ... Congratulations to the Falcons from Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High, who won another huge football game Friday night. My Falcons whipped Milan 25-13 in a Huron League game to run their record to 6-0 in the league and 6-1 overall. Another outstanding job of coaching (so far) by my old classmate and buddy Jack Giarmo.
Dislikes: Randy Marsh, CB Bucknor, Phil Cuzzi ... the list of umpires failing to distinguish themselves continues to grow.
"You love her
-- J. Geils Band, Love Stinks
Posted on: May 14, 2009 6:34 pm
While an overhwhelming majority of clubs are negotiating unsteady bullpens, the Boston Red Sox remain rock solid in part because of an under-the-radar trade they completed last November.
Right-hander Ramon Ramirez, acquired from the Royals for outfielder Coco Crisp, was not exactly a household name. Few middle relievers are, especially those in Kansas City. But Ramirez has been lights-out for Boston this season, going 4-0 so far with an 0.52 ERA (tied for third among AL relievers). He also ranks tied for third in the AL with five holds.
He's certainly not the only reason Boston's bullpen is fourth in the majors with a 3.20 ERA. There's still this closer named Jonathan Papelbon (a perfect nine-for-nine in save opportunities) and, as manager Terry Francona quickly reminds when you ask about Ramirez, "It's our whole bullpen. Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen. ... some things about our club are going to be later -- David (Ortiz, coming out of his power slump, and John Smoltz, who isn't expected to join the rotation for a few more weeks). But our whole bullpen has been good every night."
It has, and Ramirez has helped make a unit that ranked seventh in the majors last season with a 4.00 ERA even better. He's surrendered just one run over 16 1/3 innings this season, and opponents are hitting only .127 against him (right-handers .118, lefties .143).
"His physical ability, his demeanor and his ability to pitch late in games have really been weapons for us," Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell says. "You look at his track record, his numbers outside of Colorado for his career ... his ERA is below 2.00.
"What he's doing this year is not bursting out (of the norm). He's got quite a bit of sample size."
Ramirez came highly recommended to the Sox by David Howard, a special assistant to general manager Theo Epstein. Howard, a former big leaguer with the Royals and Cardinals, still lives in the Kansas City area and, among other things, thought that Ramirez had a demeanor that would serve him well in a high-pressure market like Boston.
The Sox especially like that he has the stuff to regularly obtain swings-and-misses in the late innings, thus increasing the odds of obtaining outs and limiting the potential for damage.
"You can't say enough about his work ethic and preparation," Farrell says. "He's prepared to pitch every day. He takes care of himself as well as anyone we have."
Boston's biggest issue with Ramirez from here on out is going to be to monitor his workload and not overuse him.
Likes: Boston's Daniel Bard, who impressed legions of scouts this spring, looked really good in his major-league debut Wednesday night in Anaheim. He was sensational against Mike Napoli, the first batter he faced and one of the Angels' hottest hitters. Bard got three swings and missed on fastballs of 94, 95 and 97 miles an hour. Napoli never had a chance. This kid is going to be a key pitcher for Boston, probably sooner rather than later. ... The new Green Day song, Know Your Enemy. Good reviews on the new disc, 21st Century Breakdown, so far. I've still got American Idiot heavy in my iPod gym rotation. Great workout music.
Dislikes: Umpire Paul Schrieber did apologize for placing his hand on Detroit's Magglio Ordonez in Wednesday's Tigers-Twins game in Minnesota. But I don't see how he cannot be suspended. If a manager or player touches an umpire, it's an automatic suspension. Don't ever touch the umpire -- it's one of the game's cardinal rules. Rightfully so. Conversely, an umpire can't touch a player. That could cause holy hell if the situation got heated enough. Gotta be a suspension then, right? ... Fleetwood Mac touring under the name Fleetwood Mac. Christine McVie has retired. I'm sorry, but if she's not around and not singing Don't Stop, Say You Love Me and Over My Head, it's not Fleetwood Mac.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You've been telling everybody
-- Big Bill Broonzy, Somebody's Gotta Go