Red Sox

First pitch: Coaching staff should be clean slate for Valentine's replacement

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First pitch: Coaching staff should be clean slate for Valentine's replacement

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- One of the arguments made by partisans of Bobby Valentine is that the Red Sox manager was doomed to fail, chiefly because he had little say in selecting
his coaching staff.

While the veracity of that statement is up for debate -- Valentine personally selected two coaches and approved another whom he had as a manager at another stop, while signing off
on the hiring of others -- there's a bit of irony now in place: Valentine's replacement will not have to deal with the same inherited coaching staff.

A baseball source confirmed that none of the current coaches is under contract for next season.

Part of the reason that three of Terry Francona's coaches returned to work under Valentine is that they each had another year remaining on their contracts and the Sox' clear preference
was to have them remain -- pending Valentine's approval. If the coaches were going to be paid for 2012, went the thinking, then they might as well be working for the Red Sox.

For 2013, that won't be an issue, suggesting a clean slate for whomever the Sox hire as Valentine's repalcement.

Tim Bogar, who has clashed with Valentine, is interviewing Wednesday for the Houston Astros' managerial post.

Bogar is set to interview with owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow in the Tampa area, one of a handful of candidates under consideration.

If Bogar, who interviewed for the same job three years ago, is passed over, it seems unlikely that he'll be a candidate to manage the Sox in 2013, with Boston having focused primarily
on Toronto's John Farrell as their top choice.

Bogar is highly regarded by the organization, but after the drama of the last two seasons, it's likely the Red Sox will seek to completely makeover the coaching staff.

Hitting coach Dave Magadan's deal is also up, and he has been widely rumored to join the Chicago Cubs this off-season, reuniting with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

The Cubs fired long-time hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo earlier this season and replaced him with James Rowson. Rowson, it should be noted, was given the title "interim hitting coach,'' indicating the Cubs don't see him as the long-term solution.

Magadan is one of the game's most highly regarded hitting coaches. The Sox have been among the most productive offensive teams in the game during his tenure, and until injuries struck the club in the second half, the Sox remained second in runs scored in the American League.

However, Magadan has voiced his frustration at times over the lineup's inability to work counts and draw walks, resulting in wildy uneven offensive production. In 25 of 149 games this year, the Red Sox have scored either one or no runs.

Pitching coach Randy Niemann, a Valentine hire, is the second pitching coach this season and the fourth employed by the Red Sox since the end of 2010.

When Valentine is fired, there'll be no ties to anyone else in the organization for Niemann. It's not his fault that the pitching staff hasn't improved much since the team fired his predecessor, Bob McClure, but that won't save his job when his benefactor is dismissed, either.

Third base coach Jerry Royster, another of Valentine's hires, also would not seem to have a future in the organization. Royster has often served as a liaison of sorts between Valentine, his coaches and the ones Valentine inherited, and his work as a third base coach has been solid.

Still, when the man who hires you is then fired, your own options dwindle and it would seem that Royster will be one-and-done in Boston.

Two other coaches may have a chance to remain in the organization: catching instructor Gary Tuck and first base coach Alex Ochoa.

Tuck is highly valued for his work with the team's catchers and has the most seniority on the current staff. Along with Bogar, Tuck clashed with Valentine. In fact, not long after Valentine was hired, Tuck requested that he be let out of his contract to rejoin the New York Yankees. The Sox denied that request, an indication of highly thought of he is.

Now that Valentine is about to be let go, it may be Tuck can be convinced to stay under a new manager, especially if that manager is Farrell, with whom he worked well in their time together in Boston. Farrell, in fact, attempted to hire Tuck away when he joined the Blue
Jays.

Alex Ochoa could also remain with the organization, though not necessarily as a coach. Ochoa has worked as both a minor league instructor and his bilingual skills make him valuable in the team's Latin American developmental program.

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press