Red Sox

First Pitch: The latest Sox newsrumorsspeculation

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First Pitch: The latest Sox newsrumorsspeculation

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome toFirst Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. And most of it nowconcerns -- you guessed it -- Theo Epstein and TerryFrancona.

PARALLEL TRACKS: On the one hand, you have your managerial search. Sean McAdam reports the Red Sox have taken "the first tentative steps to drawing up a list of potential . . . candidates to replace Terry Francona". (csnne.com) He's also got some names (and, no, Joe Torre or Bobby Valentine are not among them).

On the other, you have the general manager's saga. And McAdam has sources who say Theo Epstein is Cubs owner Tom Rickett's "top choice" for his vacant GM slot and that the Red Sox will "more likely than not" grant permission for the two sides to talk. (csnne.com)

Meanwhile, owner John Henry broke his silence -- on Twitter, anyway -- and assured one and all the Red Sox would "secure a great manager" (csnne.com) to replace Francona. He didn't mention Epstein, except to say that Theo and assistant GM Ben Cherington were keeping the ownership troika of Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino up to date on the search process.

So many questions: Can Epstein put his complete time and energy into a search with one foot out the door? If he leaves, who takes over as GM? If he returns to fulfill the final year of his contract, will he stay beyond that? (Doubtful, reports McAdam). Will that impeded the attempt to hire a manager, who may not want to come here if he knows he'll be dealing with a new GM in 12 months?

Yes, many questions. And very few answers.

LOOKING AHEAD: One of the people on the Sox' preliminary list, Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, says he's "flattered" to be considered (delawareonline.com), though he won't think about it until Philadephia's postseason run is complete. Another, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, gets rave reviews from White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf (Chicago Sun-Times), who may be interested in him for his own vacant manager's seat.

AS ONE DOOR CLOSES, ANOTHER OPENS: Maybe the White Sox don't want him (CSN Chicago), but the Laconia Muskrats' job is there for Terry Francona's taking. (Laconia Daily Sun)

WHY NOT?? If it's true the White Sox aren't interested in Francona, their pitching coach, Don Cooper, thinks that's a mistake. (Chicago Sun-Times)

IT'S EVERYBODY: Curt Schilling went on ESPN Radio Tuesday and said the search to identify the bad apples in the Red Sox clubhouse is misguided: "It's not just two guys . . . There's nobody in that clubhouse that stood up to make it right." (ESPN.com)

INCLUDING HIM: Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald wonders where David Ortiz' priorities lie, and if, in light of that, he should be part of the Red Sox' future.

SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY: Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago says the Red Sox are what the Cubs are striving to be . . . and what better way to get there than hiring Epstein, the architect of Boston's success?

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: But Dave Cameron of fangraphs.com isn't sure paying top dollar for a general manager is the right strategy.

REMEMBER HIM? Daisuke Matsuzaka played catch Monday (mlb.com) for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery.

LOSING MORE THAN A PLAYOFF SERIES: Stuart Sternberg, the principle owner of the Tampa Bay Rays, was disappointed in his team's playoff defeat at the hands of the Rangers. But he sounds like a man who's on the verge of surrender in the bigger game: The game of economic survival.

The Rays' 2008 resurgence ushered in a period of success as strong as any in the game: Three playoff appearances, two A.L. East titles, one World Series trip. But none of that has translated into increased fan interest or revenue enhancement -- only 28,229 showed up yesterday, the smallest MLB postseason crowd since the strike season of 1981 -- and Sternberg appears ready to throw in the towel (St. Petersburg Times):

"When I came here, I was confident we could put a winning team on thefield, and that would improve the Rays' financial fortunes. We won, and we won, and we won, and we won . . . and it didn't do it."

"If we won the World Series this year, I wouldn't think my attendancewould get higher. It didn't go up in '09 when we got to the WorldSeries in '08."

And then he sounded the gravest warning of all:

"It won't be my decision, or solely my decision. But eventually, major-league baseball is going to vaporize this team."

Complain if you must about Sweet Caroline and the wave and 'Sox Appeal' and all the other signs of Red Sox excess. But it beats not caring . . . and the people of central Florida clearly don't care about the Rays, a well-run and successful franchise that, obviously, can't make it work down there.

AT THE OTHER END OF THE ECONOMIC SPECTRUM: The Yankees are probably going to have to pony up to keep CC Sabathia. (New York Daily News) The question is: Will they? And should they?
SPEAKING OF EXCESS: The owner of the Bill Buckner ball -- yes, yes, you know which one I mean -- is putting it up for auction (ESPN Boston), "to let someone else enjoy it."

AND FINALLY . . . Now here's a 'Moneyball' sequel worth seeing! (jest.com)

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.

MORE RED SOX:

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