Red Sox

How Carl Crawford became a Red Sox

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How Carl Crawford became a Red Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

As the Red Sox officially introduced Carl Crawford at a press conference Saturday morning at Fenway Park, general manager Theo Epstein noted: "Signings like this don't happen in a vacuum." And indeed, while the news that Crawford had reached agreement on a seven-year, 142 million contract didn't break until late Wednesday night at the annual Winter Meetings in Orlando, it hardly was a last-minute whim.To the contrary, the deal was months in the making and executed over the last few weeks.Based on interviews with baseball sources familiar with the negotiations, here's a look back at, for now, the biggest contract given out by the current Red Sox ownership group:

The Red Sox' interest in Crawford began long before the 2010 season drew to a close, though it may also have coincided with the team's fall from contention.

The rash of injuries that hit the Red Sox outfield (Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron), coupled with the belief that Ryan Kalish perhaps needed more development time and the recognition that J.D. Drew's contract would expire after 2011 led the Sox to believe that they needed an impact outfielder.

Crawford's age (29), skill set (defense, speed, and growing extra-base power) made him the the perfect fit.

The team assigned special assistant Allard Baird to scout Crawford intently over the second-half of the season to get a better sense of his game, and also, his character and personality. The more Baird watched, the more interested the Sox became.

One benefit of the Sox' failure to make the postseason for the first time since 2006 was that the month of October allowed the Sox to more fully formulate a plan of attack on Crawford.

The Sox had heard that Crawford had an aversion to playing in Boston -- either because of the cold weather in the spring and fall, or the suffocating intensity of the media coverage and fan interest -- and were determined to present the city and the organization in the best possible light.

Theo Epstein and Terry Francona made plans to visit Crawford in his native Houston to make their case. As the two began their pitch, Crawford, at first reserved, began to show for more enthusiasm in becoming a member of the Red Sox.

Until then, the Sox had suspected that Crawford was leaning heavily toward signing with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Torii Hunter, a friend of Crawford, had publicly campaigned for his team to land Crawford, and for a while it seemed a fait accompli.

But as the Houston meeting continued, held with Crawford's agents -- Greg Genske and Brian Peters -- in attendance, the better the Red Sox felt about their chances.

Sensing that Crawford might be put off by the intensity of playing in Boston, they assured him that other players who shunned the limelight and preferred a more low-key approach -- citing Drew as an example -- could still thrive in Boston.

The Sox assured Crawford that, while they were simultaneously working on a trade for another player (Adrian Gonzalez), he was their top free-agent target of the offseason. They warned him in advance that they would soon be meeting with Jayson Werth, but assured him that Werth was more of a backup plan, partly intended to offer misdirection to some other teams.

No offer was made to Crawford in Houston. In fact, the two sides barely got into parameters. All along, however, the Sox had a general understanding of what it would take to get Crawford, and knew, too, when Grenske and Peters later set their asking price at 10 years, 200 million that no team -- the Red Sox included -- would go that high.

When Werth agreed to a landmark seven year, 126 million contract with the Washington Nationals Sunday, the Sox had yet to make a formal offer on Crawford, occupied as they were on finalizing the Gonzalez trade and, later, on contract extension talks for their newly-acquired first baseman.

The Sox braced for Crawford's representatives to bolster their asking price in the aftermath of Werth's deal. If Werth, two years older and not nearly as athletic as Crawford, could command seven years at 18 million per season, surely Crawford's demands would escalate, too. Instead, Genske and Peters stuck to their request for 10 years, 200 million.

Privately, the agents' dream contract notwithstanding, the Red Sox figured that Werth's deal would ultimately send Crawford's asking price to somewhere between 140-150 million.

Not until Monday, the first day of the winter meetings, did the Red Sox finally make an actual proposal. At seven years for 119 million -- an average of 17 million per -- it was purposely low -- lower even than the deal Werth had gotten 24 hours earlier -- giving the Red Sox some subsequent wiggle room.

At the time, the Sox were hopeful that they could close out a deal at 19 million per season over seven years for a total of 133 million. As it turned out, Crawford would cost them an additional outlay of almost 10 million.

Following some back and forth Tuesday and early Wednesday, Genske called Epstein Wednesday and notified them that the Angels had set an 11 p.m. deadline for negotiations and that it was time for teams to finalize their last, best offer.

Both the Red Sox and Angels were told that Crawford would need 142 million over seven years.

At around 9 p.m. Wednesday evening, Epstein phoned principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner in Liverpool, England and told them of Crawford's asking price.

(Previously, Epstein had had his staff prepare a detailed statistical presentation that explained to the owners why Crawford, far from a typical corner outfielder in that he had never before hit 20 homers or knocked in as more than 90 RBI, was nonetheless worth this kind of investment).

When Werner and Henry signaled their approval from overseas, the Red Sox were armed with an offer that Crawford would find acceptable.

At the same time as the Red Sox were getting ownership approval to hand out the biggest deal since Henry and Co. took control of the club in February 2002, Angels general manager Tony Reagins was getting similar approval from his owner, Arte Moreno.

The Angels, like the Red Sox, had come in with something of a lowball offer initially -- six years at 108 million. Moreno approved an additional guaranteed year and slightly more than 2 million per season. The Angels, then, were ready to meet Crawford's seven-year, 142 asking price.

While the respective teams got ownership approval, Genske and Peters approached Crawford. If both teams come back with what we've requested, they asked, which team will you choose? To the surprise of some, Crawford answered: Boston.

In a final phone call, concluding at 10:50, ten minutes before Genske and Peters were set to meet with the Angels, the Red Sox were told that Crawford had agreed to their terms and an agreement was in place.

In the Red Sox hotel suite at the World Disney World Dolphin Resort, the baseball operations staff and manager Terry Francona were assembled in the living room. From behind closed doors in his bedroom, Epstein could be heard exclaiming: "Awesome!"

When he emerged from the room, he told his staff the good news.

Minutes later, Crawford's agents went to deliver the bad news to Reagins, who was irate. When Reagins reminded the agents, "You told me 142 million would get it done!" the agents responded: "We said that's what it would take; we didn't say we'd guarantee a deal."

As Reagins fumed, the Red Sox celebrated. Never had giving out the biggest contract in the current ownership's history seemed like such a victory.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Astros beat Yankees, 4-0, in Game 7 to advance to World Series

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Astros beat Yankees, 4-0, in Game 7 to advance to World Series

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve embraced Justin Verlander as confetti rained down. An improbable thought just a few years ago, the Houston Astros are headed to the World Series.

Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. combined on a three-hitter, Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Astros reached the World Series for only the second time by blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Verlander, the ALCS MVP , and fellow Houston ace Dallas Keuchel will have plenty of rest before the World Series begins at sweltering Dodger Stadium.

"I love our personality," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have the right amount of fun, the right amount of seriousness, the right amount of perspective when we need it. This is a very, very unique group. To win 100 games and still be hungry is pretty remarkable."

The Astros will try for their first World Series title, thanks in large part to Altuve , the diminutive second baseman who swings a potent bat, and Verlander, who switched teams for the first time in his career to chase a ring.

Four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees on consecutive nights after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first crown, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

"This city, they deserve this," McCullers said.

Clutch defensive plays by third baseman Alex Bregman and center fielder George Springer helped Houston improve to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and become the fifth team in major league history to capture a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four. A noted curveballer, McCullers finished up with 24 straight breaking pitches to earn his first major league save.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron JudgeGary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

"I know people are going to talk about how we didn't win many games on the road. There were some other teams that haven't won many games on the road, either. We just happened to run into a very good team that just beat us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Astros also eliminated New York in the 2015 postseason, with Keuchel winning the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

CC Sabathia entered 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night in a 7-1 win.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York went 1-6 on the road this postseason.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS exactly 13 years earlier.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh.

With McCullers in charge, the Astros soon closed it out.

"It's not easy to get here. And I don't take any of this for granted. And this is what we play for," Verlander said. "These are the experiences that you remember at the end of your career when you look back, winning these games, just playing the World Series. Hopefully winning the World Series."

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Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

UPDATE: The deal is for three years, per Ken Rosenthal.

BOSTON — We’re just waiting on an announcement now.

A pair of national reports on Saturday afternoon, one from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal... 

...And another from MLB Network and FanRagSports.com's Jon Heyman...

have firmed up Alex Cora’s expected hiring as Red Sox manager. Both reported that Cora, the Astros bench coach, is expected to take the job once Houston's season ends, which could come as soon as Saturday night after Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. 

Heyman reported a contract offer has already been made to Cora. 

A baseball source said this week that there was “not a doubt” Cora, the Astros bench coach, would wind up with the Red Sox gig. It’s unclear when exactly the offer was made to him, but one had not been made as of midday Wednesday, the source said. 

Cora, 41, a former Red Sox infielder (2005-08) who's also worked in the media and is the most sought-after managerial candidate at the moment, appeared the front-runner since the outset of what proved a small search for the Red Sox.

Earlier, Boston Globe reported that the Washington Nationals were interested in Cora after they fired Dusty Baker on Friday.