Red Sox

Identifying Francona's successor

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Identifying Francona's successor

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
Now what?

Now that the Red Sox have to undertake their first managerial search since the winter of 2003 -- among current American League managers, only Mike Scioscia and Ron Gardenhire have been in their respective positions longer than Terry Francona was in his -- where do they go?

It's unlikely the Sox will revisit their last interview list, since it was eight years ago.

Joe Maddon has established himself as one of the best managers in the game. Bud Black, who declined to be interviewed because he didn't want to leave the West Coast, just finished his second season with the San Diego Padres. And Glenn Hoffman is Black's third-base coach and unlikely to be a candidate again.

That means the Red Sox will start their search anew.

Much has changed in Boston in that span, too. The Red Sox have won two World Series, enjoy stability in their management and ownership group, and have, the past two seasons excepted, one of the sport's model franchises.

Given that much was made about Francona's difficulties "reaching'' players, especially in the final month or so of this season, communication will be of huge importance.

And because modern players need to vet their new bosses, it's quite likely the new manager will be someone who has already managed in the big leagues, preferrably with some success.

The demands on a manager in Boston are tough enough as it is. To think that someone could succeed here without having at least some exposure to the challenges of the job elsewhere is highly unlikely.

"(Having managed in the big leagues is) preferred,'' said general Theo Epstein, "but I don't think we're in a position to put any formal pre-requisites on the job. Experience is important, but if we found the perfect candidate who hadn't happened to have previous managerial experience, I think we'd be able to look past that.''

Again, though, if some players in the 2011 Red Sox clubhouse tuned out Francona -- who had won two championships and boasted the best winning percentage among big league managers over the last eight seasons -- what are the odds that they would respect and respond to a first-time manager?

DeMarlo Hale, who has interviewed in Houston, Seattle and Toronto in recent offseasons, might otherwise be an attractive candidate. But despite the fact that Hale's association with the Red Sox dates back decades -- he was drafted as a player in 1983 -- he's probably too closely linked to Francona for management's tastes.

Clearly, the Red Sox want a fresh start, which would seem to eliminate third-base coach Tim Bogar, another worthy in-house candidate.

"Name'' managers are unlikely fits. Bobby Valentine, whose name has already been thrown around, is known to be a favorite of owner John Henry, but Valentine is probably a little too strong-willed to mesh with GM Theo Epstein.

As for Joe Torre, it seems his managerial career is over, and at 71, he would represent a short-term commitment.

The new manager will have to be familiar and open to some of the game's advanced metrics and willing to fully utilize the team's extensive advance scouting reports.

An interesting candidate to consider might be Tony Pena, currently serving as the Yankees' bench coach. Pena is widely reagrded as a good communicator, an at-times in-your-face motivator and a brilliant teacher. It helps, too, that Pena enjoyed a long, successful playing career and has managed in the big leagues (Kansas City) before.

Pena is, of course, fluent in Spanish, no small point in today's game, in an organization that boasts plenty of Latino talent on its big-league roster and in its farm system.

And given the obsession that some in the ownership group have with the Yankees, there would be the added bonus to taking away a key part of their rivals' major league staff.

One benefit for the Red Sox is that they're getting an early start, with Francona's departure coming just two days after the season ended. Another point in their favor: only one other major league managerial vacancy currently exists -- Chicago White Sox -- meaning the Sox won't have to compete with many clubs for their top choice.

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

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

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

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.