Red Sox

McAdam: Red Sox owners muddying the waters

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McAdam: Red Sox owners muddying the waters

Perhaps, somewhere in the future, we can say that the Red Sox, thanks to their famed "due diligence'', did the right thing in their excruciatingly thorough search for a new manager.

Perhaps all the time spent, all the interviews conducted, all the mockery invited, will make sense in the end. Perhaps they will, eventually, get The Right Guy for the job.

Perhaps.

But right now, the process appears ludicrously out of control, run not by the upper management and ownership of a model franchise, but instead, a modern-day Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.

If perception is reality, then the perception around baseball is that the Red Sox are turning this managerial search into some sort of slapstick production.

Think new general manager Ben Cherington is having any second thoughts?

Cherington -- along with former GM Theo Epstein, and in hindsight, how foolish was that? -- compiled a list of candidates, vetted them through contacts throughout the game and invited them to Boston for day-long interviews.

From that group, Cherington identified Dale Sveum, clearly, as his top choice. Sveum was invited to the GMOwners Meetings in Miwaukee and presented to ownership.

How do we know that Sveum was Cherington's clear favorite? Because while Sveum was being invited back for a second, follow-up interview, the Red Sox never had anyone else lined up for a return visit. Cherington said as much Tuesday when he said he and others were still "narrowing'' down the other candidates.

But something about Sveum didn't pass the sniff test for the owners. After a two-hour lunch meeting with ownership, the Red Sox weren't prepared to offer him the job. By late Wednesday, the Cubs were sufficiently convinced enough to make Sveum their choice.

Ownership's decision to take a pass on Sveum was a rebuke of Cherington's judgment. And as if to emphasize the point, CEO and president Larry Lucchino answered "absolutely,'' Wednesday night when asked if the team might expand the search to include new candidates.

What message does that send to Cherington, who has focused his first three weeks on the job in identifying and interviewing his choices for the team's new manager?

If Lucchino had walked into the middle of the lobby of the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, patted Cherington on the head and said: "Nice try, kid, but we'll take it from here," he couldn't have embarrassed the new general manager more.

All along, the Big Three of Lucchino, principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner have dismissed any suggestion that the search is unwinding and taking too long.

Daily, they remind everyone how -- all together now -- "Terry Francona wasn't hired until Dec. 8" back in 2003, which is indisputably true.

Here's what else was undisputably true: That offseason, the Red Sox went to Game 7 of the ALCS before their season was through. That meant they were playing into the third week of October. The team didn't pull the plug on Grady Little until after the World Series was done.

This year? The Sox were finished Sept. 28, then clumsily parted ways with Terry Francona two days later. Even allowing for the time it took for Epstein to leave for Chicago, the Sox will have been without a manager for eight weeks, an absurdly long time.

(By contrast, the world champion St. Louis Cardinals replaced Tony La Russa in about 10 days, while the Cubs hired Sveum less than three weeks after dismissing Mike Quade).

In Boston, however, there's no apparent urgency. The contingent left Milwaukee Thursday, with Cherington and other members of the baseball operations team headed for the Dominican to work out some international free agents and the owners presumably headed back to Boston.

No hurry.

Wonder if Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski feels the same way? Or Toronto's Alex Anthopoulos? Or Cleveland's Chris Antonetti? All three have coaches who are still, on the face of it, candidates for the Sox' managerial job, unclear about their own futures.

Now comes word that the Sox are in discussions with Bobby Valentine, yet another telltale sign that ownership -- and not Cherington -- is calling the shots. Henry is known to be a proponent of Valentine and may have already met with him to discuss the job.

The inclusion of Valentine may satisfy those who moaned that there weren't enough "big name'' candidates on the Sox' wish list. But just as surely, he defies Cherington's desire to have someone who will work collaboratively with baseball operations.

Then again, maybe yet another name will surface and be hired before all is said and done.

"Spooky World'' is over at Fenway. But the circus, it would seem, is here to stay.

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