Red Sox

Memories return for Theo as Red Sox visit Wrigley

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Memories return for Theo as Red Sox visit Wrigley

CHICAGO -- At the intersection of Clark and Addison on Chicago's North Side, Theo Epstein's past and present collide.

"Obviously,'' said Epstein Friday, surrounded by reporters in front of the Chicago Cubs dugout, "it brings back a lot of memories. It's good to see a lot of great friends. I'm looking forward to it. It will be great to see everybody. We don't play these guys that often, so you've got to relish it.''

Before Epstein can look forward, however, Epstein has been doing a lot of looking back at his 10 years with the Red Sox, nine as their general manager.

That tenure included two World Series titles and two other visits to the American League Championship Series, but it concluded with a historic collapse last September that resulted in wholesale changes within the organization.

Even as he goes about trying to build the Cubs into winners, some of the sting from last fall remains.

''I think everybody moves on,'' said Epstein. "But I remember stuff from 2003. I sit there and see Aaron Boone coming to the plate. So every time you have an opportunity to advance and do some damage or get to the postseason and you don't, that always stays with you, last September in particular, because we not only fail to perform in the standings, but we kind of lost our identity as a team.

"That was a tough pill to swallow. I think everyone that was involved, it will stay with them. But at the same time, you move on from it and try to get better.''

As he looks back, Epstein feels culpability for the 7-20 collapse and a squandered 9 12-game wild-card lead.

"I take responsibility for the team not getting where we were supposed to go,'' he said, "and from what I can tell, a lot of the people involved are taking responsibility. You just learn from it and move on.''

The Cubs own the worst record in baseball at 21-42, last in the National League Central, and Epstein understands that it's tough to measure progress in the early stages of the Cubs' rebuilding process.

"There's progress in a lot of different areas; some of it's behind the scenes,'' he said. "We've put together a scouting and player development philosophy and gotten everyone on the same page. We've committed to a vision of the future, built around our core of young players that we're trying to identify and develop. There's a lot of work behind the scenes and hopefully we'll see some on-field progress soon.''

Epstein readily admits that this rebuild is far different from the one he undertook in Boston. In 2002, the year before Epstein was promoted to GM, the team won 93 games and had a core of talented players that included Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra.

"Maybe it was a more subtle process, but we made some moves at the big-league level and had success right off the bat,'' said Epstein. "That bought us time to commit to the Red Sox way of doing things, which we established.

"A lot of the work is similar. Here, there's clearly a mandate for change. We didn't have to that much convincing. We just got everybody together in the same room and talked about how we want to teach the game, what we're going to stand for as an organization and how we're going to execute at the minor league level.''

But while the Cubs rebuild from the bottom up, focusing on the draft, international signings and development of prospects, there's the sobering reality that the present-day Cubs have a .333 winning percentage.

"It's never easy,'' he said of the losing. "You can talk about a vision and a plan and theory, but when you have to get in the trenches, day-in and day-out and suffer through some losses, it's really tough. It should be. If it was easy, you'd be in the wrong game.

"You have to strike a delicate balance. You don't want to talk too much about the future because you have complete respect for what these 25 players are trying to accomplish and the integrity of this season and how hard they're preparing each and every night.

"We're not where we want to be and there are some games we'd like back. But these guys are playing hard, they're preparing hard and they're not backing down. It's all about wins and losses. That's what matters in this game. But if you dig a little deeper, you see a manager and a coaching staff that set high expectations and the players who are working hard to live up to those expectations.

"There's a little bit of a talent deficit right now that will close as we move forward. I like what's being established in the clubhouse and I think that will pay dividends down the line.''

ALCS: Judge, Sabathia help Yankees beat Astros, 8-1

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ALCS: Judge, Sabathia help Yankees beat Astros, 8-1

NEW YORK - Aaron Judge hit a three-run homer and a made pair of sparkling catches, leading CC Sabathia and the Yankees over the Houston Astros 8-1 Monday night and cutting New York's deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.

Sabathia allowed three hits over six scoreless innings for his first postseason win in five years. Todd Frazier hit a go-ahead, three-run homer for the Yankees, who stopped a seven-game ALCS losing streak dating to Sabathia's victory over Texas in 2010.

Sonny Gray starts Game 4 Wednesday on 11 days' rest, likely against Brad Peacock or Lance McCullers Jr.

Back in the Bronx after a pair of 2-1 losses in Houston, the Yankees led 8-0 after four innings. Houston scored on a bases-loaded walk in the ninth before postseason star Jose Altuve grounded into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded.

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Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know whom they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

MORE:

The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

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