BOSTON The Red Sox continued the search to fill their managerial vacancy Wednesday, interviewing Brad Ausmus, the former catcher who is now a special assistant with the Padres. Of the four current candidates, Ausmus, who retired after the 2010 season after playing 18 seasons with the Astros, Padres, Tigers, and Dodgers, is the only one with no coaching or managing experience.Some who knew Ausmus early in his career believed it would be just a matter of time before he became a manager.I felt that probably the first time half a dozen years ago or more, said Tal Smith, the former president of the Astros, and owner of Tal Smith Enterprises, a baseball consulting firm. And as a matter of fact, I even submitted him as sort of a dark horse candidate for I guess it was the search that led up to the appointment of Brad Mills three years ago. I even thought with Brad Ausmus, we havent had player-managers recently but at one time they were able to handle that quite well, whether it was Joe Cronin for the Red Sox or any number of people.The 43-year-old played two stints for the Astros totaling 10 seasons, the most time he spent with any team. The Connecticut native, who went to Dartmouth and owns a house on Cape Cod, was a 48th-round pick of the Yankees in 1987 and made his big league debut in 1993 for the Padres. He was traded to the Tigers during the 1996 season and to the Astros after the season. He was traded back to the Tigers before the 1999 season and back to the Astros before the 2001 season. He ended his career with two seasons in Los Angeles.I think Brad Ausmus will be an outstanding major league manager whenever he has the opportunity and whenever he feels that he is ready, Smith said. By that, I dont mean ready from a standpoint of preparation, but Brad has two daughters and lives in California. In fact, I dont know what his thoughts are. For years, when he was playing for us, he was like having a manager on the field. I think his baseball acumen is superb.He can really run a game, but thats only a part of it. I think his personality and his ability to communicate are exceptional. I just thought he meant so much to a club, not just for his receiving and his throwing but for what he brought from a standpoint of leadership. I think hes an exceptional candidate.Ausmus potential as a future big league manager stood out during his playing days for those who were there to watch up close.Yeah, it really did, said another front office executive who was with Ausmus for several seasons. Being around him on a daily basis you saw the level of intelligence and the leadership qualities in the clubhouse.This goes way back, said Smith. Brad had two tours with the Astros and early in his second tour when we brought him back, about the time that we were doing very well in 2004 and 2005, his leadership and his baseball knowledge and his personality and everything, I just think hes a natural leader and really understands the game very well, as a great many people do. There are a lot of people that understand the game but I just think hes got the leadership capabilities and the ability to communicate and obviously having been a catcher, having to work with pitchers, having to direct the club on the field, I just think hes and ideal candidate. And especially back in New England where theres special attraction for him.Of the Sox current candidates Tim Wallach, Tony Pena, and DeMarlo Hale, along with Ausmus Ausmus is the only one with no prior coaching or managing experience. Hale and Wallach have managed in the minor leagues and have major league coaching experience. Hale, currently the Orioles third base coach, is familiar with the Sox from his six seasons as a bench coach and third base coach on former manager Terry Franconas staff, before being let go last year. Wallach is currently the Dodgers third base coach. Pena was the manager of the Royals from 2002-05 and the American League manager of the year in 2003 and is currently the Yankees bench coach. The status of John Farrell, who appears to still be on the Sox wish list, is still uncertain.Everybody talks about the need for managerial experience, said the executive, but there are quite a few guys out there right now that are sort of dispelling that myth, so to speak, that youve really got to have that time under your belt.It doesnt surprise me that he would be considered and it wont surprise me when he gets an opportunity and becomes successful.He communicates very well, Smith said. Hes got a very dry wit, a very likable sense of humor. Not everybody gets it initially, but I think hes really clever. I think hed do well with the media and with players. I think hed be firm but fair.He was very popular, at least from everything I know, in the clubhouse, whether it was with the Bagwells and the Biggios, I just think hes an outstanding guy and outstanding baseball person. I think the two of them added together, I think hed be an outstanding manager. But I think its just a question of timing, the right club, and when Brad is ready and interested in doing it.While the lack of experience could be a drawback when compared with other candidates, if Ausmus were to get the job, he would not be outside the norm of recent managerial hirings. Last year, Dale Sveum (Cubs), Robin Ventura (White Sox), and Mike Matheny (Cardinals) were all hired with no previous major league managerial experience. Mathenys team is currently playing the Giants in the NLCS. And, the Sox were ready to name Sveum before going with Bobby Valentine.I think its a consideration. Its a concern, Smith said. But some have been able to do it quite well. I think the Cardinals, obviously thats working out well with Matheny. We hired Larry Dierker as a first-time manager in 1997. That was my nominee back then and that sort of surprised or shocked people and we obviously did very well with it finishing first five out of six seasons, with Dierker the National League manager of the year in 1998. Theres a whole long list of people that did not have any prior managerial experience. I used to have answer this for clubs when I was either in a consulting role or with the Astros when we were putting together a list of candidates and somebody would say, Well, he hasnt managed. And at that time I had a list handy of people who had managed successfully in the major leagues without prior managerial experience.Rather than making a blanket statement, the candidate should be considered based on his merits.I think Id have to handle it on a case-by-case basis, said the executive. I do value the experience that guys are able to get at the minor league level. There are issues, and as good as things are initially you still have to prepare for whatever hurdles youll have to clear down the road. I think a lot of things that happen at the minor league level when youre a manager also tend to manifest themselves at the big league level. And if youve got the experience of handling those types of things a lot of times its not on-field issues, its not, Should I hit and run? and things of that nature. Its more of handling players who are no longer your teammates and recognizing that there is an adjustment there that you have to make.But that said, in Ausmus case hes now several years removed from his playing career and I think hes exceptional from the standpoint of his intellect and perception and the other strengths that hes got. Im not going to walk past the fact that I do think experience is very important but its not an overriding factor if youve got the right guy.Now its up to the Sox to decide who that is.
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.
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.
“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