Houston Astros

Werner: Red Sox feel pressure to keep up with Yankees, Astros


Werner: Red Sox feel pressure to keep up with Yankees, Astros

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski may not be looking closely at the Yankees' and Astros' rosters, but chairman Tom Werner appears to have peeked.



“Sure there’s pressure,” Werner said at Winter Weekend when asked about the Yankees’ pick-up of Giancarlo Stanton and the Astros’ addition of Gerrit Cole.  “Houston was formidable last year. I thought we played them competitively in Fenway Park. They’ve obviously improved. But if we have the kind of performances I expect from some of our players this year — obviously we’re looking for some more improvement from certain players. Hopefully, a healthy David Price will be very important to that. 

"I think we have an excellent team, but anything can happen in a short series. The Yankees have improved, there’s no question about it. They have a deep bullpen and a great offense. But I like our chances.”

At the Boston baseball writers awards dinner on Thursday, Sox president Sam Kennedy cracked a joke about Dombrowski presenting Yankees general manager Brian Cashman with an Apple Watch as a gift. The rivalry perked up in 2017.

“I’m sure that when Judge and Stanton come to Fenway Park this year, it’ll be electric,” Werner said.

It’s not exactly an offseason punch-for-punch dynamic with the Sox and Yankees, though, as it was circa 2003-04.

“Not specifically,” Werner said of countering Stanton. “It’s important for us to be competitive with them, but we’re not trying to play chess with them.”


Drellich: Dombrowski's messaging on lack of Red Sox moves misses mark


Drellich: Dombrowski's messaging on lack of Red Sox moves misses mark

In the end, I believe the Red Sox will sign J.D. Martinez. It’s the overwhelmingly obvious move. It’s painfully obvious.

Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reports that the Sox offer is roughly $125 million over five years.

Until that signing — or until that prediction proves wrong — 93 wins is not the hill to die on. 


We’re not exactly in Dan Duquette more-days-in-first-place territory, but Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is trying to sell something that I’d be surprised to hear anyone is really buying.

“We won 93 games here with basically the team we have coming back, and some guys coming back healthy,” Dombrowski said Thursday. “I think some guys will have stronger years. I’ve learned the predictive nature of the game is not something I partake in very much.

“I’ve been with clubs who’ve been the favorites by far and haven’t done quite as well, and [with clubs that are] not the favorites and have done quite well. So, you let those things take care of themselves. But for our situation, we’ll keep working at it. But I do think we have a good club no matter what.”

Sure. A good club. Everyone knows about the faults of prediction in baseball, how random the game is.

But let’s cut to the chase. Do the Sox have a championship-caliber club? A team built as well as the Astros and Yankees? One that’s kept up with those teams this offseason?

The Sox have brought back Mitch Moreland. Addison Reed is gone. The Astros, meanwhile, added Gerrit Cole, and the Yankees traded for Giancarlo Stanton.

Ah, now one may understand why Dombrowski prefers not to partake in the predictive nature of the game. 

Dombrowski mentioned 93 wins earlier this week on MLB Network Radio as well, noting he thinks that figure may have slipped a few minds.

“I think people forget that because of course we got eliminated in the postseason, the first round,” Dombrowski said. “But we did win 93 games.” 

That’s nice, Dan — err, Dave.

The protocols of posturing have long been in place in baseball, the code of what executives and agents and any of the rest of them can and cannot say long understood.

Dombrowski is stretching them. 

He’s digging in now on the idea that the Red Sox are good to go if the season starts tomorrow.

“If you told me right now that our starting rotation and our bullpen was going to stay healthy during the season, I’d take our chances right now with our club,” Dombrowski said. “I think that we can stay with anybody.”

Because staying with other teams has always been the goal — not being outright better than them?

Dombrowski said that he hasn’t really looked at the Astros' and Yankees' rosters because the winter isn't over and that internal rebounds can make up the 40 home run dropoff from 2016 to 2017: “I think quite a bit can be made up.”

Who really believes this? Who really believes the Red Sox could proceed into the season comfortably without some external improvement? You’re in a market competing with the Patriots, a division with the Yankees, and a league with the Astros, and this is what you’re bringing to the table?

And no, Dombrowski's stance isn’t necessary to keep down the cost of adding Martinez.

We can suppose that if Dombrowski were to look into the camera, tear up and plead with Martinez to join the Red Sox, an abnormal amount of leverage might shift to Martinez and agent Scott Boras. 

Even then, reality wouldn’t change. No one is confused by reality here. Dombrowski prefers not to publicly acknowledge it — at least, not anymore.

“You know, it's easy to say, we need to score more runs,” Dombrowski said on Oct. 11, the day of John Farrell’s dismissal. “I didn't supply the players that would give us enough runs. I think we do need that. That's part of our offseason goal.”

We assume negotiations to be ongoing. Dombrowski declined to characterize the frequency of conversation he is having with any players/agents (a bizarre thing to decline to discuss, considering how general a subject it is) although he said there are standing offers out there.

The Red Sox' position has long been clear, long been obvious. Dombrowski pretending everything is good to go because the team won 93 games last season misses the mark, even within the accepted constraints of posturing and hooey.


Alex Cora's outburst with broadcaster a footnote or an omen?

Alex Cora's outburst with broadcaster a footnote or an omen?

After a season of discord for the Red Sox, Alex Cora’s job is to create stability. To reduce moments like Dustin Pedroia telling Manny Machado, “It’s not me, it’s them," and prevent another David Price-Dennis Eckersley confrontation.

But a loud misstep in Cora's time as the Astros’ bench coach opens a question of how effectively the new manager will prevent a repeat of the past. Not only the Red Sox’ past, but his own. 

In his first year as a major league coach, Cora lived a night with echoes of Price-Eckersley.

On Aug. 31, less than two months before he was named Sox manager and at a time of peak anxiety off the field, Cora cursed out Astros broadcaster Geoff Blum on a team bus heading from the airport to the stadium in Houston. When the bus arrived at the Astros’ Minute Maid Park, Cora went off again, screaming at his boss, Astros manager A.J. Hinch. 

Both expletive-filled episodes were visible to a large number of the Astros’ traveling party. The confrontations were described to NBC Sports Boston by multiple people with direct knowledge of them, including witnesses. 

Whether the lack of self-control Cora displayed proves a footnote to Cora’s coaching career or an omen entering his first managerial gig is to be seen. 

Multiple sources said Cora had been drinking and that it contributed to his behavior. It is not uncommon for players or staff to drink on travel days. There is no indication Cora has a recurring issue controlling his alcohol intake. 

Cora declined comment on specifics of what transpired. Blum and Hinch declined any comment.

“You learn how to overcome. It happens on every team," Cora said. "People have disagreements. Sometimes it’s about life, sometimes it’s about the game. The good thing is that you work with people that you respect, and they respect you . . . You move on and you learn from it and you keep getting better.”

The situation did not become physical. A highly sought after manager, Cora felt embarrassed by his actions, and later apologized to both parties.

The circumstances the Astros found themselves in on Aug. 31 were complex and intense -- a statement true for every member of the organization. The Astros were returning to Houston and to their homes for the first time since Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25.

As Houston came into view on the plane back from Florida, where games were temporarily relocated, some Astros had trouble seeing land because there was so much water everywhere, an unsettling moment. Everyone was worried about their family, their friends, and their city, as they began to see the devastation firsthand. In addition, Cora was greatly concerned about potential damage to his native Puerto Rico from Hurricane Irma, which would hit the island within a week. (The more powerful and destructive Hurricane Maria, which would not reach Puerto Rico until Sept. 20, had yet to form.)

Against that backdrop, behind-the-scenes friction between Cora and Blum boiled over when Blum, who played 14 years in the majors like Cora, asked Cora to turn down music on the bus. Curse words came at Blum for about five minutes. (Unlike the Price-Eckersley drama, Cora’s argument with Blum did not stem from commentary on air.)

Once off the bus, Cora lashed out at Hinch as Hinch tried to defuse the situation. The incident with Hinch lasted roughly another 10 minutes near the stadium’s loading dock, as both team buses -- one for staff, which carried Cora and Blum, and one for players -- disembarked. Former Astros outfielder and Yankees managerial candidate Carlos Beltran tried to calm down Cora.

“Between Harvey and [Irma], it was a combination of a lot of emotions on a personal level,” Cora said. “We’re flying everywhere, man, and then the team, we weren’t playing good [with an 11-17 record in August]. I learned that we can be -- honestly, honestly, on a personal standpoint, I learned that boys are boys, and it’s a family and you’re going to have your good days and your bad days."

Cora did not point to the fact the Astros won the World Series to downplay the incident. 

“We were one game away from losing against the Yankees [in the ALCS],” Cora said. 

Rather, as Cora explained it, the incident mattered afterward only because the result was a tighter bond with Hinch.

“Our relationship grew up and it got better, and hey, man, my biggest supporter throughout the whole process, who was it? It was A.J. Hinch," Cora said. "Because we slipped at one point doesn’t mean it was over. I think families, and friends, they got moments. And it was a moment. And it wasn’t a great moment . . . If we lose to the Dodgers (in the World Series), it was going to be the same thing. That whole month of October, with him, he was not my mentor, but he was the guy that I was looking up to throughout the process.”

A manager can be emotional and successful, Cora believes. Yet, there’s the adage that the manager need be the steadiest guy in the room, the most even-keeled. 

Cora plans to encourage emotion in his players. When he played, he feels he was too buttoned up, despite a famous moment in his time at the University of Miami, when a walk-off home run ended the College World Series in a loss and Cora crumpled to the ground in disappointment.

"I encourage guys to be passionate about it and show emotion,” Cora said. “I was the other way around. And sometimes I regret that. I didn’t have as much as fun on the field . . . It goes with the era I grew up in the game. And it’s not just my playing years, but before that. Following [my brother] Joey and his career, winter ball and the way he was."

Alex’s m.o. in a non-playing leadership role is still taking shape. Cora said that during his time in winter ball in Puerto Rico last year, and then during the World Baseball Classic in the spring, he found himself more publicly reserved than he had been in the past.

"I think A.J. showed more emotion than I did, throughout the [Astros’] season,” Cora said. "I think the whole year was a learning process of trying to stay calm. At the same time, inside, I was enjoying the whole thing.”

Anger has a different time and place for expression compared to, say, joy or anxiety. Asked if it would be okay for a manager to react the way he did on Aug. 31, Cora reiterated he learned from the situation.

The Red Sox presumably would have liked to discuss the events of Aug. 31 with Cora during the interview process, but they didn't know the events happened until NBC Sports Boston reached out to the team, sources confirmed.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski declined to discuss his interview process.

“He’s our manager, we’re thrilled that’s he’s with us,” Dombrowski said. “I’ve had some tremendous managers around me that lost their cool at times. And I think every situation’s different. When I’m not there, it’s hard to evaluate different things.”

The Sox moved quickly to make a hire so they could land a top candidate, announcing Cora’s arrival 11 days after announcing John Farrell’s firing. It’s the Sox’ responsibility to know everything about their new manager, but, at the same time, it’s difficult to gather every detail in a short window.

A mistake like Aug. 31 in Cora's new role would be problematic, given that his job here is to defuse tension.

“I’m very comfortable with the way I do things,” Cora said generally. “We just got to wait and see, man. Right now we’re in a stage, that I know that the organization, everybody is connected and talking and looking forward for what’s going to happen.

“I’ve been able to learn about guys and talk about guys, and the most important thing [of late] is the coaching staff. Connecting with them and getting ideas from them.

“All that stuff is going on right now, so I have no idea how I’m going to be. I know what I want. I know what I want from this team. From the coaching staff. From the medical staff. Analytics staff, everybody. You name it, I know what I want from them. But until Feb. 14 starts, we have no idea.”