Results tagged ‘ Theo Epstein ’
Looking for a baseball fix to tide you over before Spring Training? Theo Epstein and Peter Gammons have one on Friday night at Fenway Park’s State Street Pavillion, when they host their annual Hot Stove Cool Music Baseball Roundtable.
Though Epstein left the Red Sox for the Cubs following the 2011 season, he continues to have a charitable presence in his home city of Boston.
This year’s roundtable will feature the topic of changing a clubhouse culture. Epstein once did that in Boston, prior to the 2003 season. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is trying to do the same thing this winter by bringing in positive clubhouse influences like Shane Victorino, Johnny Gomes and Joel Hanrahan.
The roundtable will include Epstein, MLB.com’s Gammons, Cherington, Red Sox manager John Farrell, Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Red Sox assistant general manager MIke Hazen. Gammons will serve as the moderator.
Tickets are $125 and on sale now at FoundationToBeNamedLater.org. Package deals are available for both HSCM Roundtable and Concert. The evening begins at 6 pm with a reception featuring complimentary Harpoon beer, Amberhill wine and a ballpark buffet.
“I am once again excited to join this year’s distinguished panel to talk about changing a clubhouse culture in baseball. The panel’s expertise and knowledge will provide fans an in-depth look behind the scenes,” said Gammons. “I’m appreciative of everyone’s continued involvement and support of Hot Stove Cool Music and The Foundation To Be Named Later. This year’s roundtable will surely lend itself to a great discussion for a very worthy cause.”
Here is the following info from a press release:
“The Roundtable is a special addition to the thriving Hot Stove Cool Music concert series which celebrates music, baseball and giving back. Proceeds benefit the Foundation’s Peter Gammons College Scholarships and nonprofit beneficiaries including BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), Citizen Schools, City Year Boston, The Home for Little Wanderers, Horizons for Homeless Children, Roxbury Youthworks, Steps to Success and West End House Boys & Girls Club.
This winter’s Hot Stove Cool Music concert takes place Saturday, January 12th, and features an ensemble of musical performances by two-time Grammy nominee Tanya Donelly, the dynamic multi-instrumentalists Parkington Sisters, Boston Music Award winners Christian McNeill & Sea Monsters, Billboard Music Songwriting winners The Chad Hollister Band and the returning Hot Stove All-Stars featuring Gammons, Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz and indie rocker Kay Hanley with Robin Lane. Hollywood actor Mike O’Malley will again take the reins as emcee for the charity concert.
Hot Stove Cool Music events are sponsored by Ipswitch Inc., Comcast Business Class, Mintz Levin, Walmart, Hotel Commonwealth, Harpoon Brewery, Amberhill Secret Blend, Greenberg Traurig, Distrigas GDF Suez, RISO, Aramark, Abby Lane, Church, Boston Scientific, The Boston Red Sox and The Boston Foundation.
ABOUT HOT STOVE COOL MUSIC
Celebrating Music, Baseball and Giving Back
Hot Stove Cool Music is a biannual charity concert and musical variety show held in the winter and summer months. The event was created in December of 2000 by Hall of Fame Baseball journalist Peter Gammons and former Boston Herald sports writer Jeff Horrigan. Over the past 13 years, Hot Stove Cool Music has become a staple on Boston’s entertainment calendar and has raised more than $5 Million for the Theo and Paul Epstein’s Foundation To Be Named Later.
ABOUT FOUNDATION TO BE NAMED LATER (FTBNL)
The Foundation To Be Named Later (FTBNL) was founded in 2005 by then Red Sox Executive Vice President and General Manager and current Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein and his twin brother Paul, a social worker in the Brookline public school system. Inspired by Paul and Theo’s commitment to creating positive opportunities for disadvantaged children and families in the Boston area, the Foundation expands the impact of youth-focused nonprofits by raising awareness and critical resources. Over the past six years, the Foundation has invested $5 million in grants and in-kind donations to local organizations and has sent more than 4,000 children to Red Sox and Celtics games. Central to FTBNL’s work are strategic partnerships with a team of nonprofits that serve disadvantaged children and families, including BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life); Citizen Schools; City Year Boston; The Home for Little Wanderers; Horizons for Homeless Children; Roxbury Youthworks; Steps to Success; and West End House Boys & Girls Club. With the generous support of RISO, FTBNL also created the “Peter Gammons College Scholarship,” named for the beloved Hall of Fame sports journalist and humanitarian, to provide 28 college scholarships to exemplary Boston area students who have overcome tremendous disadvantages but have great potential. Visit www.FoundationToBeNamedLater.org for more information.
While David Ortiz was the only Red Sox All-Star this season, there was a familiar face in the room during the availability for National League All-Stars on Monday afternoon.
Jonathan Papelbon, a four-time All-Star with Boston, was back on the big stage again, this time for the Philadelphia Phillies.
As was always the case during his years with the Red Sox, Papelbon had plenty to say on a variety of subjects.
Has Papelbon’s newfound wealth changed him? “It hasn’t changed my life at all. I’m good, man. I bought two four-wheelers for hunting camp. That’s about it, man. I went from a Back Bay penthouse to a Renthouse Square penthouse. That’s about it, man. When it’s all said and done, man, I’m easy breezy. I mean, the contract for me, it never real was about money. I’ve said this from the beginning. If it was about money for me, I would have tried to stay and start.
“It was a pride thing for me. It was a thing that I felt like, what can I do to go enjoy myself every day man. But the contract for me and wanting to go year to year like I did, and into the free agency like I did, was, I think, more just the competitive thing for me. Like, I’m going to try to be the best on the field and if I can be best on the field, why not be the best off the field? You know what I mean? It’s just kind of the way I tick.”
Papelbon hasn’t lost any motivation just because he has financial security, right? “No, man, I’m always ready to go, ready to rock. I think, when that starts happening, you really have to ask yourself: should I keep playing this game? When your work ethic changes and you start getting lazy and stuff like that … I’m one of those guys, I don’t do anything [less than full speed]. That’s just what I do.”
It would have been tough for Papelbon to stay in Boston without the only manager he ever had there — Terry Francona. “Yeah. I truly do believe that. Tito told me how to play big league baseball. I tell you what, that [guy ripped into me] sometimes. He did. But a lot of times also, he picked me up when I was falling down. He told me the ins and outs of how to prepare, how to be successful, how to succeed. He told me something one day when I was a rookie, he said, I had Michael Jordan in Birmingham and he said, you’ve got to learn how to fail before you succeed. And man, something just clicked in my head.
“It’s things like that, when I was a young kid coming up, everything, from the first Spring Training I had in Baltimore, sitting down with me and explaining how it works and how to be successful and everything. He was like a father figure to me sometimes. A to Z, to go from having him for a manager from ’05 to 2011, it’s just, him being gone, that wouldn’t have been easy for me. I don’t think it’s easy for Dustin [Pedroia], and I don’t think it’s easy for anyone in that clubhouse. There are adjustments you have to make. “
Was Papelbon gone pretty much the moment Tito left? “I’d say it pretty much closed the door, yeah. Not 100 percent but I wasn’t going to go there and not know what manager I was going to playing for. Even when Philadelphia showed interest in me, I asked around about Charlie, you know, because I think as manager has a lot to do with the way a player ticks and a way a player can go. It did – it had a whole lot. And then Theo bounces, ding, ding, ding, lightbulb went off in my head and I say to myself, Theo bounces, he created all of this. He wouldn’t just leave this behind if … so the wheels started turning.”
How weird would it have been to stay under the new regime? “I think it would be. I don’t think that would be an experience that I could really handle too well.”
The Red Sox never made an offer. “They wanted to see if I could go out and test the market and maybe come back. I don’t know if they would [have countered], but I don’t go back. I go forward. go full steam ahead, man. I don’t look back. I’ve got a car that don’t have rearview mirrors in it, man. I just go.”
Charlie Manuel reminds Papelbon of Francona. “Charlie’s a really good manager. Charlie’s very similar to Tito. Charlie gets on you when he needs to get on you and lets you be who you need to be.”
Papelbon is thrilled for his close friend and former teammate David Ortiz. “I was saying that earlier. I’m excited for him, I’m happy for him. I mean, I think sometimes he gets his feelings get in the way but that’s Papi, man. Papi, he gets a little emotionally fired up sometimes. You guys know. I mean, I’m happy for him. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Lack of security for Ortiz, similar to Papelbon’s final years in Boston? “I think it fuels him. He just talks about it a little bit more. David, he’s an emotional guy. He puts his heart and soul into this. I find nothing wrong with what David says. I don’t find … you’ve got a small window, bro. a small window to try to succeed. And what David said and what he’s trying to do, I don’t find nothing wrong with that. no, it don’t surprise me, man.”
“Like I said, you have a small window to do your thing in this game. I’m so happy for him, man.”
Should the Red Sox weigh in intangibles more for a player like Ortiz? “Yeah, I think they should weigh it in. you’re talking about, in my opinion, the Red Sox are not the Red Sox without him, period. I don’t care what he asks for. I’m trying to make that big man happy.”
Papelbon is well aware that his former bullpen mate Daniel Bard, who is now in Triple-A, is having a rough time of it. “I have. I haven’t talked to him. I’ve been meaning to actually talk to him here lately but, you know, Daniel’s the kind of guy, he’s a mature athlete and he knows what it’s about. He’s going to be fine. I really do think he’s going to be fine. He’s taking some bumps and some bruises right now but who doesn’t. You’re not in the big leagues if you’re not taking bumps and bruises. I took my bumps and bruises in 2010. You’re going to take some bumps and bruises. I think he’ll become better.”
Papelbon thinks Bard will be OK. “He’s a pretty mentally strong kid. He really is. I saw that in the bullpen. I saw the days he got beat up and the way he came back. I saw him have success the way he handled that. I think he’ll be fine.”
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington took some time out of his busy schedule on Wednesday morning to talk with MLB.com about his first Spring Training in his new job. Here are some highlights from the interview.
After spending the winter building a team, what is Spring Training like? “Spring Training is the fun part, no doubt. It’s an opportunity to get back to what , I think, most of us got in the game in the first place, just to watch players play, watch the team play and see the collective work that’s been done when we get out on the field. You can start to see some things happening. Some good things, some not so good things. You react to the not so good things and try to react to them. Spring Training is a great time of year because it’s sort of the culmination of the offseason, which is typically a sort of frenetic pace. You get to now watch the game and that’s what we all want to do.”
What issues regarding the team keep you awake at night these days? “Well, the things that sort of stand out are the obvious ones. We need some guys to step up on our pitching staff. We’ve got a lot of guys here who are capable of doing that. We get to see them more. We’re optimistic because we believe we have guys that are capable of taking advantage of that opportunity. We have to see them do that. It’s march 7 – we haven’t seen enough of it yet. We’ve tried to build some depth in the outfield in the event that Carl wasn’t back at the beginning of the season and it looks like he may need a little more time. We’ll continue to look at that collection of outfielders and figure out works. As with every spring training, we’re going to cover every other team’s camp and see if there are guys available that might help us. I’d say that the primary focus is on trying to figure out who from that group of pitchers is going to step up and take advantage of the opportunity.”
What about shortstop? “We feel confident in what Aviles can do and the protection that Punto gives us. We think very highly of Iglesias and the player he’s going to be. He’s shown some good things already this spring and he’s making progress. I think I’ve said, there’s a competition. It doesn’t mean that competition is on equal footing. Some guys are going into the competition with an advantage but we’re not going to limit anyone. We’ll see how things evolve. Again, we’ll keep our eyes out but we feel confident that we have he answers here.”
How has life changed being the GM? “I guess I get recognized a little more but I don’t feel any differently, really. I’ve had the privilege of working here for a long time so I know … and growing up in new England, so I know how passionate Red Sox fans are and that’s why this is such a great place to work and it’s such a great place to do our jobs. I’ve gotten recognized a little bit more but it’s nothing like what I saw from Theo all those years because I think the way that Theo came into the job and the success that he had – the sort of historic achievements put him on a level that no one else will or should. For me, I’m comfortable with that aspect of the job – people recognizing me more, but it doesn’t feel that different.”
Is it any different dealing with players in your new role? “I think one of the most important things I learned from Theo is that you can have a good relationship with a player and you can still make a hard decision. He did that I think as well as anybody. I’m a different person but I do think it’s possible and I think it’s important to have a good relationship with players but also to make it clear that that there are still decisions to be made and we have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the team. Some of those decisions, players won’t agree with but along the way, we can treat each other with respect and get along. Look, we’re all trying to achieve the same goal.”
Parting ways with Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek? “That was one of the most challenging aspects of the offseason really, even though in the end, it didn’t translate into anything on the field this spring. Both those guys are guys that I have a great deal of personal respect for. Their accomplishments on the field speak for themselves and certainly the organization holds in really high regard. We made a decision that we weren’t prepared to guarantee them a job on the team and based on that, we then had a long period of conversation about what that would mean and left the door open because we wanted to give them a chance to have a say in the outcome and the final decision. But it was hard, you have guys that have left that much on the field and given that much to the organization. There were times this offseason that I had to deliver news that they didn’t want to hear. We tried to do that in as respectful a way as possible. I also know that there will always be a place for Jason and Tim in the organization and we hope that we can work with both of those guys for a long, long time.”
From the outside looking in, you seem unflappable: “I don’t think I’m unflappable. I think I probably show my emotions a little bit less than some others. When things don’t go well, it bothers me as much as anyone else. I may internalize that more than some others. I think that being a farm director for as long as I was was good preparation for this job in the sense that what you’re trying to do is create a system that works the best for as many people as possible. It’s not ever going to be perfect for everybody. Being a farm director helped me understand that the goal is to provide the best opportunity for as many people as possible and to help as many people as possible. Within that, there are going to be things that happen that you don’t like and people that are disappointed because players are human beings. I think in that sense it’s helped me a little bit.”
Tuning out public perception, particularly when it’s negative: “Some of it we don’t have a choice but to remove ourselves from it and just focus on finding solutions, finding answers. I understand, I have a great appreciation for the importance of the attention that the team gets, whether it’s positive or negative. We wouldn’t be the Boston Red Sox and this wouldn’t be such a great place to work if that attention wasn’t there. At different times, that attention can come in different forms. Last offseason we made some really big moves and felt reall good about our team and a lot of other people did too and it didn’t end the way we wanted it to. This year, our offseason was different, the way the season ened, the attention on the team was taking on a bit of a different flavor but I think if you take one step back, and sort of look at what’s actually on the field, in hindsight, there were some questions about last year’s team and there were questions about this year’s team and questions about 29 other teams in baseball. We’ve just got to do the best we can to get this team ready and look for solutions as we need them as the spring goes on, as the season goes on.”
Your first few months working with Bobby Valentine? “It’s been good. I’ve learned a lot from him. He sees the game about as well as anyone I’ve worked with. He sees the game differently then I do. We come from different backgrounds and I think that’s helped. I see some things differently that may help him sort of gain a new perspective. Hopefully the combination of different backgrounds can help us together make decisions. He’s got a ton of energy. He’s actually got – there’s a lot of things he has in common with tito. He lives and breathes and sleeps baseball. He wants nothing more than for players to perform well and for the team to win. He has a true passion for the game. He’s a baseball lifer in eveyr sense of the word. Their styles are different. There are certain things they’re going to do differently on the field and the way they go about things but ultimately there are a lot of core elements that are similar and the end goal is certainly the same. My job has been to get to know him and work with him and hopefully complement him as well as I can and develop that relationship so that when we get into the season and go through those inevitable tough times we both know we’re in a position to rely on each other and make the tough decisions if we need to.”
Biggest things you learned from Theo? “Well as I said, really, if I could point to one thing, it’s that sense of humanity that he showed in the way that he made decisions. You could make tough decisions and do it in a respectful, humanistic way. And that was the right thing to do, — it was the right thing to do sort of on moral grounds, but it was also the right thing to do on professional grounds. It helped give players the security of knowing that even when there was going to be a tough decision, when there was going to be bad news delivered, it was being done with as much respect as possible and it was being done in a way that helped the team and gave guys the best chance to win possible. If I had to point to one thing, I’d say that. There’s a lot of other things he taught me. Certainly I think he knows he knows as much about evaluating players as anyone in baseball. He’s got I think a very unique combination of feel for the objective side of player analysis and the subjective side. I don’t know too many people, if anyone, who are as good at sitting dfown and watching a game and seeing a player and evaluating them subjectively and also you can look at performance history and know exactly what he’s seeing there and being able to combine those two things. There are people that can do that. There are people that are good at one or the other . they’re may be people, but no one that I know as well that can do it like he does. So I learned a lot from him in those areas. I don’t think I match him in that respect. But I certainly learned a lot about how to balance those two things.”
Dan Duquette said the other day you always wanted to be a GM. Is that true? “I think when I first got the opportunity to work in baseball – first with the Indians and then with the Red Sox, Dan gave me an opportunity to scout, which is something I wanted to have the opportunity to do. I wanted to learn how to scout. I think I got into the game wanting to be a GM but also knowing that there’s a lot to learn and I was thrilled to have a chance to work in the game. As time went on, the goal of being the GM was still there. But really it evolved more into – what’s most important to me is not the title, it’s to be part of a group that’s doing something special and has a chance to put together and be part of a winning team, a winning organization. That’s what’s most important to me. When I was offered the job in Boston, I took it as much because I wanted to be part of something special and part of a winning organization as I did because of the tittle or because this was something I aspired to. Yeah, I had that goal in mine and I was lucky to … Dan gave me a chance to scout and learn and make some mistakes and learn from mistakes both in domestic scouting and Latin America. Then when Theo came aboard, I was given opportunities by him too. I’m very lucky to be given those opportunities and get the training and experience necessary to be able to do this job now.”
How excited are you to get to Opening Day, when you start getting measured every day by wins and losses? “It’s exciting. I think we’ll be facing Justin Verlander and it’s probably going to be about 40 degrees. I don’t know if that’s something you really look forward to. But it’s exciting because I think more than anything, I know the group of guys in the clubhouse are really ready to go be the Boston Red Sox again. Another thing that Theo taught me is that nobody should be judged by one moment. No team should be judged by one moment either. It should be judged by a longer time span, a longer period of peformance and behavior. I think the Boston Red Sox are much different than Septmeber of 2011 and I think our individual players are much different than what the perceptions of September of 2011 were. I think they are motivated to go show people that. So that’s what I’m looking forward to, more than anything else.”
Tomorrow, Theo Epstein starts Chapter 2 as a Major League general manager, leaving quite a legacy behind in Boston as he takes over as President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs.
When Epstein took over, we knew he was young and smart. Did we know he’d be able to lead the Red Sox to their first two championships since 1918? How could anybody know that?
I thought this would be as good a time as any to go back to what Epstein said at his initial press conference on Nov. 25, 2002, when he was promoted in the very same room — back then it was the .406 club, now it’s the State Street Pavilion — where Ben Cherington will get his coronation tomorrow. It’s equally fun to go back and listen to what the Red Sox said about Epstein the day they formally gave him the job.
Why did the Sox select Epstein as their GM when Billy Beane turned the job down?
“We’ve selected him for his intellect; we’ve selected him for his character. We’ve selected him for his passion for baseball, his knowledge and history and passion for the Red Sox,” said Larry Lucchino almost nine years ago. “For the breadth of his work experience. And for the ability to bring people together and work together in new and innovative ways. We think Theo Epstein has a chance to be an outstanding long-term general manager of the Red Sox.”
Yes, six postseason berths, four LCS’s and two championships over nine years could be classified as an “outstanding long-term general manager of the Red Sox.”
So why did John Henry think Theo was the guy?
“He has been a constant source of ideas, energy and intelligence for us since he came home to Boston,” Henry said on Nov. 25, 2002. “He joins a select group of young and highly talented general managers in today’s game who are revolutionizing baseball. We believe he will excel from day one.”
Well, pretty much. Epstein put together a formidable team in that winter of ’02-03 and the Red Sox nearly made it to the World Series in his first season.
Epstein, thinking of people like Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer no doubt, promised he would not reach his goals alone.
“But no one person is going to turn the Red Sox into a world championship organization,” said Epstein. “It’s going to happen, but it’s going to be a group effort. It’s going to be through collective hard work and through our collective wisdom. Our short-term goal is to win and win a World Series, and that starts with getting to the postseason. So if you need to write down what our goal is for 2003, it’s to make the postseason.”
Short term goals were all reached.
What would his style be?
“My management style is to solicit opinions of those around me, those older and wiser,” said Epstein. “Hear not only what they have to say, but why. I want to hear why you have your opinions. As Chuck Tanner said, baseball is an opinion. We’re going to turn every issue over and over again. At the appropriate time, I’ll step in and act.”
At first, Epstein relied heavily on the late Bill Lajoie. In later years, he trusted Allard Baird and others greatly. Epstein never tried to act as if he was acting all on his own will.
“Our first organizational goal is winning and winning soon,” said Epstein. “Our second organizational goal is creating an atmosphere where we can sustain that type of competitiveness and that type of success long term.
If not for a barrage of injuries in 2010 and a historic collapse this time, Epstein’s regime could have been eight postseason appearances in nine years. Either way, his team was competitive and had success long term.
How was Epstein going to back up these big words?
“How do we create this environment where we’re going to sustain competitiveness and success? We’re going to turn the Red Sox into a scouting and player development machine. Every time I say this around the office, we all get excited because the sky is the limit. I’ll say it again, we’re going to become a scouting and player development machine,” Epstein said. “That means we’re going to draft exceptionally well. We’re going to sign our players. We’re going to have an idea on what kind of players we’re going to develop. We’re going to get to a point where every year great young players are coming up through the system into the Major Leagues, giving us flexibility and talent.”
Jonathan Papelbon. Dustin Pedroia. Jacoby Ellsbury. Clay Buchholz. Daniel Bard. Justin Masterson. Casey Kelly, Reymond Fuentes and Anthony Rizzo turned into Adrian Gonzalez. Ah yes, a scouting and player development machine.
“Once we reach that point, we’ll have created that player development and scouting machine. We have a chance to win in 2003, and win it all. If we build the scouting and player development machine, we’ll have an opportunity to say that every year.”
There wasn’t one year in Epstein’s tenure where you could look at the Red Sox in Spring Training and not have a legitimate chance to win a World Series.
And finally some closing thoughts from Larry Lucchino nine years ago.
“This is no longer your father’s Oldsmobile, to borrow from that commercial,” Lucchino said. “The Red Sox are determined to do new and innovative things to work with new approaches, to use new people, to push the envelope, so to speak, for baseball. We will do so while blending into that mix the reverence, respect and traditions and history of the Red Sox and baseball. He is a very strong-willed and independently willed person. Anybody who knows him will tell you that.”
Tomorrow, Epstein will give his mission statement in Chicago. Three hours later, Cherington will give his at Fenway.
Finally, it’s done. After multiple weeks of heavy speculation, and over a week since Theo Epstein agreed on a contract with the Chicago Cubs, he is now the president of baseball operations for a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1908.
Because of the World Series, both teams will hold off on press conferences until Tuesday, at which time perhaps the compensation package coming to the Red Sox will be revealed.
Ben Cherington, Epstein’s long-time lieutenant, will also be unveiled as general manager of the Red Sox at that time.
Epstein’s tenure with the Red Sox — which lasted a month short of nine years if you take away his two-month sabbatical — was certainly a memorable one.
At the age of 28, Epstein, the youngest general manager in baseball history, vowed he would turn the Red Sox into scouting and player development machine. He vowed to turn them into a team that was competitive year in and year out. More or less, he accomplished his goals, albeit with more success in his first six seasons in office than his last three.
In Epstein’s first six years, the Sox made it to the ALCS four times, won two World Series, made the playoffs five times and posted an October record of 34-20. Over his last three seasons, the Sox made the playoffs just once, going 0-3.
Now, Epstein will try to turn the Cubs into a scouting and player development machine, and end their World Series that stretches back to 1908.
It will be interesting to see what Cherington will do as the GM. At the age of 37, he is well groomed for his new role.
Cherington has long worked under Epstein. He actually predates his former boss in the Red Sox organization.
Cherington was hired by the Red Sox in 1999 as a mid-Atlantic area scout and joined the baseball operations department in May of that year. The New Hampshire native was named the club’s director of player development in 2002 and served in that role until December, 2005, when he became co-GM of the Red Sox, along with Jed Hoyer, when Epstein resigned from the GM post for two months. Cherington worked as vice president of player personnel for three years before being promoted to the role of assistant GM in January 2009.
He has quite the offseason in front of him. First of all, there is the task of finding a new manager.
Then there are key personnel decisions. Do the Sox keep David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon? What to do about right field and shortstop? Do you let the old guard of Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek go?
All this and more will be answered in the coming weeks, as the Cherington regime commences.
When the story broke last Wednesday that Theo Epstein had agreed to a five-year contract with the Cubs, most of us felt his coronation in Chicago — and Ben Cherington’s in Boston — would happen within the next day or two.
But as tends to happen with these things, it has dragged out, with both sides trying to make the best compensation deal possible.
For those of us who would just love to see this thing get resolved one way or the other, it’s probably good that there’s somewhat of an artificial deadline in place.
The World Series starts Wednesday night in St. Louis. MLB has a very strong policy of not wanting any major announcements to trump the Fall Classic.
I don’t think either side wants this situation to drag past the World Series, which would end on Oct. 23 at the absolute earliest.
This is a major offseason for both teams. The Red Sox need to find a new manager, and then have several key personnel decisions to make. The Cubs obviously have some big decisions to make as well — moves that are all but certain to be made by Epstein.
I’m guessing two Tuesday afternoon press conferences — one at Wrigley for Epstein and one in Boston for Cherington.
In a wide-ranging interview with WEEI this morning — and simulcast on NESN — Red Sox owner John Henry and president/CEO Larry Lucchino ran through the gamut of topics that have engulfed the club since the season ended way earlier than anyone could have expected.
How stunning is this that you didn’t play in October?
Henry: “I think, weren’t people writing at that point of the season that this was the greatest Red Sox team ever?”
Did you assume the Sox were in? Henry: “You never assume. In other business as well, you never assume that you’re going to accomplish your goals until you accomplish them.”
Lucchino: “I think that was a reasonable assumption at that point, given the lead, where we were in the season. and the statistical probabilities of what would happen. Certainly none of us anticipated a collapse of biblical proportions that we endured.”
Tito was a little cryptic about where it all went wrong, Henry: “Uh, there was some cryptic-ness when we met. You remember, we had problems over the years with certain players. Like Manny Ramirez, for instance, was a problem at one point for the manager. But he had his back, because that’s the clubhouse culture. As a manager, you don’t throw your players under the bus. You do everything you can to make them productive and keep them that way. In this case, we didn’t get any information along those lines at that point.”
Allegations that starting pitchers were drinking in the clubhouse during games? Lucchino: “There are certain principles that are important within the clubhouse culture. I think that’s one of them. it’s not something that we think should be tolerated. There’s a rule about it and it should be enforced. It was much after the fact that that was brought to our attention. We’re still trying to dig in, trying to figure out how pervasive it was, how extensive it was and not try to superficially conclude that it was a major factor in anything.”
When did Titanic hit iceberg? Henry: “We didn’t just hit an iceberg. Every day we went, what, 7-20? This was a team that was going 20-7 and suddenly went 7-20. So it was throughout that process that we began to wonder, why is this team breaking down? This is the second straight year that on Aug. 1 we looked great and looked like we were headed for a potential World Series and second straight year that the team broke down physically. I’ve been reading somewhat what the media has been saying. I haven’t heard enough about that. that was the concern that started at some point during that decline. The biggest concern we had was we’re just not doing well physically.”
Subpar physical fitness? Lucchino: “It’s certainly an issue that’s important to us, physical conditioning. That’s another one of the issues we are looking into examining. It’s our responsibility to try to right this ship and give the fans what we promised when we got here, which is a team worthy of their support. We’re going to do that. We’re going to look into the whole conditioning issue. I take exception to pointing to any individual. I don’t want to talk about any individual in particular. But I will talk about the general notion that our team has to be in first class physical condition. And as John said, the last couple of years, we’ve seen a dramatic decline at the end of the season. That is one of a myriad of issues to look at going forward.”
Pitchers out of shape? You looking into that. Henry: “Yeah, the day before yesterday, I spoke with a couple of our medical people and the trainers and so forth just to try to get an idea. We’re still early in this process and that’s one of the reasons there hasn’t been a lot to say. You don’t want to go off half cocked because one person said this. Talking to a few people, one thing thus far that I’ve been able to establish is that the pitchers did their work. They did their cardiovascular. This organization is as good as any in baseball, I’m told, at doing their work. What is their work? Cardiovascular, shoulder exercise is very important. Very important. We have very little in the way of shoulder problems, as compared to other clubs. They did their leg work. Some of the people, including the person you mentioned [Josh Beckett], are adamant. That’s what they do. They don’t shirk those responsibilities.
“Were there nutritional issues was another question I asked? Yes. I believe there were nutritional issues and there’s just, one of the things we’ve learned in getting involved with English football is they have sports science and the science of fitness is very advanced among football teams around the world, at least the top football teams. So we’ve learned a lot just recently. Our people within the Red Sox have learned a lot. I think there’s much more we can do. to me, the most important thing is this is the third time in six years, and certainly the second straight which a great team just couldn’t make it through 162 games physically. And it wasn’t just one or two players. We were really banged up. We were really struggling to put healthy players on the field. every team has to be able to make it through 162 games. Two years in a row we didn’t do it.”
Tito mentioned something about lack of support/encouragement from ownership as things unraveled: Henry: “I don’t engage in encouragement. My way of encouraging the manager is generally, if we win, I’ll go down and say hello. My experience over the years is they really don’t want a lot of interracation from our level when things aren’t going well. But every once in a while, I will send over the years, I would send Terry an e-mail and basically say, you’re doing a great job, which I did this year, or we’re going to be fine. I’m probably the person inside among Tom and Larry and Theo and Tito, among all of us, I’m probably the person who most often says, we’ll be fine. The problem is we weren’t fine this year. “
Lucchino: “We did make an effort as things were proceeding in the wrong direction in September, certainly we made an effort before games. I would go down on the field and certainly not pep talks, but just try to engage some conversation to show that we were in this together and to try to beat as comfortable as I could around players, the manager and coaches.”
If you had picked up Tito’s option, he would have stayed. Why did you leave that until after the season? Lucchino: “It was certainly something we considered during the course of the year. you have to go back a step and understand the contract arrangement we had with Tito which was, we gave him a long term deal and we agreed we would not talk about options until the end of the fourth year. We said there would be a 10-day period. The first order of business after the season would be to talk about options but we don’t want the distraction of that happening during the year. because we had it during ’08. The first part of the ’08 season was all about contracts and his situation, dealing with agents and all that. so I think he understood. It’s not something that was going to happen during the course of the season. In fact, to his credit, he never said what do you think about my option. His agent never called us. There were never any discussions. We always anticipated that discussion would take place as understood, the first 10 days, the first order of business in the offseason.”
Was this mutual with Tito? Henry: “Well we really didn’t get a chance to make it mutual. Thinking about it, would we have ended up in the same place he ended up? Based on the things we heard and the things we saw, there’s a strong likelihood that we would have. So you could say it was mutual. The way it took place, in my mind, wasn’t really mutual, the way it took place.”
Lucchino: “We had a conversation about, again, that first day after the season, we sat for an hour and a half, two hours, talking about the season. We went through challenge after challenge and various reasons for the breakdown. We talked to tito about whether he was ready for this challenge, given all the challenges he had enumerated. He made clear to us that he wasn’t. You need a new voice down there. I’m not your man for next year. I think my time here is up. In some ways, he took that position and that is a very determinative factor when your manager feels like there needs to be a change. He did a fantastic job for us over the years. remember, he was contemplating his ninth year in this pressure cooker that is Boston. Different teams require different skillsets or different talents and I think he made an assessment with which we concurred that to that extend, it was mutual, and the word mutual does fit. Still, it was a sad occasion nonetheless. There was no joy that day. we had a myriad of problems identified for us and a manager who suggested in pretty clear terms that we should [move on].”
If they made the playoffs, does Tito still leave? Lucchino: “I’m not sure. I think the same process would unfold. We’d sit down as planned the first 10 days. the first order of business after the season, sit down and talk and find out. it takes to tango. Again, we’re talking about the ninth year. Tito was the second longest duration in Red Sox history, 110 years. you have to find if the manager is still ready for the challenge.”
So the Cubs requested permission to speak with Theo, eh? Henry: “How do you know that? how do you know that?
Lucchino: “Those things are supposed to be kept private and we have a policy of not discussing whether permission has been asked for x or y or z. In fact, every year we get requests for people. We never discuss them publicly. It’s been our policy and our practice.”
You haven’t denied it though, right? Lucchino: “But our position on that is that we don’t comment on requests. We have gotten requests every year. sometimes one or two or three a year. we don’t talk about them publicly. A few years ago, we got a request from another team about Theo Epstein. You heard nothing about that because we didn’t discuss it publicly. I think there’s good reason for it too. There’s some privacy considerations here. I don’t know that people would want their career development or their job decisions to be debated publicly, for people to know what they’re considering or not considering. And I’m not sure the other team would like that to be made public. Our consistent policy and practice is not to discuss whether there’s been a request made for permission.”
Do you usually give permission? Lucchino: “I’ll tell you what we have done. We have done both in the past. There are numerous individual. I mentioned that Theo was one of them in the past. We’ve had a number of our high ranking people move on.”
If Team A comes to you and says, we’d like to talk to Theo, would you grant them permission? Henry, “There is a certain protocol in this game. if someone asks permission for a job that’s not lateral, you give them permission. Now I’m sure there are examples where it didn’t happen. I’m sure we’ve done that in the past.”
Lucchino, “We don’t mean to sound evasive on this but this is one subject where we don’t think there needs to be full disclosure. Our fans have a keen interest in knowing as much about this team as we can possibly know. There are some thigns that come up against the lines of personal privacy, where there are some considerations that should be factored into it, and that’s where we are with respect to this thing.”
Can you hire a manager without knowing who your GM is? Lucchino, “We’re actively engaged in that search for a new manager. We’re not sitting around twiddling our thumbs. There’s a lot to be done. Theo is actively engaged day to day in that search. We just had a meeting with him the other day going through a list of candidates, possibilities. Ben Cherington is actively involved in the process. Certainly John, Tom and I are involved in it as well. That process is moving ahead. It’s not going to happen overnight. There will be some time that will pass. There’s a lot to work to be done and Theo and Ben are knee-deep in doing it. “
Interview anyone yet? “Not yet. I think one point needs to be made. As I look out over the landscape of what’s been said over the last couple of weeks, I don’t think people understand the governance of the Red Sox. when we talk about a manager, general manager issues, when we talk about important decisions that are made here, this isn’t John or it isn’t Larry. We really, over the last 10 years, have consistently done things collectively. This is a collective process. We’re intimately involved in the managers search. It’s not just theo that’s involved. With regard to what happened with the manager’s situation previously, we made collective decisions. We build consensus. When we signed Adrian Gonzalez, that’s not a one person decision. It’s not just the general manager. That being said, we’re very good, sometimes we’re too chain of command; Larry and I don’t make baseball decisions.”
Lucchino: “Let me just add that Tom Werner is a critical part of this as well, though he is not here today. In this instance, he is an active part of this process. We are a better organization because of the collaboration, the input. If you take Tom and myself, we’ve probably got like 45 or 50 years collectively of running major league baseball franchises. We take advantage of that experience. We collaborate , we debate.”
Theo’s recent struggles with free agents: Henry: “I think that’s one of the problems in baseball. It’s hard to predict things. it’s hard to predict performance going forward. When I look back over the last 10 years, and the last eight years with Tito being here and the last nine years Theo has been here, I look at what we’ve accomplished, every year, including this year, I felt we were headed to a World Series. Not the only thing, but the biggest thing to us every year is playing in October. that’s what we do. that’s we spend all our time doing is trying to create an atmosphere. People talk about, we’re business oriented. Well we’re business oriented for one reason. This guy is a tremendous revenue generator for one reason, and that is to be able to give the right people the amount of money it takes to be successful. You can criticize the things he’s done but we’ve averaged, what, 92, 93 wins?“
Horrific finish: Lucchino: “We are not unmindful of that. This was a disappointing torturous end of the season. As John said earlier, we watch every game. we suffer. We’re in this because we’re competitive people. Go back to December 21st, 2001, our very first press conference. The very first thing we said was, we have an obligation to field a team that’s worthy of the fans support. We feel that now. Believe me, it hurts not to be playing right now. This kind of weather. Walking around the ballpark, I keep thinking, we should be playing. It’s cold comfort, the sense of schandefraude that comes from the Yankees losing. That’s not a noble emotion. We have it. but we should be out there playing. We want that every year and we’ve had a good run at it but the challenges next year are real, they’re there and we’re prepared to deal with them.”
Is Theo the right guy to keep spending John Henry’s money? Henry: “He is but I think everyone has to understand a couple of things and I think Tito alluded to it. I think there’s a certain shelf life in these jobs. You can only be the general manager if you’re sane. You can only be the general manager …. You can only be the manager for a certain amount of time. There’s a tremendous pressure cooker here – 162 games. It’s a long season and the pressure here is 365 days. Theo is not going to be the general manager forever. Just as , if Tito had come back for the last two years, would he have gone past 10 years, I can’t imagine that he would have. I think that Theo will … he’s the guy now, he’s been the guy. We’ve had tremendous success. We fell apart at the end of the season. As Larry expressed, we’re upset about it. No fan could be more upset than I am about the result this year. He’s done a tremendous job for us over the last eight years.”
Can you hire a manager until you are sure who your GM is? Lucchino, “I think it’s not desirable to proceed that way if you don’t know who this person’s immediate boss is. I’ve been in situations where that has happened. I think the more desirable scenario is the one you first outlined, that there’s a certainty and a continuity with respect to general manager that would be in place before you pull a trigger on a manager but I’ve seen the opposite occur. Let me remind you that we hired Tery Francona some time in late November, it may have even been the first couple of days of December in 2003. There is time to address this issue. This is an important issue, the manager of this team and the manager of this team in this pressure cooker that is Boston.”
Why Tito over Joe Maddon eight years ago? Lucchino: “Theo should be here to discuss that as well. He certainly had a strong opinion on that. They were both good. Two different flavors of ice cream but they were both good. I think at the time, the sense was that Francona’s history was clearer and that maybe the kind of easy rider we understood him to be would be appropriate for that team. That was my recollection of it.”
What do you want in a manager, Henry: “Well, I think what we were looking for last time, in that we have a certain organizational philosophy and we want someone that is highly intelligent. Someone who can communicate with the players and be able to get the best out of the players. I think we lean in general toward player managers. The most important thing for me, if I had to choose one aspect, is that he really fits into our organizational philosophy.”
Could you kick the tires on someone like Joe Torre or Bobby Valentine: “I’m not going to talk about anyone individually. Would we consider experienced well established managers who are not young, who have been around a bit? The answer is yes.”
Can John Lackey bounce back? Henry: “I think so.”
Lucchino: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”
How can you say that? Lucchino: “Can he come back? I say yes he can. I’m not predicting necessarily when he will or if he will. But I’m saying can he? Yes. He’s a guy with an established track record. You have to look beyond the past year or so. Again, it depends on what your level of expectation is for various individuals.”
Just because of the recent difficulty with the success of free agent signings, will the Sox shy away this winter? Lucchino, “We’re not going to turn off any avenue to improve this team. Particularly this year. We’re not going to say, no, we’re not going to dive into the free agent market because of the recent record has not been as successful as we might like. No, we’re going to explore free agency, we’re going to explore trade,s we’re going to explore waiver wire, minor league free agents, international signings. We’re going to look at the whole of possibilities. The challenges are very real for this next year so yes, we will explore free agency.”
Do you keep Ortiz and Papelbon because they’ve proven they can produce in this market? “Those players you identify have leverage because of their performance. Their performance has been substantial here and with that comes a bit of leverage, to be sure. Does that mean we can not find players elsewhere that can fit in? we think we can. It doesn’t mean we’re always right but we think we have a process that theo and our baseball operations takes into consideration makeup and ability to deal with this city and Carl Crawford has had one bad year. This is one year of a long term commitment. It’s too early to say this is a guy who cannot play in Boston. We’ll see about that.”
Those of you who already miss hearing Terry Francona’s voice on a daily basis can get that fix cured for the first two games of the American League Championship Series.
The Boston Globe’s Chad Finn — citing confirmation from FOX — reported that Francona will fill in for veteran analyst Tim McCarver for at least Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS, which will pit the Rangers against either the Tigers or Yankees. McCarver, reported Finn, is dealing with a medical issue but is expected back for Game 3. In the past, FOX has utilized a three-man booth during the ALCS, so perhaps Francona will do the whole series.
Francona obviously didn’t have much problem communicating with the media during his eight years in Boston, not to mention his four years in Philly, so it would seem his transition from manager to analyst would go pretty smooth. He will also be working with a consummate pro in Joe Buck.
I, for one, am looking forward to hearing Tito dissect the ALCS.
As for who will replace Francona as the next manager of the Red Sox, that remains a work in progress. Team Owner John Henry tweeted that the Red Sox will start talking to and/or interviewing candidates soon, perhaps as early as next week.
Meanwhile, there continues to be silence on Yawkey Way regarding the report that the Cubs have requested permission to speak with Sox general manager Theo Epstein, who has one year left on his contract. The report from the Boston Globe is all but certain to be accurate. The true questions are these: Will the Red Sox grant Epstein permission to speak with the Cubs; Does Epstein want to speak with the Cubs?
Several requests for comment from Henry have gone unanswered.
The Red Sox must not have gotten the memo about reporting date. Either that, or they didn’t much care. The complex was full of players on Thursday, some 72 hours before they are required to be in town.
Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez are just some of the players who have already worked out.
The rest of them will be filtering in over these next several days, as another baseball season gets ready to start.
MLB.com will keep you up to date on all things Red Sox throughout the spring and, of course, all summer long.
Here is a synopsis of what you can find on redsox.com today.
Daniel Bard was a bit of a lone ranger last year in setting up Jonathan Papelbon. The hard-throwing righty is thrilled to be surrounded by quality options this year.
As Theo Epstein surveyed the scene, he noted that health — last year’s main annoyance — needs to hold up.
As I get ready to snowblow my driveway and sidewalk for the 900th time this winter, I thought all of you might be in the mood for some Red Sox fodder.
Theo Epstein and Terry Francona both provided updates on several areas of the team at Monday night’s town hall event.
How is Dustin Pedroia doing? “Pretty good,” Epstein said. “He went through a period where he was having some pain in a slightly different part of his foot, and doctors determined it was basically a result of having the foot immobile for so long. That was reassuring. It didn’t have anything to do with the fracture or the surgery. He’s healing really well, working out. He’s not wearing cleats yet, but we’re going to be smart about it. We don’t expect him to be limited by the time the season starts.”
The reports on Beckett have been positive: “Very positive,” Epstein said. “He’s been attacking the offseason, working really hard, getting in good shape, doing workouts. He has a personal trainer that he hired. The trainer and Mike Reinold have been in very frequent contact. Mike made a visit recently to see him, as he does with some of the other pitchers. He’s raring to go.”
On the Rays after adding two guys you might have heard of — Manny and Damon. ” Good moves,” Epstein said. “Those are guys that can probably still hit a little bit, to say the least. It makes for some interesting head-to-head matchups. But those guys, the demise of the Rays has been greatly exaggerated. Even before those moves, we never erased them at all from our radar. They’re uniquely positioned to lose some really good players and stay and keep their status as one of the best teams in baseball given the strength of their farm system. They lose Garza, they have Hellickson ready to step in. They lose Crawford, they have Jennings and Joyce ready to step in. They’re going to be really tough.”
Tito on whether Saltalamacchia is finished with boot camp with catching instructor extraordinaire Gary Tuck:
“I think it’s the other way around. Camp Tuck may have finished him. DeMarlo said he went down to check on him, say hi to the Tuckster, wanted to see Salty. He thought it would be running through the motions, but after two hours, he felt bad for Salty. They’ve done a terrific job. I’m really proud of them, both of them. How many guys do you see do that? It’ll be interesting to see where he’s at because obviously it’s an important position for us. We’re showing an awful lot of confidence in him. At the same time, I think it’s kind of neat that Tek’s worked to be at the point he is where we feel good about this. Tek’s probably going to catch more than an average backup catcher does.”