Haggerty: Sox make it interesting by racking up wins


Haggerty: Sox make it interesting by racking up wins

Less than a week ago, Sox manager Bobby Valentine expressed optimism his baseball team could finish as high as 20 games over .500 when the season has mercifully come to a conclusion.
That would leave the Sox in playoff position, and it would also require them to win two out of every three games for the final three months of the baseball season. That still seems like a preposterous goal given the rampant underachievement up and down Bostons roster and the injuries that continue to plague the Sox.
But a funny thing has happened while the Sox essentially stood pat at the trade deadline aside from the Craig Breslow trade: theyve started winning series against playoff-caliber teams, theyve climbed over .500 again and stand just four games back in the loss column for a wild card playoff spot.
The Sox fell to the Detroit Tigers by a 7-5 score at Fenway Park and snapped a four-game winning streak, but they took the all-important two-out-of-three against Jim Leylands bunch.
You dont expect to win every game from here on out, obviously, said Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But weve got to win every series. Thats something we definitely have to do, and just continue to keep going.
Every win countsespecially at this point. Weve just got to continue to go and weve got a lot of games against teams in our division.
The Sox also have the most difficult schedule in the Major Leagues over the stretch run this season, but they also have the talent to withstand quality teams if theyre actually playing well. Adrian Gonzalez was the leagues hottest hitter with a .372 batting average in July to go with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 24 games, and is finally living up to his reputation.
Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting over .300 since returning from a long stint on the disabled list and is back to throwing his body around in centerfield making spectacular catches. Pedro Ciriaco has been a feel-good story filling in at second base and shortstop with clutch hitting while Dustin Pedroia and Mike Aviles grapple with injuries.
Meanwhile Clay Buchholz has pushed to the front of the starting rotation (2.45 ERA in four starts during July) and looks ready to embark on a three-month stretch of dominant pitching with his otherworldly stuff. Jon Lester is showing faint signs of returning from the out-of-body experience thats been his dreadfully disappointing 2012 season, and Franklin Morales can go back to showing his stuff with Josh Beckett on the shelf with a bad back.
Even erstwhile Sox closer Andrew Bailey, who has yet to produce a single thing for Boston after arriving in exchange for the suddenly slugging Josh Reddick in the offseason, is a handful of minor league rehab innings away from a return. The arrival of Craig Breslow and the return of Bailey will make an already dependable Boston bullpen all that much better.
Even in Wednesday nights loss, the Sox fought back from a 6-1 deficit and made it a close game before eventually falling to the Tigers. The Sox arent going to win every night and theyll need something miraculous to get them into the postseason even with the charity second wild card.
I was really proud of the way the guys battled out there. That was another series that we won, said Valentine. If we keep winning series against tough teams like the Yankees and Detroit then were going to be just fine.
There are still many things that have to happen for the Sox to be fine. David Ortiz is going to have to return happy, healthy and motivated while his unknown future hangs around him like a dark cloud. A surgical procedure to remove Josh Beckett and John Lackey who really has no good reason for hanging around and riding the coattails of his healthy teammates would clearly help in a starting rotation clique thats gone horribly rogue.
Those things can help, but its simply about piling up wins and taking series as theyve done against the Yankees and the Tigers over the last six games. An electrifying Cody Ross walk-off homer or a textbook Pedroia laser show over a prolonged period are momentum-building moments for the Sox, but its not about precious, feel-good Fenway moments for this baseball team.
Its about collectively rolling up their sleeves, slapping together long strings of wins and passing Oakland, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Baltimore for that final wild card spot. It may not be possible for thats done plenty of things wrong for more than a calendar year of baseball.
But it might just be worth watching them try after some encouraging nights against good baseball teams over the last week.

Red Sox exec Amiel Sawdaye follows Hazen to Arizona


Red Sox exec Amiel Sawdaye follows Hazen to Arizona

The Red Sox lost another key member of their front office Monday, when vice-president of amateur and international scouting Amiel Sawdaye followed former general manager Mike Hazen to Arizona.

Sawdaye will be the Diamondbacks' assistant GM. As stated by Rotoworld, he had been instrumental in building up the Red Sox' young big league talent and farm system.

The Boston Globe reported today that the Red Sox may not fill the GM vacancy created when Hazen left, instead using "other staffers to take on Hazen’s administrative duties". President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski handles many of the duties traditionally associated with the general manager's position, leaving the actual GM's job in Boston as "essentially an assistant [position] with a lofty title but little power".

The Red Sox have also lost two other front-office members this offseason: Senior baseball analyst Tom Tippett, who had been with the organization for eight years, and director of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek, who had been with the Sox for five years.

McAdam: World Series win could clear path to Cooperstown for Epstein or Francona

McAdam: World Series win could clear path to Cooperstown for Epstein or Francona

Sometime over the next 10 or so days, either the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians will win the 2016 World Series.

Naturally, that will mean one of baseball's two longest-suffering franchises will end their championship drought. Either the Cubs will win their first title since 1908, or the Indians will win for the first time since 1948.

That alone should make for an epic World Series.

But there's another bit of history at stake, too - one of legacies.

In addition to the great discomfort felt by Red Sox ownership -- which fired the manager of one participating team and was seemingly happy to hold the door open for the exit of an executive now running the other - it will also almost certainly result, eventually, in either Terry Francona or Theo Epstein being enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

Epstein would go down as the architect who helped two star-crossed franchises win titles - the Red Sox in 2004, and the Cubs this fall.

The Red Sox went 86 years between championships; the Cubs would be ending a run of futility that stretched across 108 seasons.

That would provide Epstein with an unmatched resume when it comes to degree of difficulty. It's one thing to win it all; it's another altogether to do so with the Sox and Cubs, two clubs, until Epstein's arrival, linked in ignominy.

Epstein could become only the fourth GM in modern history win a World Series in both leagues. Frank Cashen (Orioles and Mets); John Schuerholz (Royals and Braves) and Pat Gillick (Blue Jays and Phillies).

He would also join a short list of executives who have won three rings, a list that includes contemporaries Brian Cashman and Brian Sabean.

Of course, Epstein can't claim to have constructed the entire Cubs roster, no more than he could have done when the Red Sox won in '04.

In Boston, Epstein inherited key players such as Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. Similarly, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras pre-date Epstein's arrival on the North Side.

But Epstein is responsible for nearly the remainder of the roster, and hiring manager Joe Maddon, the coaching staff and most of the Baseball Operations staff, including GM Jed Hoyer and scouting director Jason McLeod.

Francona's influence on the Indians is just as obvious.

Hired in late 2012 after spending a year in the ESPN broadcast booth, he inherited a team which had suffered through four straight losing seasons. In the five previous years before Francona's hiring, the Indians averaged just over 72 wins per season.

Since his arrival, the Indians have posted four straight winning seasons, with two playoff appearances, while averaging 88 wins per season.

It hasn't seemed to matter to the Indians that they've been without two of their three best starters (Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco) this postseason or arguably, their best offensive player for all but 11 games this season (Michael Brantley).

The Indians don't make excuses for injuries, or bemoan their modest payroll. Under Francona, they just win.

This postseason, he's made up for the absences in the rotation by masterfully utilizing reliever Andrew Miller anywhere from the fifth to the ninth inning.

A third World Series would put Francona in similarly rare company. Only 10 managers have won three or more World Series and just six have done so since World War 2 - Walter Alston, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Bruce Bochy Sparky Anderson and Casey Stengel.

The individual accomplishments of Epstein and Francona won't take center stage this week and next -- that attention will, rightly, go to their respective beleaguered franchises.

But the subtext shouldn't be overlooked. Once the partying and the parades come to an end, a path to Cooperstown for either the winning manager or winning president of baseball operations can be cleared.