McAdam: With GM change, philosophies remain

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McAdam: With GM change, philosophies remain

BOSTON -- In the most obvious sense, Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington have very different tasks facing them.

The former, introduced as president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs, will be charged with essentially repeating for his new team what he did twice for his former club: winning a World Series after decades without one.

The latter, formally unveiled as the new general manager of the Red Sox Tuesday, must return his team to contention after two straight seasons out of the playoffs. While he's at it, Cherington has to restore some luster to a franchise which dirtied itself with a September implosion and the revelation that a handful of its players were less than focused as the team nose-dived out of the playoffs.

Both have their hands full.

But perhaps what was most striking about their press conferences Tuesday -- held some 900 miles and several hours apart -- was the similarity of their messages.

Though the two have widely different agendas and responsibilities -- Epstein isn't even going to be his own GM -- it was interesting to hear them emphasize the same priorities.

Both spoke about the overriding importance of scouting and player development. Both noted the need to utilize both traditional scouting combined with analytical methods. And both emphasized the need to work collaboratively with others in their organizations.

In other words, those expecting a wholesale change in philosophy, or some seismic shift in approach between the former Red Sox general manager and his replacement, are probably going to be disappointed.

To be sure, the two are different. Epstein is more of an extrovert and Cherington tends to be more on the subdued side. But both have the same basic approaches to the job.

It's been noted ever since it became known that Epstein was leaving and Cherington would be promoted as his replacement that Cherington brings a more varied resume to the job than did Epstein in November 2002, and that's undoubtedly true.

It's also true that Cherington has a more extensive scouting background than Epstein had. And Cherington was asked about other general managers whom he admired, he immediately mentioned former Minnesota GM Terry Ryan, who came from a scouting background.

But as Cherington himself noted, the chasm between traditional scouting and statistical analysis is nowhere near what it was, say, a decade or more ago. Most teams, in fact, combine the two - as the Red Sox have done and as the Cubs surely will now that Epstein is in charge.

"Most people in the game today," said Cherington, "they can talk about performance analysis and they can also talk about what they see on the field. We have a lot of those people in the organization."

Asked to evaluate the team's recent forays into the free agent market at his introductory press conference, Cherington summarized it succinctly with three words: "Not very good."

That point is inarguable, given the 82.5 million committed to John Lackey and the seven-year, 142 million contract signed by Carl Crawford.

Still, it's unlikely Cherington will treat the free-agent market much differently than did Epstein. Cherington, like Epstein, recognizes that free agency is, by definition, inefficient. Bidding against other big-market clubs for past performance of players entering (or into) their 30s is actually highly inefficient.

In a market like Boston, however, expectations often drive personnel decisions. If the Sox weren't pursuing big-name players up for bid, they'd hear about it from their fan base, which pays the highest average ticket price in the game as it fills the ballpark.

In Kansas City, there's no pressure to get the best available player on the market; in Boston, failure to make what's perceived to be a legitimate effort leads to cries that the team isn't committed enough to winning.

So, the Red Sox under Cherington, as they were under Epstein, will pick their spots on free agency. The challenge will be to get more return on their investment than they did with Lackey, Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo and other ill-advised signings in the Epstein Era.

Epstein was known to encourage dissent from his advisers and assistants in an effort to make the decision-making process more democratic and thorough; Cherington, say those who know him, will likely do the same.

There's a reason Epstein sought assurances from ownership that Cherington would succeed him, just as there's a reason Cherington referred to Epstein as his professional mentor Tuesday: the two have the same basic approach to the position.

That's not to suggest that Cherington is some sort of clone, or that Cherington will make every decision with an eye toward his WWTD (What would Theo do?) bracelet.

But it does mean that there will be no sea change, no dramatic altering of course on Yawkey Way. And, if after nine years on the job, the Red Sox win two pennants and play in two more ALCS, Cherington, too, will be considered a successful steward at the head of the Red Sox front office.

Dombrowski: Red Sox not eyeing 'significant' deal at deadline

Dombrowski: Red Sox not eyeing 'significant' deal at deadline

While some reports nationally have the Red Sox in search of a dramatic deal in the run-up to next Monday's non-waiver trade deadline, Dave Dombrowski hardly sounded like someone seeking a blockbuster to improve his club.

"I'm not necessarily looking to make something significant,'' said Dombrowski, ''because we've already added. We have five solid starters. Could they be better? If we have five All-Stars, we're better. But we have five guys we like. Our offense is the best in baseball as far as run production is concerned. Could we better? Sure. Will we be open-minded? Sure. But I don't see that there's a driving force (to do something).''

Certainly, there seem to be plenty of interested trade partners, as Dombrowski revealed that on Monday alone, the Sox received five different trade proposals that they hadn't received before.

"So that's why this time is year is interesting,'' said Dombrowski. "We also have some very good young players in our organization, so some teams are looking for those players. And I can say we're not close to making any trades right now.''

If the Sox have an area of weakness at this point, it's the bullpen, thanks to a season-ending injury to Carson Smith, a long-term injury for Koji Uehara and the current DL stint for closer Craig Kimbrel.

"I think our bullpen will be fine,'' Dombrowski predicted. "We're dealing with a tough situation, for the simple fact that we've had a lot of injuries. (Junichi) Tazawa's up and he's back and pretty much getting to the point where he can get back to his normal routine. Kimbrel threw the ball very well today; I wouldn't be surprised if he joined us relatively soon.

"So all of a sudden, you've got (Matt) Barnes, (Brad) Ziegler, we brought up (Joe) Kelly, (Robbie) Ross has thrown the ball very well for us. Can it be better? Sure. You listen to anything at this point. But. . . I know people keep saying 'They've got to add somebody, they've gotta add somebody.' But they forget that we're getting Kimbrel back and we just got Tazawa back.

"You look at it and if those two guys weren't back. My answer would be yes, we need to do something. But I think we're more in a position where we're open-minded but it's not a necessity.''

Some teams have called on Clay Buchholz, currently relegated to a mop-up role in the bullpen. But Dombrowski said Buchholz still has value to the Sox.

"He's real good protection for us (in the rotation),'' he said. "I thought he threw the ball the other day as well as I've seen him throw it all year. And I know, if you just looked at the stats, you'd say, 'He didn't do very well.' Unfortunately, we missed a couple of balls that were catchable. I thought his stuff was outstanding so he's got a place to help us.''

 

Farrell: Sox may have to manage Betts' knee condition for rest of season

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Farrell: Sox may have to manage Betts' knee condition for rest of season

BOSTON -- After missing two-and-a-half games due to soreness in his right knee, Mookie Betts was back in the lineup for the Red Sox Monday night.

Betts was removed from Friday night's game after four innings when he experienced soreness in the knee. The knee had been bothering him since the beginning of the second half of the season.

The training staff drained some excess fluid from the knee Saturday, reducing the swelling that had taken place.

"I was able to run at full speed [Monday],'' said Betts. "We were able to get the swelling out with ice and whatnot. I tried to stay off of it (for the weekend).''

"He feels better than he has the last couple of days,'' said John Farrell.

Farrell said the Sox might have manage the condition for the rest of the season.

"I don't fully expect this to vanish,'' said Farrell. "The biggest thing is that there was a little buildup of swelling. Once that subsided and was removed, that's where he's feeling the freedom in his knee and he's ready to go tonight.''