McAdam: Sox owners have more to gain by staying put

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McAdam: Sox owners have more to gain by staying put

TORONTO -- There's no way of telling, definitively, whether there was any merit to the published report that the owners of the Red Sox have begun consideringplottinginvestigating selling the team.

But for now, let's assume that the depths to which John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino went to deny the story means they are not, in fact, selling. Time will either validate their denial or expose them as less than truthful.

A large segment of the fan base, understandably upset over three straight playoff DNQs, to say nothing of the soap opera that has been ongoing for the past 12 months, would like nothing more than Henry and Co. to leave town.

And to be sure, to borrow one of Lucchino's favorite phrases, there's plenty of criticism warranted at the trio, who, beyond allowing the franchise to go to seed, have demonstrated a tin ear of late.

(Example: Recently, one member of ownership expressed complete surprise that the near-universal outside perception is that the organization lacks the proper chain of command).

But let's be fair: in the past decade, this ownership has overseen two world championships and performed a nice remake of a ballpark now 100 years old.

They have spent -- not always wisely, of course -- and invested. Complain about the incessant marketing and "Sweet Caroline,'' but the fan experience at Fenway is worlds better than it was before they took over from the Yawkey Trust, when the ballpark was a dirty, outmoded money pit.

But here's why you should hope that Henry et al stay around: they're motivated.

Not motivated, as in ''motivated sellers.'' Motivated to repair their standing and legacy.

An oft-repeated criticism of Red Sox ownership is that they're too mindful of what others think. They read coverage of the team, listen to talk radio and ask around what's being said about them.

Lucchino can recite all the anecdotal evidence he likes about Massachusetts-reared-Rockies employees hugging him at owners' meetings and professing their undying love for the franchise.

But he and Henry and Werner aren't so isolated that they don't know how angry the fans are. And that may be the Red Sox' saving grace. Because these owners want -- some would suggest "need" -- to be liked. They enjoyed being seen as the white knights who rescued the team from the crony clutches of the Yawkey Estate.

Having experienced that emotional high, having been celebrated, they now are about as well-regarded as Jeremy Jacobs was pre-Cup: depicted as absentee and blissfully unconcerned about the team's fall from grace.

Long ago labeled "carpet-baggers'' because they had the poor sense to have been born outside Rte. 128, they're now in the community. Lucchino lives here year-round and Henry is here nearly half the year. So they hear, they read, they're all too familiar with the fact that the tide has turned against them.

What's more, they know they're going to take a hit for their misdeed. Already, TV ratings have fallen sharply, and the real trouble will come this winter when ticket sales -- both season-ticket and individial game -- take a similar dip.

Henry, Werner and Lucchino understand the importance of restoring the brand and making the Sox winners again. Such a turnaround will restore their standing and prove that the titles in 2004 and 2007 weren't happy accidents.

Could they cash out now and double their investment? Undoubtedly. But what's the hurry?

Name a baseball franchise whose value has decreased. The presence of labor peace provides stability and continuity for the forseeable future. Further, the escalation of TV money boosts the value of every franchise.

(The cable deal with ESPN resulted in a doubling of rights fees and when MLB reaches agreement with either Fox or NBC on the bigger package involving the World Series, All-Star Game and other post-season properties, the jump could be bigger still).

So, yes, the Sox could sell right now for, conservatively, 1.5 billion. But in another few years, with another pennant or World Series flag flying over Fenway, the selling price could put the L.A. Dodgers' pricetag to shame.

Better to have Henry, Werner and Lucchino have something to prove rather than sell when the team has bottomed out.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.