Ortiz: Red Sox need to re-embrace the '04 approach

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Ortiz: Red Sox need to re-embrace the '04 approach

BOSTON -- It only took David Ortiz a little while spent with his 2004 teammates Tuesday night to figure out what the Red Sox need to do for 2013.

It's not about players, Ortiz determined; it's about team. And it takes leadership, which Ortiz hinted the current Sox lack.

"Tuesday night something happened to me,'' said Ortiz. "Every time I looked at somebody, I kind of had some highlight, some flash from '04 that that person was responsible for. Tuesday night was the first time I noticed that every group was led by a guy. You know what I mean?

"Like the bullpen was led by Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke. Those guys wanted to make sure that all the young guys followed them, that the bullpen was ready for whatever they said. They had time to go out there, time to prepare themselves . . . they had their own group and they protected each other. On the road, you'd see the bullpen guys together.

"Same with the starting pitchers. We'd have Pedro Martinez, we had Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield handle whatever came up with starting pitchers.''

Ortiz recalled Martinez instructing Bronson Arroyo and other younger pitchers on the staff to change their between-start routine in midseason in order to preserve their strength.

"Pedro was looking out for his teammates,'' Ortiz said. "As a veteran, he was saying, 'As a young player, listen to what I have to say.' And next thing you know, boom, we're where we have to be.''

Asked where the veteran presence and leadership has gone in the present-day Red Sox clubhouse, Ortiz said: "It's not here right now. It's not here, to be honest with you.

"But I think we can get back there. It's not something you have to kill anyone to get there. It's just a matter of having veteran guys in charge.

"That's something that wasn't planned. It was Mike Timlin saying about the bullpen, 'Hey, I got this.' It was Curt, Wake, saying, 'Starting pitchers, I got this.' Hitting? Me and Manny Ramirez, we were in charge of the responsibility, the production and everybody around us fed off that.''

Setting the tone, Ortiz added, starts in the manager's office and no one understood that better than Terry Francona, the 2004 manager.

"Tito used to have me in his office when I was doing good and when I was doing bad,'' recalled Ortiz. "When I was doing bad, to remind me who I was; when I was doing good, to remind me who I am. And he used to be in the office with players, left and right, talking, going back and forth.

"That, to me, I thought was great because the guy built up my confidence. But at the same time, he didn't just build it up -- he wanted me to keep it at that level.

"Him talking to me was like my Dad talking to me. Whether he was mad at me or happy for me, I would take it the same way. Me and Tito, we never argued or anything. At some point, things got a little rough and he did what he was supposed to do. He'd say, 'I gotta make a move, I've got to change things.' ''

Asked if the Sox had the proper personalities to get back to the 2004 approach, Ortiz quickly responded: "Some of them. We need more.''

Ortiz added that the Sox need more talent, but as recent history has shown, not just any talent will work in Boston.

"We need guys who can come here and shock the world,'' he said. "Guys who come in and say, 'Okay Boston, you're a tough town . . . Here I am. Let me see. Let me try this.'

"You've got to be able to handle it. These days, you're not a baseball player, you're on TV like a movie star. So there's things that come with that.''

The Sox can't be turned around by bringing in one or two stars. Instead, the team needs to have a full roster to contribute.

"Every single person in the clubhouse needs to try to do something every day to win a ballgame,'' he said. "That's just responsibility. When I go to hit, I want to change the game. I want to make sure I put my team in a better situation. If you have 25 guys going at it like that, that's how you win the World Series.

"Tuesday night, I saw that. I saw it. I saw this guy that nobody knows, came in and played good defense. The guy who pinch-hit, nobody knows him, got the hit to win the game. The guy that comes in to face a right-hander and got his ass out. Those little things, 25 guys, are what you need.''

Ortiz said "there are some guys out there,'' who could help fix the Sox in a hurry.

"To give you a name,'' said Ortiz, "a guy I love to watch play, Michael Bourne. That guy's fun to watch. Let's say you have Cody Ross re-signed and Ells Jacoby Ellsbury -- I would have Cody playing left, and have Bourne playing right field (with Ellsbury in center). Now you have the whole outfield covered.

"He's going to hit at the top of the lineup, he's going to get on base, a good hitter, he knows what he's doing, plays defense. Guys like that, they make a difference everywhere they go.''

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''

 

Red Sox exercise 2018 option on John Farrell's contract

Red Sox exercise 2018 option on John Farrell's contract

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- When Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski almost casually mentioned in October that John Farrell would return for the 2017 season, he was, predictably asked about the option that the club held on the manager for 2018.

Dombrowski noted that he would speak to ownership about that matter over the off-season. Apparently, it didn't take long.

The Red Sox announced Monday that the team had, indeed, exercised the option on Farrell, putting him on a guaranteed deal through the next two seasons.

"John's done a real fine job for us,'' said Dombrowski. "We had a very good year last year. I thought he did a good job handling the club. We're in a position where we have a good working relationship. He has the respect of our players; our players played hard for him, so we're very happy to have done that.

"It puts stability to our staff going into spring training.''

Dombrowski said the issue would have been addressed sooner, but the team had to deal with the departures of former GM Mike Hazen, former bench coach Torey Lovullo and other front office members.

"There were just so many issues that happened after (the end of the season),'' he noted. "There was no rush. This didn't have to be exercised until 10 days after (the competition of the 2017 season)... (But) John has a solid presence to himself, leadership capabilities, yet I also find him very open-minded when we have conversations. I think he's done a very fine job.''

Farrell became a focal point for criticism from the team's fan base and some in the media when the Red Sox struggled to separate themselves from the rest of the American League East in the first half of the season.

After winning a World Series in his first season at the Sox' helm in 2013, Farrell managed the Sox to a last-place finish in 2014, and the team was mired in the East basement in mid-August of 2015 when it was revealed that Farrell was battling lymphoma.

He took a leave of absence for the final seven weeks of the season and when the team's record improved under Lovullo, acting as interim manager, the pressure on Farrell was turned up for 2016, with Lovullo, Farrell's long-time friend, seen as the heir apparent should the team under-perform.

That pressure remained hot until the final month when a hot streak vaulted the Sox into first place and carried them into the post-season, where the team was swept out of the Division Series by Cleveland.

"I'm thrilled that (the option) has been exercised, obviously,'' said Farrell. "I love the city, the organization, the players that we have. This is an exciting young team - the young core group of players that we talk about is developing year after year.

"(This was the) first full year that Dave and I had a chance to work together and I appreciate his confidence...We addressed and faced a lot of challenges over the course of the season and we came out of it stronger and in a better place.''

Farrell maintained that "the status of my contract never changed (how I managed) day-in, day-out. And it won't going forward. My focus is what we can do (on a given) night to win a game and put our players in the best position to succeed. And that won't change.''

In four years, Farrell owns a 339-309 record (.523 winning percentage). He joined Joe Morgan as the only Red Sox managers to guide the team to multiple division titles.