Tal Smith: 'Ausmus will be an outstanding major league manager'

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Tal Smith: 'Ausmus will be an outstanding major league manager'

BOSTON The Red Sox continued the search to fill their managerial vacancy Wednesday, interviewing Brad Ausmus, the former catcher who is now a special assistant with the Padres. Of the four current candidates, Ausmus, who retired after the 2010 season after playing 18 seasons with the Astros, Padres, Tigers, and Dodgers, is the only one with no coaching or managing experience.Some who knew Ausmus early in his career believed it would be just a matter of time before he became a manager.I felt that probably the first time half a dozen years ago or more, said Tal Smith, the former president of the Astros, and owner of Tal Smith Enterprises, a baseball consulting firm. And as a matter of fact, I even submitted him as sort of a dark horse candidate for I guess it was the search that led up to the appointment of Brad Mills three years ago. I even thought with Brad Ausmus, we havent had player-managers recently but at one time they were able to handle that quite well, whether it was Joe Cronin for the Red Sox or any number of people.The 43-year-old played two stints for the Astros totaling 10 seasons, the most time he spent with any team. The Connecticut native, who went to Dartmouth and owns a house on Cape Cod, was a 48th-round pick of the Yankees in 1987 and made his big league debut in 1993 for the Padres. He was traded to the Tigers during the 1996 season and to the Astros after the season. He was traded back to the Tigers before the 1999 season and back to the Astros before the 2001 season. He ended his career with two seasons in Los Angeles.I think Brad Ausmus will be an outstanding major league manager whenever he has the opportunity and whenever he feels that he is ready, Smith said. By that, I dont mean ready from a standpoint of preparation, but Brad has two daughters and lives in California. In fact, I dont know what his thoughts are. For years, when he was playing for us, he was like having a manager on the field. I think his baseball acumen is superb.He can really run a game, but thats only a part of it. I think his personality and his ability to communicate are exceptional. I just thought he meant so much to a club, not just for his receiving and his throwing but for what he brought from a standpoint of leadership. I think hes an exceptional candidate.Ausmus potential as a future big league manager stood out during his playing days for those who were there to watch up close.Yeah, it really did, said another front office executive who was with Ausmus for several seasons. Being around him on a daily basis you saw the level of intelligence and the leadership qualities in the clubhouse.This goes way back, said Smith. Brad had two tours with the Astros and early in his second tour when we brought him back, about the time that we were doing very well in 2004 and 2005, his leadership and his baseball knowledge and his personality and everything, I just think hes a natural leader and really understands the game very well, as a great many people do. There are a lot of people that understand the game but I just think hes got the leadership capabilities and the ability to communicate and obviously having been a catcher, having to work with pitchers, having to direct the club on the field, I just think hes and ideal candidate. And especially back in New England where theres special attraction for him.Of the Sox current candidates Tim Wallach, Tony Pena, and DeMarlo Hale, along with Ausmus Ausmus is the only one with no prior coaching or managing experience. Hale and Wallach have managed in the minor leagues and have major league coaching experience. Hale, currently the Orioles third base coach, is familiar with the Sox from his six seasons as a bench coach and third base coach on former manager Terry Franconas staff, before being let go last year. Wallach is currently the Dodgers third base coach. Pena was the manager of the Royals from 2002-05 and the American League manager of the year in 2003 and is currently the Yankees bench coach. The status of John Farrell, who appears to still be on the Sox wish list, is still uncertain.Everybody talks about the need for managerial experience, said the executive, but there are quite a few guys out there right now that are sort of dispelling that myth, so to speak, that youve really got to have that time under your belt.It doesnt surprise me that he would be considered and it wont surprise me when he gets an opportunity and becomes successful.He communicates very well, Smith said. Hes got a very dry wit, a very likable sense of humor. Not everybody gets it initially, but I think hes really clever. I think hed do well with the media and with players. I think hed be firm but fair.He was very popular, at least from everything I know, in the clubhouse, whether it was with the Bagwells and the Biggios, I just think hes an outstanding guy and outstanding baseball person. I think the two of them added together, I think hed be an outstanding manager. But I think its just a question of timing, the right club, and when Brad is ready and interested in doing it.While the lack of experience could be a drawback when compared with other candidates, if Ausmus were to get the job, he would not be outside the norm of recent managerial hirings. Last year, Dale Sveum (Cubs), Robin Ventura (White Sox), and Mike Matheny (Cardinals) were all hired with no previous major league managerial experience. Mathenys team is currently playing the Giants in the NLCS. And, the Sox were ready to name Sveum before going with Bobby Valentine.I think its a consideration. Its a concern, Smith said. But some have been able to do it quite well. I think the Cardinals, obviously thats working out well with Matheny. We hired Larry Dierker as a first-time manager in 1997. That was my nominee back then and that sort of surprised or shocked people and we obviously did very well with it finishing first five out of six seasons, with Dierker the National League manager of the year in 1998. Theres a whole long list of people that did not have any prior managerial experience. I used to have answer this for clubs when I was either in a consulting role or with the Astros when we were putting together a list of candidates and somebody would say, Well, he hasnt managed. And at that time I had a list handy of people who had managed successfully in the major leagues without prior managerial experience.Rather than making a blanket statement, the candidate should be considered based on his merits.I think Id have to handle it on a case-by-case basis, said the executive. I do value the experience that guys are able to get at the minor league level. There are issues, and as good as things are initially you still have to prepare for whatever hurdles youll have to clear down the road. I think a lot of things that happen at the minor league level when youre a manager also tend to manifest themselves at the big league level. And if youve got the experience of handling those types of things a lot of times its not on-field issues, its not, Should I hit and run? and things of that nature. Its more of handling players who are no longer your teammates and recognizing that there is an adjustment there that you have to make.But that said, in Ausmus case hes now several years removed from his playing career and I think hes exceptional from the standpoint of his intellect and perception and the other strengths that hes got. Im not going to walk past the fact that I do think experience is very important but its not an overriding factor if youve got the right guy.Now its up to the Sox to decide who that is.

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.