McAdam: Epstein's time as GM is winding down

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McAdam: Epstein's time as GM is winding down

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Theo Epstein's name has surfaced in connection with the Chicago Cubs, who are in search of a general manager, and, perhaps, a club president.

As Red Sox principal owner John Henry noted in an e-mail Wednesday night: "This kind of speculation happens from time to time to successful GMs and managers. The Cubs have one of the best presidents in baseball. I think this shows how highly regarded Theo is by the media and baseball in general.

ESPN.com Wednesday speculated that Epstein might be the perfect candidate to take over the Cubs, whose championship drought is longer than the one Epstein and the Red Sox ended in 2004.

Epstein would bring immediate credibility to a franchise which hasn't won a pennant in more than 60 years, or a World Series in more than a century.

Unanswered, of course, is whether Epstein himself would have an interest in the Cubs.

For now, the question might be moot. Epstein's current deal, signed after a winter-long walkout following the 2005 season, expires after the 2012 season.

It's difficult to imagine Red Sox ownership allowing Epstein to leave with a year remaining, even if baseball protocol generally calls for teams to allow personnel to leave if it involves a promotion -- in this case, from executive vice-president and general manager to club president.

It's no secret that Epstein harbors a desire for new challenges.

After next season, he will have been general manager of the Red Sox for a full decade, from 2003 through 2012. In that time, the Red Sox have won two pennants and two World Series, with at least a decent chance to improve on that this October.

There's drudgery to the job, and after a while, a sameness: endless paperwork, conversations with agents, arbitration cases and other day-to-day demands.

In the last 10 years, Eptsein has turned the Red Sox into one of the game's model franchises. The minor league development system has consistently churned out key players (including Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Bard) and armed with one of the game's biggest budgets, Epstein has overseen a team which has made the post-season six of his eight seasons.

The Sox were at the forefront of the game's analytic revolution, utilizing new metrics to evaluate player performance, while building one of the biggest scouting staffs in either league.

Still, surely Epstein thirsts for something new, something else.

A glass ceiling of sorts is in place at Yawkey Way, where Larry Lucchino, with whom Epstein has famously feuded, safely ensconced as the team president. As long as Lucchino remains with the Red Sox, Epstein can't move up the organizational ladder.

Henry, who brokered Epstein's return as well as the accompanying peace between Epstein and Lucchino five years ago, doesn't want to lose either. Under Lucchino, the Red Sox have become not only one of the game's most successful franchises on the field, but also, one of the most profitable off it.

It's said that Lucchino would like to replace Bud Selig as commissioner when Selig's term expires after the 2012 season, but it's difficult to imagine Lucchino, who has made his share of enemies, winning approval. For that matter, it's difficult to imagine a number of small market owners approving an executive from one of the game's superpowers as their leader.

That leaves Epstein at a crossroad.

In one sense, the notion of Epstein as team president seems odd. A club president must be the very face of a franchise, and in recent years, Epstein has receded from the spotlight. He's seldom visible at Fenway during games, unlike other general managers who are frequently glimpsed on the field before games or in press box dining rooms.

Some close to Epstein believe that his next job might be as the GM of a small-market team, that the challenge of rebuilding an organization from the ground up, with limited financial resources, appeals most to his competitive nature.

That argument is fine in theory. In application, it would be quite a leap to go from a payroll of 165 million to one with a payroll half that size.

It's possible -- though not exactly likely -- that, with a capable Ben Cherington as the GM-in-waiting, ownership could step aside, thank him for a job well done and allow Epstein to take the Cubs' presidency.

Or, in a year's time with his contract expired, Epstein could solicit other opportunities. Perhaps a dual job of presidentGM, like the one Dave Dombrowski has in Detroit, would appeal to him most, enabling him to stay involved in the day-to-day operation of a franchise.

But what's clear is this: Epstein's time as general manager of the Red Sox is winding down, mission accomplished. It seems only a matter of time before something else, somewhere else, pulls him away.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Price on his return to Red Sox: ’There’s not a better feeling’

Price on his return to Red Sox: ’There’s not a better feeling’


BOSTON — Red Sox left-hander David Price is set to make his season debut in a holiday matinee Monday on the road in Chicago against the White Sox. 

Price, 31, starting the second season of a $217 million, seven-year contract, has been recovering from a strained pitching elbow since spring training.

“Excited, just to be back here,” he said Thursday. “There’s not a better feeling. You can’t replicate it anywhere else.”

Price allowed nine runs — six earned — and 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings in a pair of less-than-impressive injury rehabilitation starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. He struck out eight and walked two.

“A lot of pitches, in a short amount of time. I think that is more of a test to being healthy as opposed to going out there and throwing five or six [innings] in 90 pitches,” he said. “To do what I did in both of my rehab outings, I don’t think you can do that if you’re not healthy.”

The Red Sox (24-21) have won four in a row heading into their weekend series against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.

“He’s eager to get back to us and physically he feels great,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “His return to us will give us a definite boost but that’s not to de-emphasize he needs to go out and perform.”

Farrell hopes Price’s return has a trickle-down impact.

“It’s not based solely on the name on the back of his jersey,” Farrell said. “Hopefully it allows us to even out some of the performances within the rotation.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press.

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

BOSTON -- New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, left-handed hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike three — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.