McAdam: Uncertainty mounts on Epstein's future

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McAdam: Uncertainty mounts on Epstein's future

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

Days after the Red Sox parted ways with manager Terry Francona, there is increasing speculation that, soon, the club may do the same with general manager Theo Epstein.

As rumors intensify that Epstein may be interested in listening to the Chicago Cubs, a strange silence is emanating from Fenway Park.

When speculation first arose that Epstein was at the top of the Cubs' list of choices to replace the fired Jim Hendry as general manager, the most frequent line around Fenway was: "John Henry will never let (Epstein) go."

Months later, the landscape has changed, and just maybe, so has Henry's stance.

Certainly, the Red Sox have had more than enough opportunities to make this a non-issue. Days after reports about the Cubs having interest in Epstein surfaced, Henry sent an e-mail to inquiring reporters, noting that such speculation was pretty standard stuff and evidence of Epstein's reputation throughout the industry.

Had Henry been more pointed and noted that Epstein was under contract to the Red Sox through the end of 2012, and that Henry hoped and expected Epstein to continue as the club's GM for years to come, the speculation would have stopped then and there.

But Henry wasn't nearly that assertive. So the issue didn't die.

Then, last Friday, as CEO Larry Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner fidgeted uncomfortably during a press conference, the question was asked again: Would the Red Sox give the Cubs permission to speak with Epstein.

Improbably, Lucchino looked like he had been struck by a bolt of lightning, apparently caught completely off-guard that during a press conference to announce the Sox severing ties with their manager, that someone night happen to inquire about the job status of the man who hired that manager.

Lucchino said it wasn't the time to discuss Epstein's future and that the focus of the press conference was squarely on Francona.

Werner than stepped in and fumbled through a response that was more of a non-sequitor.

"We feel collectively that he's one of the best managers in baseball," said Werner, "and has been integral to the success of our club for the last 10 years."

Swell, but no one was asking for a summation of Epstein's tenure. The question was about whether he would be allowed to talk to another prospective employer.

Again, nothing definitive, nothing that would slam the door on such speculation.

Epstein's current deal runs out after 2012, meaning the Red Sox have two choices: Allow Epstein to interview with the Cubs, or give him an extension which locks him up for at least two seasons beyond 2012.

If the Sox are willing to let Epstein go elsewhere, they should get on with the business for preparing for life without him. Finding a manager is going to be challenging enough; if ownership has to first find a general manager, and then the newly-minted GM has to hire a manager, it will be mid-November before all the pieces are in place.

If, on the other hand, ownership is intent on keeping Epstein, then an extension for Epstein is necessary. It would be impractical and unfair to allow Epstein to conduct the managerial search with his own future in doubt.

What potential manager wouldn't be wondering: What happens if the guy who hires me is out of a job in a year?

It's a logical enough question, one ownership hasn't given much consideration.

Epstein hasn't spoken to reporters since Friday and didn't return numerous calls. A person who spoke to Epstein over the weekend was asked if he thought Epstein would indeed leave for the Cubs.

"I don't think so," said the person. "But at this point, I don't know if anyone knows for sure."

And the longer the silence continues on Yawkey Way, the more uncertain the winter of the Red Sox' discontent becomes.

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

Farrell: Price to make first Red Sox start of year Monday in Chicago

Farrell: Price to make first Red Sox start of year Monday in Chicago

David Price may have allowed six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings Wednesday night during his second rehab start in Triple-A, but the Red Sox apparently liked what they saw.

MORE ON PRICE

Manager John Farrell announced moments ago that Price will rejoin the Red Sox Monday and start that day's game in Chicago against the White Sox. Farrell said the Sox were more concerned with how Price felt physically after his rehab start, not the results, and they're satisfied he's ready to return.

More to come . . . 

Chili Davis: Red Sox hitters' lack of strikeouts not by design

Chili Davis: Red Sox hitters' lack of strikeouts not by design


BOSTON - The Red Sox aren’t hitting for power as much as they’re expected to and they’re striking out less than anyone. Far less.
 
So, maybe they should just swing harder? 
 
It’s not that simple, considering they have the second-best batting average in the majors, .271, and the third-best on-base percentage, .342.
 
Entering Thursday, the Sox had 300 strikeouts, 34 fewer than the 29th team on the list, the Mets. (The Mets have also played 34 games, while the Sox have already played 36.)
 
In April, when this trend was already evident, Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis was asked if the lack of strikeouts were by design.
 
“I don’t think it’s purposeful,” Davis said. “But that can be a good thing and it could be a bad thing. You know, to me striking out is never good, but it’s how you strike out that matters to me. 
 
“You chase pitches early and you put a guy in a two-strike count and allow him to use his strikeout pitch or his finish pitch, it’s not a good way to strike out. If you’er battling, if you’re taking good swings at pitches, or if the guy’s making pitches, different story. Not striking out because you understand you’re still getting to have a quality at-bat.
 
“To be honest with you, there are guys in certain situations I’d rather see 'em strike out, believe me. And it kind of sounds stupid.”
 
No, it doesn’t. Because in the Moneyball era people started to widely understand that with runners on, a strikeout can be a better outcome than simply putting the ball in play because of the double-play possibility. One out on a swing [or no swing] is a lot better than two.
 
“Exactly,” Davis said. “In a double-play situation, with a big slow guy running and two strikes on him, and he just put the ball in play, he’s done exactly what they wanted him to do.”
 
What a coincidence: the Sox have grounded into more double plays than all but two teams. They’re tied with the Blue Jays with 51, trailing the Astros’ 54.
 
Last year, the Sox had the eighth-most double plays and the fourth-fewest strikeouts. But they also led the majors in slugging percentage, whereas this year they’re in the bottom third. (They’ve perked up in May.)
 
“I don’t think they’re necessarily swinging to not strike out,” Davis said in April. “But, I think the home runs haven’t come because you know, I don’t think we’ve actually gotten on track yet as an offense the way we would like to.”
 
Davis cited the weather, which in Boston has continued to be chilly even into May. Hitters have noted the weather too, but that only goes so far.
 
Sox manager John Farrell on Wednesday noted the team’s draft philosophy.
 
“If you go back to the origin of the players that are here, a lot of them came through our draft and our system,” Farrell said. “So there was a conscious effort to get the more rounded athlete, not a one-dimensional player...Throughout their minor league career, there’s great emphasis on strike-zone discipline, understanding your limits within the zone. That’s not to suggest you’re going to forfeit the power that you have, but to be a more complete hitter, I think that’s going to win you championships rather than being one dimensional.”
 
But much of this year’s lineup is the same as last year’s.
 
In 2017, the Sox are swinging at 44.2 percent of pitches, fewer than all but four teams. Last year, they swung at 44.3 percent of pitches, second-to-last. So, that hasn’t changed.
 
Last year, their contact rate was 81.6 percent, highest in the majors. This year, it’s the second-highest, 80.1. That hasn’t really changed either.
 
Maybe the process hasn’t in fact changed much at all, in fact — but the outcomes are looking different because that’s how it goes sometimes. At the least, it’s something to keep an eye on as the year progresses.