McAdam: Who has leverage - Cubs or Sox?

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McAdam: Who has leverage - Cubs or Sox?

When Theo Epstein reached an agreement to become head of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs earlier this week, it seemed that the final step -- determining compensation for the Red Sox -- would be relatively simple.

Not so fast.

Multiple reports have the teams at a standstill in negotiations, with reports of the talks turning "contentious,'' and no solution in sight.

Both sides, apparently, believe they have the upper hand when it comes to leverage.

Here's the Cubs' perspective:

They've already received permission from the Red Sox to speak with Epstein about the position. Moreover, Epstein, with a year remaining on his contract with the Red Sox, had interest enough to speak with owner Tom Ricketts, then accepted the position.

At the Red Sox' insistence, the Cubs have already absorbed a 3.5 million "conclusion bonus'' that the Sox were set to owe Epstein at the end of his deal.

By allowing Epstein to interview in the first place, the Sox effectively sent a signal to the Cubs that they were willing to let Epstein go, even as principal owner John Henry continues to lament Epstein's near-departure.

Not without reason, the Cubs believe they have the leverage. After being given permission to talk to Epstein and agreeing to absorb the cost of the conclusion bonus, the Cubs know that things are too far along to stop now.

If the Cubs dig in their heels and refuse to meet the Red Sox' demands on player compensation, Epstein isn't about to return as GM of the Sox. Such a scenario would mean the Red Sox would be paying (a presumably unhappy) Epstein some 7.5 million dollars to either serve as a lame-duck GM, or, perhaps, not work at all and take the year off, while collecting the single biggest payday a baseball general manager has ever earned.

The Cubs surely believe they can wait out Red Sox ownership in this stare down. It's already been established that Epstein doesn't want to remain in Boston and it's just as likely that CEOPresident Larry Lucchino doesn't wish Epstein to remain.

Currently, the Cubs have a manager in place -- though one who is unlikely to remain on the job if the deal for Epstein goes through -- and new head of baseball oprerations who's agreed to a deal.

The Red Sox, conversely, have no manager, a GM who has agreed to a contract elsewhere and a managerial search that, for now, must remain on hold.

If you're the Cubs, you can afford to wait.

Here's the Red Sox perspective:

When Ricketts began his search for the executive to turn around his franchise, he reportedly had a list which included Brian Cashman, Billy Beane, Andrew Friedman, and, of course, Epstein, with the latter his clear first choice.

After two face-to-face meetings with Ricketts, and with the permission of his current employer, Epstein agreed to take the job.

For the past week, Epstein's pending arrival in Wrigleyville had captivated Cubs fans who view him as a baseball savior, capable of delivering the championship that has eluded the franchise for better than a century.

Now that the clubs are at a standstill on the matter of compensation, what's Ricketts going to do: tell his long-suffering fan base that Epstein isn't coming after all because the team refused to part with a minor leaguer or two? Hardly.

For many Cubs fans, starved for a title, there's little they wouldn't sacrifice in order to improve their chances of winning. Surely, they're not worried about losing a Double A or Triple A prospect if the return is a World Series.

Precedent is on the Red Sox' side, too. Just last month, Ozzie Guillen left the Chicago White Sox (also with a year remaining on his deal) to become manager of the Florida Marlins.

In exchange, the Marlins surrendered -- without much of a fight -- two of their Top 10 prospects.

If Guillen, who managed the White Sox to a championship in 2005 but qualified for the postseason just one other season in his eight years in the dugout, can command two top prospects, why wouldn't Epstein -- whose tracked record includes two World Series titles and two other trips to the ALCS -- be worth at least that much in terms of compensation?

Surely, the man charged with overseeing an entire Baseball Operations department -- trades, free agent signings, the amateur draft, international free agents, hiring scouts, managers and a coaching staff -- is of more importance (and thus, more valuable) than a manager.

The Red Sox also have a ready-made replacement for Epstein in assistant GM Ben Cherington. They don't have to embark on a lengthy, time-consuming search for Epstein's replacement.

If you're the Red Sox, you can afford to wait.

And so, with both teams emboldened by their own perceived leverage, we all wait.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.