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.

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.