McAdam: Epstein's time as GM is winding down

175737.jpg

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

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

red-sox-xander-bogaerts.jpg

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

BOSTON -- Early in 2016 praises were sung around the league that Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter in baseball.

Rightfully so. For a good portion of the season he led the league in both batting average and hits. But between Mookie Betts’ ascension and Bogaerts’ drop in average from .331 on 7/29 to .306 after Monday night’s game, he’s taken a back seat.

But the Red Sox shortstop’s month-long dry spell hasn’t been a straight decline. Although he was held hitless Monday, Bogaerts went 6-for-13 (.462) against Kansas City.

In fact, the 23-year-old doesn’t even consider the recent month of struggles the worst stretch of his career.

“2014 probably,” Bogaerts said, “yeah I had a terrible, terrible few months -- probably three months.”

That was of course the season a lot came into question surrounding the now All-Star shortstop, so he was pretty spot on. In 2014 Bogaerts went from hitting .304 through 5/31, to .248 by the end of June, .244 after his last game in July, all the way down to .224 by the last day of August.

Bogaerts would hit .313 that September and finish with a .240 average -- but more importantly, an appreciation of what he’d experienced.

“That definitely helped me become a better person, a better player -- and understanding from that and learning,” Bogaerts said.

From that experience, he gained a better understanding of the importance of maintaining a consistent day-to-day routine.

“That has to stay the same,” Bogaerts said without question in his voice. “The league adjusted, they adjusted to me. It kind of took a longer time to adjust to them. They’ve just been pitching me so differently compared to other years.”

Bogaerts has had the point reinforced to him throughout, with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez serving as one voice of reinforcement.

“When you have a routine from the mental side, physical side, when you struggle that’s when you really need that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so good with his daily preparation, it doesn’t matter the result of the game. He can always go to something that feels comfortable.”

“He’s been so comfortable and confident with his daily routine and preparation that it allows him -- when he doesn’t get the results he wants in the game -- to have some peace knowing that the next day, we’re going to go back to doing that again.”

It’s clear Bogaerts needs to maintain his daily routine to help work through slumps -- and maintain hot streaks -- but Rodriguez made it clear, consistent preparation from a hitter doesn’t magically cure every problem.

“That doesn’t mean that because you stick with the routine you’re going to have results,” Rodriguez said. “What it means is, [because] you know and believe in that routine that you know you’re going to get out of it.”

Which means in addition to sticking to his normal routine, Bogaerts also had to identify flaws elsewhere in order work through his problems. He came to realize the problem was more mechanically based than mental -- given he’d done everything to address that.

“They pitched me differently, and some stuff I wanted to do with the ball I couldn’t do,” Bogaerts said. “I just continued doing it until I had to make the adjustment back.”

Bogaerts isn’t fully out of the dark, but he’s taken steps in the right direction of late -- and is nowhere near the skid he experienced in 2014. He and Rodriguez fully believe the All-Star’s ability to maintain a clear mind will carry him through whatever troubles he’s presented with the rest of the way.

“The more stuff you have in you’re head is probably not going to help your chances,” Bogaerts explained, “so have a clear mind -- but also have the trust in your swing that you’re going to put a good swing on [the pitch] regardless of whatever the count is.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.

Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello 'the model of consistency'

Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello 'the model of consistency'

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 9-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays

 

QUOTES:

"Rick has been the model of consistency.'' - John Farrell on starter Rick Porcello

"It means that we have a heck of a team, really. The runs we put up, and I don't think anybody talks about our defense.'' - Porcello, asked about the significance of being baseball's first 18-game winner.

"It's cool to be a part of that, but we're in a race right now and that's way more important.'' - Mookie Betts on the crowd chants of "MVP!" during his at-bat.

 

NOTES

* Hanley Ramirez has nine extra-base hit in the last 15 games.

* Opposing baserunners have stolen only 54 percent of the time when Sandy Leon is behind the plate, the lowest figure for any Red Sox catcher (minimum 20 games) since 1987

* Brock Holt tied a season high with three hits, including two with two outs and runners in scoring position.

* Mookie Betts set a career high with 72 extra-base hits.

* Betts became the third player in franchise history to have a 30-homer season before the age of 24. Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro are the others.

* Betts has five homers and 13 RBI in his last five home games.

* Rick Porcello is just the fifth major league pitcher since 1913 to begin a season 13-0 at home

* Porcello is the third Red Sox pitcher to win 18 of his first 21 decisions after Cy Young (1902) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (2008)

* David Ortiz leads the majors in doubles, slugging percentage and OPS.

 

STARS:

1) Rick Porcello

The righthander became the first 18-game winner in the big leagues and he did it by supplying seven innings for the sixth straight start while improving to 13-0 at home.

2) Mookie Betts

Betts gave the Red Sox an early lead with his 30th homer of the year, becoming the third player in franchise history to reach that milestone before the age of 24.

3) Travis Shaw

Shaw broke out of a month-long slump with a three-hit game, including a double, to go along with two RBI.