McAdam: Will Cherington roll dice with Alomar?

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McAdam: Will Cherington roll dice with Alomar?

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox front office first began assembling names to interview for their managerial vacancy last month, the name that seemed to elicit the most excitement was Sandy Alomar Jr.

In canvassing others around the game and doing their due diligence, the Red Sox consistently heard nothing but positive things about the former catcher.

"As we were doing research on candidates," said general manager Ben Cherington, "his name kept coming up. I was actually with Sandy (in 1998 with Cleveland) and saw him in the clubhouse and saw the leader he was back then, the respect he had in that clubhouse. I've been sort of following him since then.

"And the research we did more recently, his name just kept coming up as a guy who has a ton of respect in the baseball community. He's an incredible talent, has instincts for the game, awareness --- that family just knows baseball better than most other families do."

Alomar would seem to have it all: instincts, leadership qualities, bloodlines, the ability to converse with players in his native language, Spanish, and a long successful playing career as a catcher that should translate into being able to run a pitching staff.

What he doesn't have, however, is any managerial experience.

Of any kind.

Anywhere.

He hasn't managed in winter ball or the minor leagues. He hasn't managed in the Arizona Fall League, a good proving ground.

In fact, of the five candidates the Red Sox have brought or plan to bring to Fenway to discuss the job, Alomar is the only one to have never managed a game at any level.

Pete Mackanin had two partial-season stints as an interim manager in the big leagues. Dale Sveum managed Milwaukee for a dozen games and a playoff series, and also managed three seasons at Double A. Torey Lovullo, due in Friday, has managed at every level of the minor leagues, including, most recently, at Pawtucket in 2010.

Gene Lamont, who will interview Saturday, managed both the Chicago White Sox (where he earned A.L. Manager of the Year honors) and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Alomar is missing that key ingredient. Or so it would seem.

Going back through recent history, it's hard to find a Red Sox manager who came to the job without at least some managerial experience. Terry Francona had four years in Philadelphia. Grady Little managed in the minor leagues.

Jimy Williams had previously managed in Toronto, and before him, Kevin Kennedy had managed Texas. Butch Hobson had managed multiple seasons in the minors. Joe Morgan was a minor-league manager seemingly forever, and John McNamara, his predecessor, had big-league managerial experience with four different franchises.

The last manager of the Red Sox to have not previously managed anywhere, in fact, was Joe Kerrigan. Kerrigan's 43-game stint, as most Red Sox fans recall was, in a word, disastrous.

Cherington went out of way to note that Alomar performed superbly in the game simulation exercises the Red Sox put every candidate through.

"Despite not managing a game," Cherington noted, "he sees the game very much like a manager does."

This is a particularly tough time to hire someone without experience, given how the team imploded in the final month of 2011, bereft of discipline and professionalism.

And this market isn't the best to learn on the job. Expectations are always high and tolerance for mistakes is almost non-existent.

"Some people take different routes," acknowledged Alomar. "I chose this way. I've learned a tremendous amount. I feel like I'm prepared to manage a major-league team even though I didn't manage in the minor leagues."

Alomar passed his first test Wednesday and didn't do anything to take himself out of consideration.

"It was worth getting to know him better," confirmed Cherington. "He's going to be a major-league manager, whether it's 2012 or sometime after that, I'm very confident."

The question is: Does Cherington feel confident to make his first managerial hire an unproven one, one without any experience?

It would constitute an enormous risk on Cherington. Indeed, if he hires Alomar, regardless of how it turns out, it may tell us more about the new GM and his willingness to take risks and trust his own instincts, than it does about Alomar himself.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.