ST. LOUIS — Evidently, the networks don’t know that the Red Sox stink. Barring a rainout, the last-place Sox are to play at Busch Stadium again Thursday night and the game is to be featured on the MLB Network. That would mean five of the last six Sox games had been nationally televised. Maybe it’s because Sox chairman Tom Werner is a powerful TV guy and suddenly finds himself on the short list to succeed Bud Selig as baseball commissioner.
Boston.com/radio guy Tony Massarotti had my favorite response when news broke that Werner is in the running to be commissioner. Invoking a classic line from “Back to the Future,’’ Maz said, “Then who’s the vice president — Jerry Lewis?’’
Werner’s candidacy is no joke, of course, but it’s unlikely that he can overcome the voting bloc dedicated to MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred. Manfred is known to be Selig’s choice. A vote is scheduled for next Thursday at the Hyatt Hotel in Baltimore, where owners will convene for their quarterly meeting. MLB executive vice president for business Tim Brosnan is the third man on the short list, but he’s not expected to contend.
Werner aced his first interview with the search committee and will have another hour to present his case in Baltimore Wednesday (Werner is fortunate the meeting is not being held in a Boston hotel that carries NESN). All three candidates will submit to questions from the owners on Thursday and the first vote will be taken later that day. Manfred is believed to have secured approximately 20 of the 23 votes needed from the 30 major league clubs. A few of the holdouts on Manfred appear to be Jerry Reinsdorf of the White Sox, Artie Moreno of the Angels, and possibly owners from Colorado, Toronto, and the Yankees. George Steinbrenner despised Werner, and his sons are still in power. It stands to reason that the Bronx Bomber bosses would be reluctant to support the candidacy of a Red Sox owner.
If Manfred fails to get the necessary votes on the first ballot, Werner has a chance. Big league owners like to hire one of their own as commissioner. Werner is in that club. He was a classic small market owner when he practically dissolved the Padres in 1993. He is not perceived as an “employee,’’ like the strong-minded Fay Vincent from 1989. He is one of the boys, like Uncle Bud. And he impressed the search committee with his appeals to include more ownership voices and reverse the aging demographic of baseball fans.
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It’s strange being in St. Louis with the Red Sox this week. We were here just nine months ago for the World Series. Now the Cardinals are engaged in a terrific pennant race while the Red Sox are auditioning players for 2015.
Here’s a startling fact: Since taking over as manager of the Cleveland Indians, Terry Francona has won 149 regular-season games (not including Wednesday’s results). In that same time frame, John Farrell has won 146 games. And no, we have not forgotten that the Red Sox won the World Series last year. We will never forget.
No major league team ever has gone from worst-to-first-to-worst. Unless they somehow catch the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox at this hour look like a lock for the basement of the American League East. Still, all is well. Prepare for happy spin from above as the Sox try to convince you that they can be the first team to go worst-to-first-to-worst-to-first.
Remember John Henry’s words to the Herald: “the mood has changed at Fenway over the years. People expect good things from the Sox . . . ” You are supposed to buy into the party line that the Sox will be back next year even though they don’t have a starting pitching staff at the moment. General manager Ben Cherington said he believes there are 8-10 pitchers in the system who will be major leaguers. And there’s always Clay Buchholz, right?
Boston’s quest for Giancarlo Stanton will go into overdrive this winter. Don’t be surprised if the Sox offer Yoenis Cespedes and a couple of blue-chip prospects for the Marlins slugger. Cespedes would be a big hit with Miami’s Cuban community.
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A Wednesday story by St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Joe Strauss indicates that the Sox might have received damaged goods when they acquired outfielder Allen Craig in the John Lackey deal.
The Sox put Craig on the disabled list with a left foot injury Tuesday and there’s fear that it is related to a foot injury that blew up Craig’s spectacular season at the end of 2013.
The Sox don’t want to believe that Craig’s anemic numbers in 2014 are a result of “lingering effect on his swing [Farrell’s words],” but Strauss wrote, “Cardinal GM John Mozeliak conceded . . . he dealt Craig as a depreciating asset who might become immovable once into the last three years of a contract that guarantees the player $26.5 million.’’
“We didn’t have any big concern there was long-term risk,’’ Cherington said Wednesday.
“We want to be good,’’ added the GM. “We need to build a strong new team . . . It would be nice to have an ace at the top of the rotation.’’
They had one. He’s pitching in Oakland now.