So, what did Red Sox chairman Tom Werner advocate during his presentation to major league owners on Wednesday and Thursday?
Werner, who finished runner-up to Rob Manfred in voting to be the next commissioner of baseball, gave us a glimpse of his message, which he hopes will be adopted by Manfred, stressing pace of play, drawing young people to baseball, diversity, and bringing Major League Baseball into a new media age where young people can access games in ways other than television.
“Too many people are leaving games in the sixth and seventh innings because they can’t watch 3½-hour games, so they’re leaving the game at the point where the game should be getting exciting,” Werner said. “You wouldn’t make a 3½-hour movie. The NFL makes changes almost on an annual basis. They’re considering making the extra point from 35 yards rather than from the 8-yard line.
“I respect tradition, but I don’t revere it.”
Werner suggested a pitch clock. While there is a 12-second rule in the books for the length of time the pitcher has to deliver the baseball when there’s no one on base (Rule 8:04), it isn’t enforced.
Werner said it doesn’t have to necessarily be 12 seconds, but he said he doesn’t consider a clock blasphemy.
“In 1954, the NBA introduced a shot clock, and while it was considered radical at the time, it’s something that stuck through the years,” Werner said. “It would speed up play and it would give fans something to look at. Baseball is too slow and there’s a lot of inaction. If a pitcher is holding the ball for 40 seconds between pitches, you’re losing an audience.”
Werner said the idea of a pitch clock should at least be tested at the minor league level to gauge its effectiveness in improving pace of play.
Werner is also for limiting the number of times a batter can step out of the box. And he would like to add some show business to the game. He suggested miking up players and coaches and umpires on a delay so fans can have an insight on what is said on the field. Obviously, things relating to strategy would not be revealed so not to tip off the competition, but Werner feels the conversations on the field should go from the fans guessing to actually hearing what is said.
Werner also would limit the number of catcher and pitching coach visits to the mound.
One of Werner’s main ideas is to eliminate warm-up tosses by relievers entering games, the feeling being that the pitcher already has warmed up for some time in the bullpen, so why should he get more warm-up pitches? Werner equated a reliever coming in to a field goal kicker. “Does the field goal kicker get to have a practice kick?” Werner said.
Werner also made a pitch to pursue deals that would advance the game in the era of hand-held devices.
“We have the capacity to do it, we just have to make an economic arrangement to get it done,” he said.
Werner is all about adapting to the times, modernizing the game, and attracting young audiences to expand fan bases.
Werner believes that with attention spans shrinking, the game has to be quickened and tightened up. He said the average age of those who watched the World Series last year was 54, so baseball has lost a big audience.
“We know we need to attract a diverse fan base,” Werner said.
Werner believes there has to be dialogue between the owners and players to get some of these ideas implemented. He had support for these ideas and others, and not just from the teams that initially voted for him to be commissioner. Werner’s message also resonated with Manfred, who agrees that MLB has to do something to attract younger audiences, and keep its audience with shorter games.
Werner said he genuinely wanted to be commissioner.
“I was ready to do the job,” he said. “That would have meant difficult decisions because I love the Red Sox.”
Werner’s candidacy drew passion from his supporters. But those supporters eventually collapsed on Thursday, when Manfred had secured the necessary 23 votes to be elected after several ballots.
The feeling Thursday was that if Manfred didn’t get the 23d vote, forcing a continuation of the process, that Werner might have gained steam.
Werner now hopes for a chance to have his ideas heard, discussed, and perhaps implemented.
Red Sox would like to hit on Castillo
The Red Sox recently created their own Cuban market when they traded for Yoenis Cespedes, but for the most part they have been shut out of this hotbed for hitters.
So, it stands to reason they are one of the teams trying to land Cuban infielder/outfielder Rusney Castillo, who is short but “extremely strong,” according to a rival American League scout, who thinks the 27-year-old has the potential to be a No. 2 or 5 hitter and could make a huge impact on a team like the Red Sox at third base or in center field.
The Red Sox are believed to be one of a few teams who already have made an offer on Castillo, hoping it doesn’t fall short like their offer to Jose Abreu, who went to the White Sox and is having a fabulous year that should lead to being named AL rookie of the year.
“We are involved but just one of several teams,” general manager Ben Cherington confirmed.
Castillo will go to the highest bidder, but it’s hard for teams to gauge what will be the top offer. Abreu wound up going for $68 million over six years (the Red Sox falling $5 million short), but Cespedes was four years at $36 million, and the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig was seven years at $42 million.
Castillo may be a strong arm away from having five tools, but it isn’t that big a concern for most scouts, who believe his arm is adequate enough to play center field given his other attributes, which include speed and power.
“He’s a legitimate leadoff hitter/center fielder,” said Giants GM Brian Sabean, who is also in on the bidding.
It’s interesting how teams view Castillo. The Tigers see him as a center field candidate to replace Austin Jackson, whom they traded to Seattle. The Yankees see him as a second baseman. Stephen Drew is playing there now but there’s a chance he could be the replacement for Derek Jeter at shortstop.
Signing Castillo would be important for the Red Sox because they have to go into the 2015 season with more certainty in center field and third base than they have now.
Castillo, according to one scout who watched him at last month’s showcase, which drew nearly 100 scouts, is a cross between Kirby Puckett and Cespedes. Another felt his body type compared to Rickey Henderson. That’s pretty high praise.
Losing out on Abreu was clearly frustrating for the Red Sox, considering how close they came to landing him. At the time, the Red Sox were thinking about playing Abreu at third base, though in retrospect and given his body size, he may not have lasted there.
Castillo, a defector who hasn’t played organized baseball in a year, is trying to wade through offers with the hopes that he can sign and play in the majors in 2014.
The Red Sox hope that’s in Boston.
Apropos of nothing
1. So, if the money is close between one team and another for a free agent, what’s the tiebreaker? Amenities. What does the organization offer the player and his family? David Ross calls them “the little things.” “I think there are pros and cons to every place,” said Ross, “but for families this is the best place I have been. Just a great family room and bus on away games, for example. They feed kids and wives. They just go above and beyond to make sure they are taken care of. I never have to worry about my family during the game. It’s the little stuff you appreciate as a player.” The little things may be what lures Jon Lester back to the Red Sox. His family was always taken care of by traveling secretary Jack McCormick. And not that other organizations don’t offer similar things, but the consensus among players who have been multiple places is that Red Sox and Yankees are the teams that offer more of “the little things.”
2. Justin Verlander is 23-23 since turning 30.
3. We are reminded with the Little League World Series under way that Jason Varitek participated in the Little League World Series in 1984, College World Series with Georgia Tech in 1994, and the World Series with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007. How’s that for a baseball legacy?
4. We’re sure they’ll be more activity toward the end of the month, but there have been only four waiver deals in August, the big two being Josh Willingham going from Minnesota to Kansas City and Kevin Correia going from Minnesota to the Dodgers.
5. No cycles in major league baseball this season. The last time a full season was played without one was in 1983.
6. Nobody’s been able to break Curt Schilling’s record of 147 consecutive starts of at least five innings, which he accomplished from July 21, 2001, to Sept. 26, 2006.
7. Mets righthander Matt Harvey said at last November’s Boston Baseball Writers dinner that he would pitch in 2014 after Tommy John surgery. Harvey has reached the point where he feels he can do it, but the Mets won’t let him.
8. Who knew Seattle’s pitching would be this good? Manager Lloyd McClendon, that’s who. McClendon said in spring training, “I think we have shutdown pitching.” The Mariners not only have the best team ERA in the majors (2.95), they could become the first team in 25 years to finish below 3.00.
9. Buck Showalter is the best manager in baseball. But what do you make of Kansas City’s Ned Yost. Three weeks ago he was a candidate to be fired, and today he’s in the discussion for manager of the year.
Updates on nine
1. Daniel Nava, OF, Red Sox — The Red Sox have put only two players on revocable waivers (Craig Breslow and Kelly Johnson). Nava has drawn interest from the Royals (before they traded for Josh Willingham) and the Tigers. But Nava has not been put on waivers. Not sure he would clear. The Red Sox likely will put him on later in the month to see what type of interest he’d garner. The Sox’ outfield looks crowded next season with Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino, Yoenis Cespedes, Mookie Betts, and Brock Holt all in the mix.
2. B.J. Upton, CF, Braves — There’s probably no chance the Braves would release Upton with three years remaining on his contract, which may go down as one of the worst in history. Upton is getting roasted by the Atlanta media. The Braves have no choice but to ride it out because he’s untradeable. They tried him at leadoff and that was a disaster. Upton has a .197 average with 18 homers and 56 RBIs in 826 at-bats with the Braves over the last two years for an OPS of .586. Like Carl Crawford, he’s really struggled since leaving Tampa Bay.
3. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies — His hip surgery surely puts an end to trade talks this offseason. Tulowitzki wants to be part of a winning situation, but it looks like he’ll remain with the Rockies through the winter. He just can’t stay healthy enough for a team to take the chance, given the $118 million remaining on his contract.
4. J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles — Hardy’s power is reemerging after a season in which he had a few nagging injuries that may have curtailed it. Hardy will be a free agent, and while the Orioles want him back, Hardy could draw big-time interest from the Yankees, who also have the option on re-signing Stephen Drew to play shortstop. Hardy had hit 30, 22, and 25 homers for the Orioles before this season. If he departs, would the Orioles move Manny Machado to shortstop? Machado’s knee problems could stop that thought.
5. Nick Swisher, OF-1B, Indians — One of the real busts of the 2014 season, Swisher, who averaged 27 homers and 84 RBIs from 2006-12, has managed only eight homers and 42 RBIs this season, and is now on the DL. The Indians needed him to be a big producer as the highest-paid player on the team, but it didn’t materialize.
6. David Ross, C, Red Sox — The Red Sox will decide after the season whether they would like to retain Ross. They would certainly love for him to keep working with Christian Vazquez, but Ross’s recent bout with plantar fasciitis has slowed him. Ross said there have been no contract talks with the Red Sox but he would like to return.
7. Kirk Gibson, manager, Diamondbacks — Gibson is on the list of managers who could possibly be fired after the season. If he is, it would be Tony La Russa’s first big decision in Arizona. There’s be a lot of speculation about Joe McEwing, a third base coach with the White Sox, or Mike Aldrete, the bench coach for the Cardinals. GM Kevin Towers would also likely to have a say.
8. Brian Cashman, GM, Yankees — Just because owner Hal Steinbrenner was noncommittal about Cashman’s future (his contract is up), it doesn’t mean Cashman won’t return. Cashman has done a strong patchwork job trying to replace his starting rotation, and did a good job trading for Brandon McCarthy and bringing on Chris Capuano. Cashman’s free agent signings — Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Jacoby Ellsbury — didn’t hit to their potential, but the feeling around baseball is for Cashman to have the Yankees where they are, he’s done a lot right.
9. Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, Phillies — With the need for back-end bullpen help, Papelbon could still be in play for a deal before the end of the month. He cleared waivers and continues to have a good season — 27 saves, a 0.872 WHIP, and eight straight appearances without allowing a run entering Friday. Now the question becomes does a team such as the Tigers make one last attempt to bolster their bullpen before the playoffs?
There are only three players with double figure homers who have more homers than walks this season: Adam Jones (23 HR/15 BB), Mike Zunino (18/13), and Sean Rodriguez (11/9). . . . In 2012, there were eight hitting streaks of at least 20 games. There were three last season, and so far this season there have also been three: Nolan Arenado (28), Jose Abreu (21), and Evan Gattis (20). . . . Happy birthday, Dustin Pedroia (31), Alex Cole (49), Butch Hobson (63), Skip Lockwood (68), and Diego Segui (77).