Zack Scott interviewed with the Mets in December to become their general manager, a job that went to former Red Sox colleague Jared Porter.
“It was something I really wanted and was disappointed I didn’t get,” Scott said.
To his surprise, the Mets then asked permission of the Red Sox to interview him for assistant GM, a lateral move.
“It was hard because it was a totally different equation at that point,” Scott said. “I was very comfortable, not just with the Red Sox and my friends there, that I’m very close with, but I’m from there. It’s the only organization I’ve ever cared about since I was a kid.
“My parents still live in the suburbs there and my sister lives there. It was hard. My wife [Molly] and I and our kids had established a really good community of friends. There were so many comforts. To disrupt that was a tough call. At one point I was willing to walk away from it and stay with the Red Sox.”
The Mets were persuasive, and Scott took the job two days before Christmas. Four weeks later, he received an 8 a.m. phone call from team president Sandy Alderson saying Porter had been fired after ESPN published a story detailing his harassment of a female reporter in 2016.
Scott was named interim GM immediately.
“We had a staff call an hour later,” Scott said. “I’ll tell you, that 9 a.m. meeting was not my best. It was a somber tone … it was tough emotionally. The organization handled it really well and did what they had to do. But my concerns were with [Porter] as a friend.”
Life has been a whirlwind since. Scott didn’t actually meet Alderson and team owner Steve Cohen in person until spring training. Everything prior was over Zoom.
“I’m enjoying the work and the people here,” Scott said. “A friend asked me if it was much more stressful being in this position. I actually said no because I haven’t felt stress.
“I’m busy, so there’s the normal stress of being really busy, and the scope of the job is so much bigger than anything I’ve done. But I just love the work so much that it doesn’t stress me out.”
The stress has come from being away from his family for the entirety of spring training because of coronavirus protocols and finding a new home in New York, a big task only recently accomplished.
As assistant GM, Scott could have spent more time back home in Malden. As GM, it’s his duty to make road trips and establish his presence in the front office while the Mets remake an organizational structure that hasn’t produced a playoff team since 2016.
Scott understands what it takes. He collected four World Series rings working under Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington, and Dave Dombrowski, and he assumed more responsibility along the way.
Dombrowski put Scott in charge of building out the team’s research and development staff, an aspect of the game the Sox had fallen behind on.
“We did a very significant expansion. That conversation started at the end of Ben’s time there, putting together a plan. I led that part of it,” Scott said.
“That was my first opportunity to lead. I’m proud of the work we did and the team we put together.”
Epstein, Cherington, and Dombrowski approached the same job in different ways. Scott told the Mets during the initial interview process that while he had worked for only one team, he had worked for four baseball ops leaders with very different styles, counting his one season with Chaim Bloom.
“That helped shape me. It felt like I worked for different organizations,” Scott said.
Cohen, a billionaire investor, has been public in his desire to win the World Series as soon as possible and interacts with fans on Twitter. It’s nothing like Boston, where ownership rarely offers public comment beyond carefully worded press releases.
“It’s different than what I’m used to. But it’s fun and good for the fans,” Scott said. “They seem to like it. He’s seen the ups and down of doing it. It doesn’t really affect my job. He’s having fun. Steve cares a lot about the fan experience.”
Scott said the Mets fan base reminds him of the Red Sox before 2004 in that they’re waiting for something to go wrong.
“We’re trying to change that mind-set,” he said. “As somebody who was a Red Sox fan, there was a woe-is-me outlook. The fans here have that, too. But they’re kind of [ticked] off about it. It’s a cross between pre-2004 Red Sox fans and Phillies fans.”
Scott said he thrives on the pressure of a big market after his time with the Sox. He sees the National League East as being winnable if the Mets make the right moves.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora spent some time with Scott before the teams played on Tuesday. The Mets, he said, are in good hands.
“He works hard at what he does,” Cora said. “He listens to people and he understands there’s the [analytics] department, but also the baseball side of it. It’s a testament to who he is.”
NEW KID IN TOWN
Whitlock impressive on and off the field
Garrett Whitlock’s statistics are eye-popping. Through six games he worked 13⅓ scoreless innings with two walks and 18 strikeouts. Opponents were 6 of 46 (.130).
Whitlock throws his sinker an average of 95.2 miles per hour, and his changeup has been unhittable.
“The stuff is that good,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.
But numbers don’t tell the whole story about the 24-year-old rookie righthander, who was a Rule 5 Draft pick in December.
For a player who went from Double A to the majors, Whitlock has impressed the Sox with his maturity and work ethic.
On Wednesday, there was a chance Whitlock could have come to the plate against the Mets. His last at-bat was in high school in 2015.
Cora told him to be ready.
“Whatever you need,” Whitlock said.
It’s been like that since spring training. Whitlock treated every drill with importance and talked to older pitchers, Matt Andriese in particular, about how he could improve.
Cora said Whitlock has even been perfect about how he brings beer on the plane for the veteran players.
“I’m just trying to be a good rookie,” Whitlock said. “Everyone’s got a role to play on the team. I told [bench coach Will Venable] when I first showed up, I said, ‘Shoot, I’ll be the janitor on this team if that means I get to be in the big leagues.’ ”
In time, the Sox will discuss moving Whitlock into the rotation, maybe not until next season given that he’s coming off Tommy John surgery.
Every time he’s asked about starting, Whitlock deflects the question. That speaks to his maturity, too. Let it play out and worry about the present.
“We’ve got a good one,” Cora said.
A few other observations about the Red Sox:
▪ Brandon Workman, who was designated for assignment by the Cubs on Thursday, was one of the best relievers in the game from the start of the 2019 season until the Sox traded him to the Phillies last August.
Workman was 10-1 with 20 saves and a 2.07 ERA. He held opponents to a .457 OPS with a fastball/curveball combination.
In 24 games since, Workman is 1-6 with a 6.86 ERA and 2.43 WHIP. Opponents have a 1.090 OPS. His fastball, while never overpowering, has dropped to 91.5 m.p.h. with the Cubs.
Workman is only 32. It might be worth the Sox giving him a chance to work out his issues in Triple A.
▪ The Mookie Betts trade was held up in 2020 because the Red Sox had medical concerns about righthander Brusdar Graterol, who was coming back from the Twins as part of a three-team deal.
The Twins were eventually cut out of the trade and the Sox took Jeter Downs and Connor Wong instead. The Dodgers made a separate deal to obtain Graterol.
Now Graterol is on the injured list with forearm tightness, which is often a precursor to an elbow problem.
There’s a long way to go before any proper evaluation can be made. But the Sox may have been smart to show the caution they did.
▪ Will and Jenny Middlebrooks will host Jimmy Fund Bingo Night on Friday at 7. Cards can be purchased at the Jimmy Fund website until 4 p.m. that day and the game will be played on the Jimmy Fund Facebook page.
Winners of each round will receive prizes.
Lindor feeling heat in New York
Watching Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor play in person is a joyous experience. He bounds out of the dugout with the eagerness of a kid on Christmas morning and moves around the field with an energy you can feel from a distance.
On Tuesday, Lindor snapped up a line drive from the Red Sox’ Marwin Gonzalez and dived to catch Hunter Renfroe off second base to complete an inning-ending double play.
Lindor high-stepped across the field like a drum major with a smile you could see from every corner of the ballpark. But when he grounded back to the mound in the eighth inning, he was hit by a loud chorus of boos from the crowd of 7,917.
The booing was louder on Wednesday during an 0-for-3 night.
“It’s interesting and it’s funny and it sucks. It doesn’t feel right, for sure,” Lindor said. “Interesting, because it’s the first time that it happened in my career and funny because I’m getting booed and people think I’m going to go home and just think about why I’m getting booed.
“I get it. They’re booing because there’s no results. That’s it. They expect results; I expect results. I get it. It’s part of the job. People expect results and they’re booing because there’s no results.
“I just hope they cheer and jump on the field when I start hitting home runs and start helping the team on a daily basis a lot more than I’m doing right now.”
Lindor had an .833 OPS in six seasons with Cleveland. He’ll hit.
Meanwhile, his presence is changing the team.
“What he brings every day is he makes other people around him better,” Mets GM Zack Scott said. “That’s hard to do in baseball because it’s not that kind of team sport.
“He has a high standard, and he expects that from his teammates because he wants to win. He’ll talk to them about that if they’re not meeting those standards and he does it in a way that’s effective.”
Cleveland officials told Scott that all Lindor talked about was wanting to win the World Series from the day he was drafted.
Scott said he was accustomed to such talk in Boston. But he learned that wasn’t always the case with the Mets.
“We need to get that mind-set throughout the organization and Francisco helps establish that at the major league level,” Scott said. “That’s what he brings.”
When is a no-hitter really a no-hitter?
We’ve all been forced to make accommodations because of the pandemic, baseball players included. Among them were a series of rules changes that included playing two seven-inning games in doubleheaders.
The idea is to shorten how long the players and coaches would be at the ballpark and lessen the possibility of somebody being exposed to the virus.
The rank-and-file players had little influence in determining any of these protocols.
Which is why it was unfair that Madison Bumgarner’s no-hitter against Atlanta last Sunday will not be recognized as such because it was only seven innings.
MLB’s statistician, the Elias Sports Bureau, has ruled a no-hitter must be nine innings.
In a nine-inning game, that makes perfect sense. But Bumgarner didn’t have the option of getting six more outs. He started a seven-inning game and went seven innings without allowing a hit. That’s a no-hitter.
If players, coaches, and fans have to make accommodations for the pandemic, so can Elias.
It’s easy. Simply add this entry to the list of official no-hitters:
April 25, 2021: Madison Bumgarner (Arizona) vs. Atlanta (7).
Count Ron Darling among those excited about professional baseball being back in Worcester as the Triple A WooSox open their season on Tuesday. “It’s great for the city,” said Darling, the former St. John’s High star who went on to a 13-year career in the majors. “My dad [Ron Sr.] was telling me there’s a lot of standing room. It sounds like a beautiful park.” Darling, now a Mets broadcaster with occasional national assignments, is planning to take a midseason trip to catch a game at Polar Park and stop by the Cape Cod League. “For years all we had in Worcester was Fitton Field. It’s nice to see a new park there,” he said … Joe West now has two pairs of father/son ejections. He tossed Bob Boone (2003) and Aaron Boone (2019), and now Buddy Bell (2006) and David Bell (2021) … Matt Harvey was 3-8 with a 7.82 ERA for the Angels and Royals from 2019-20 and took a minor league deal with the Orioles in February. It has paid off for both sides. Harvey went into the weekend 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA, with the Orioles winning three of his five starts. Harvey’s fastball has averaged a modest 93.4 miles per hour, but his slider is the best it has been since his success with the Mets … The Rockies finally moved on from general manager Jeff Bridich, who resigned under pressure this past week. But how much will change? Chief operating officer Greg Feasel was put in charge of baseball operations. He is a former football player who has been on the business side for the Rockies for 26 years. The plan is to hire an interim GM to work under Feasel then fill the job over time. Why would any ambitious executive want to be part of the ongoing mess there under owner Dick Monfort? … Aaron Judge is a mystery. He left Tuesday’s game with “lower body soreness,” according to Yankees manager Aaron Boone, then didn’t start on Wednesday before striking out as a pinch hitter on Thursday. But Judge homered twice on Friday and drove in five runs. Judge is a terror when he plays but has missed 35 percent of the games since 2018 … Happy birthday to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is 36. The former first-round pick played for six teams during his 12 years in the majors and made his biggest impact in Boston from 2010-13. Salty started 111 games behind the plate in ’13. No Sox catcher has had more than 103 since. Eddie Bressoud is 89. The shortstop was with the Sox from 1962-65 and hit .270 with 57 homers. He played his last season with the Cardinals in 1967 and retired after they beat the Sox in the World Series. Bressoud attended the 100th anniversary celebration for Fenway Park in 2012.