As baseball moves into the second round of the postseason, four teams are searching for new managers and the Red Sox are seeking a new president of baseball operations.
Let’s catch you up on those situations.
▪ Red Sox president of baseball operations: The Sox centered on Chaim Bloom quickly in 2019. This time they’ll take a wider view, hoping that leads to the right candidate while gathering information about what outsiders think of their organization.
The Sox are the only team in the market for a baseball ops leader, which is a luxury. But the perception within the industry is that any viable candidate has to have the approval of manager Alex Cora, who is entering the final year of his contract and has finished in last place the last two seasons.
Cora also has stated his intent to be a GM someday.
It’s a tricky situation for anybody who would consider coming in from the outside. But the Sox have young talent and presumably are open to raising their payroll after dropping to the middle of the pack.
To date, the only external candidates are speculative. Assistant GM Eddie Romero is clearly one of the internal options.
▪ Angels manager: This seems like a no-hope job. The Angels have run through three managers in five years since Mike Scioscia retired and the team hasn’t had a winning record since 2015.
Shohei Ohtani has a foot out the door, Mike Trout is discontent, and Anthony Rendon is a highly paid problem child with three years on his contract. The Angels also are well behind other clubs in terms of staffing, facilities, and technology.
Buck Showalter wants to keep managing and will get a look. Bench coach Ray Montgomery (a former Chatham Athletic) offers the easiest transition. Infield coach Benji Gil impressed as Mexico’s manager in the World Baseball Classic.
▪ Guardians manager: Terry Francona stepped down on Tuesday. President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said Francona will have a new advisory role with the team, which hasn’t been defined.
First base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. declined an opportunity to interview but will likely remain on the staff.
The Guardians were 76-86 but have the pitching staff to contend next season. Given the organization’s analytic bent, Rangers associate manager Will Venable could be a good fit. It also doesn’t hurt that he was a Princeton teammate of GM Mike Chernoff in 2003 under the esteemed Scott Bradley.
Mark DeRosa, who managed Team USA in the WBC, is another possibility. He played for Cleveland during his career.
The Guardians would be wise to consider bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who has long deserved an opportunity to manage.
▪ Mets manager: It’s natural to suggest new president of baseball operations David Stearns will want to bring over Craig Counsell, who is now a free agent. They worked together in Milwaukee from 2016-22, although it was Doug Melvin who promoted Counsell to manager in 2015.
But Counsell makes his offseason home in Wisconsin and has two sons playing college baseball in the Midwest. The Brewers also have made the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. He’s in a good spot.
If Counsell can’t be lured away, the Mets could turn to Dodgers bench coach Danny Lehmann. New York native Walt Weiss, Atlanta’s bench coach, is another possibility.
▪ Giants manager: San Francisco was 107-55 in 2021 and is 160-164 since while showing an inability to land high-profile free agents. Do the Giants need a big personality as a manager to close those deals or will president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi hire somebody who can work closely with the gang of analysts who have taken up residence in the clubhouse?
DeRosa is a possibility, along with bench coach Kai Correa, who managed the last three games after Gabe Kapler was fired. Stephen Vogt, who retired after the 2022 season, has been mentioned. But jumping straight into managing would be tough, even for an ex-catcher.
Offseason important for Sale and Yoshida
Chris Sale ended the season on the active roster, which was not the case in 2022, 2020, or 2019. There’s no injury to rehab or broken bones to heal. That allows him four-plus months to get ready for spring training.
“Lower-body strength, shoulder strength, and mobility,” Sale said. “I’ve got to get my shoulder stronger, that’s for sure. For me, it’s going to be a lot of long-tossing. I need reps. I need to throw more.”
Sale is 17-18 with a 4.16 ERA the last five seasons. His ERA was 2.89 before that. He’ll be 35 in March and in the final year of his contract. He hasn’t been an All-Star or received a Cy Young Award vote since 2018.
This offseason will go a long way in determining what the rest of his career looks like.
In a different way, the same is true for Masataka Yoshida, who hit .263 with a .663 OPS in the second half. He needs to return in better shape and prepared to play 150 games, not 140.
The Sox are planning to send strength and conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose to Japan in the offseason to monitor Yoshida’s workouts. Yoshida also will report to Boston for some work before going to spring training.
His interpreter, Keiichiro Wakabayashi, will work for Yoshida during the offseason as a driver and workout partner while living close by. That will give the Sox another avenue to monitor Yoshida’s progress.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ According to their front office directory, the Sox have 36 people working in research and development, counting assistant GM Mike Groopman, who oversees that group.
They had 15 in 2019, counting former assistant GM Zack Scott.
Chaim Bloom added 21 positions to that department and the Sox were two games under .500 during his four seasons after finishing 108 games over .500 during Dave Dombrowski’s four seasons.
It can be argued that the Red Sox needed further investment in analytics to get closer to industry standards. But anybody who watched the Sox play the last few seasons saw a steady drop in fundamental play, particularly with defense and base running.
Analytics are a crucial part of the equation in all professional sports and that department’s work led to some smart acquisitions. But it also seems to have produced too many one-dimensional position players and fringe pitchers.
There has to be a better balance incorporating scouts and minor league coaches.
▪ Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock have faded as rotation hopes. But Kutter Crawford still has a chance.
“He’s learning how to pitch,” manager Alex Cora said. “He’s learning how to use all his pitches. He pitches to both sides of the plate and he’s strong enough. I do believe with a good offseason program he’s going to get to the next level.”
Crawford’s fastball velocity dipped from 94.6 to 93.6 miles per hour this season, but he had more spin and hitters dropped from a .551 slugging percentage against the heater to .327.
Crawford had four outings of at least six innings with one hit allowed. Only Blake Snell had as many.
“This is a big winter for me,” Crawford said after his final start of the season. “I need to get stronger and work deeper into games.”
▪ Sam Kennedy said Monday the Sox would have a “very modest, low-single-digit increase” in season-ticket prices.
After consecutive last-place finishes, increasing ticket prices even a little is treating your customers poorly. Freezing prices and building a little goodwill at a time they could really use some would have made much more sense.
It’s fair to say the financial fortunes of Fenway Sports Group are not contingent on this increase.
▪ MLB Trade Rumors, which has been very accurate over the years in projecting arbitration salaries, has Alex Verdugo in line for $9.2 million, nearly a $3 million raise from what he agreed to last season.
This is Verdugo’s final year of arbitration. Reese McGuire ($1.7 million), Nick Pivetta ($6.9 million), John Schreiber ($1.3 million), and Luis Urías ($4.7 million) are the other Red Sox with arbitration rights.
Urías didn’t play particularly well after being obtained from Milwaukee at the trade deadline and is a good candidate to be non-tendered. He’s certainly not worth close to $5 million.
Snow and Wakefield made a difference
There was a time when Tim Wakefield and Chris Snow were colleagues of sorts, Wakefield pitching for the Red Sox and Snow the Globe’s beat writer from 2005-06.
They died within two days of each other, and in the days since it has been striking to consider how both men led such distinctive and important lives.
Wakefield pitched 19 years in the majors with essentially one pitch, a knuckleball. He helped win two World Series titles and became an All-Star who won 200 games.
The hitters knew what was coming and he still succeeded.
Snow was one of the first baseball writers to incorporate advanced statistics in his coverage of a team. He used the numbers to illustrate the successes and failures of the Red Sox and explained to readers why those statistics were worth understanding.
From afar, it was interesting to see what he was doing and then to realize it made complete sense. The Sox had an innovative young general manager in Theo Epstein and the Globe had an innovative young writer covering his team.
In his own way, Snow was as revolutionary on the beat as Peter Gammons was when he started.
Snow left journalism to become an NHL executive specializing in analytics. That’s not just unusual, it’s unheard of.
Wakefield ended his playing career in 2012 and started a new one in philanthropy, helping the Red Sox Foundation, The Jimmy Fund, and other organizations to raise millions of dollars.
When he was diagnosed with ALS, Snow enrolled in a clinical trial that used gene therapy to slow the spread of the disease. It added years to his life while helping researchers get closer to one day curing ALS. His bravery and that of his family inspired countless people.
Both men forged unique careers, earned the respect of their peers, and died far too soon. But not before making an impact on others that will be felt and appreciated for years to come.
It was suggested in this space two weeks ago that the Rays were making a mistake by planning to build their new ballpark adjacent to Tropicana Field. That was underlined when Tampa Bay drew only 39,902 fans to its two home playoff games against Texas. The Game 1 crowd of 19,704 was the smallest for a playoff game since 1919 (outside of the 2020 COVID season). At this point, the Rays and MLB may just take what they can get in terms of a new ballpark, but that location has never worked and a new ballpark won’t change that. When a 99-win team averages only 17,781 a game and can barely do better for a playoff game, it’s the location . . . Kudos to Seattle’s George Kirby, who threw a knuckleball in the first inning on Sunday as a tribute to Tim Wakefield. It was called by catcher Cal Raleigh, who grew up a Red Sox fan. That Corey Seager swung and missed was perfect. “I loved watching that guy throw, even though he’s a Red Sox player and I’m a born Yankee fan,” Kirby told reporters. “It was a great day to throw it.” . . . The 12-team playoff format has created more excitement in September, but it might be wise to tweak the seeding. The Twins had the seventh-best record in the American League and hosted the Blue Jays, who were two games better, because they won the wretched Central Division. With teams playing fewer games in the division, overall records should be used for seeding . . . According to MLB, the average length of games was 2:39:49, the shortest since 1985 and a 24-minute decrease for nine-inning games from 2022. There were nine games that lasted 3:30 or longer, 381 fewer than last season. The Red Sox played two of them, of course . . . Maybe it’s not a surprise because it was only his second season, but Oli Marmol is the first Cardinals manager since 1916 to lose 90 games and keep his job. Marmol is 164-160 (.506) since St. Louis fired Mike Shildt, who was 252-199 (.559) over parts of four seasons . . . What a strange season for the 82-80 Padres. They had the second-best ERA in the National League. Blake Snell is favored to win the Cy Young. Josh Hader was a lockdown closer. They committed the third-fewest errors in the NL and were sixth in the league in runs. A 9-23 record in one-run games did them in. They also were 2-12 in extra innings . . . Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto raised some eyebrows after the season when he said, “If what you’re doing is focusing year to year on, ‘What do we have to do to win the World Series this year?’ you might be one of the teams that’s laying in the mud and can’t get up for another decade. So we’re actually doing the fan base a favor in asking for their patience to win the World Series, while we continue to build a sustainably good roster.” Seattle has sustainably not made the playoffs in 21 of the last 22 seasons. Asking fans not to get their expectations up is an interesting ploy. Dipoto said later he did a poor job trying to explain his plan for the team . . . Former Red Sox infielder Luis Rivera stepped down after 11 years as Toronto’s third base coach. He turns 60 in January, so maybe there’s another role in baseball for him on the player development side . . . Lexington’s Sal Frelick had an .809 OPS in his first 26 games for the Brewers and a .608 OPS in the next 31. That’s typical for a rookie and the experience will serve him well, as will going through a pennant race and starting two postseason games. “Definitely an amazing atmosphere. Really cool to be a part of that for my first season,” the former Boston College star said . . . Here’s a weird one: Houston’s Kyle Tucker seemed to have joined the 30-30 club when he had an inside-the-park homer at Arizona last Sunday. No Astros player had done that since Jeff Bagwell in 1999. The official scorer called it a triple with an error. Then the call was changed to a triple with Tucker scoring on a fielder’s choice. Then it was switched to a home run before further discussion switched it back to a triple and a fielder’s choice. Tucker paused at third base before realizing the Diamondbacks weren’t paying attention, so maybe that was the right call. It’s likely the commissioner’s office will have to make a ruling . . . Happy birthday to Jerry Reed, who is 68. The righthanded reliever played in the majors from 1981-90 with his final 29 games coming with the Red Sox.