Thursday, September 20, 2012
Sox look to add heavy hitter in front office
By Gordon Edes
BOSTON -- Notes, quotes and gloats (as one of my idols in the business, Bob Verdi, used to call them) as the Sox head into their last dozen games, assured of their first losing record since 1997:
* Part of the Red Sox “reset” this winter will involve finding a veteran baseball executive to join general manager Ben Cherington in a prominent role in the front office. The Sox already have one: Allard Baird, the former Royals GM who has been with the Red Sox in a variety of positions since joining the team as a special assignment scout in July 2006, but ownership has made it clear they’re looking for more.
Baird was promoted by Theo Epstein to assistant general manager in November of that year and in 2011 was named VP/player personnel/professional scouting, overseeing Boston’s pro scouting operations in addition to his player personnel duties. This year, Jared Porter was placed in charge of pro scouting, with Baird remaining VP/player personnel.
Ben Cherington may be getting some help from a seasoned front-office veteran.
As a model, Red Sox ownership is looking to the role that former GM Gerry Hunsicker plays with Tampa Bay, former GM Gene Michael plays with the New York Yankees, former manager Jim Fregosi plays in Atlanta, former GM Wayne Krivsky and former manager Tom Kelly play in Minnesota, former GM J.P. Ricciardi plays with the New York Mets, former GM John Hart plays with Texas and former GM Bob Gebhard plays with Arizona, among others. Baird fit that model, of course, but ownership has decided it wants more.
One name already surfacing in speculation is Tony La Cava, the VP baseball operations/assistant GM with Alex Anthopoulos in Toronto. La Cava, 51, has worked for the Angels, Braves, Expos and Indians in the last quarter-century and is highly regarded throughout the game. He has interviewed in the past for GM jobs with the Pirates and Mariners, and last winter turned down an offer to be the Orioles’ GM. To receive permission from the Jays to talk with LaCava, the Sox would have to be offering a promotion, so it remains to be seen what they could craft. But don’t be surprised if they make inquiries.
* With Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers hitting his 41st home run Wednesday night as he makes a serious bid to become the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win baseball’s Triple Crown, here’s what Yaz did in his last 15 games that season:
.491 batting average (27-for-55)
Batting line of .569/.873/1.442.
And, of course, 7-for-8 in the last two games of the season, both must-wins for the Sox.
Let’s see how Miggy does in his last 15. He’s off to a good start, walking twice in addition to his home run.
* If this is, indeed, the end for Bobby Valentine as Red Sox manager, here’s where he ranks all-time going into the last dozen games.
Only 35 men managed more seasons than Valentine’s 16. He ranks 40th all-time in wins (1,185 and counting), and with four more wins would move past Mike Hargrove for 39th. His .507 winning percentage has him tied for 124th all-time with, among others, Jerry Manuel, another former Mets manager.
* The starting pitcher with the highest average velocity on his four-seam fastball the last six seasons? That would be Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, at 97.01 miles an hour, according to the Pitchf/x Leaderboards developed by Dan Brooks at Brooks Baseball.
But what should interest Sox fans is the No. 2 name on the list. That would be Rubby de la Rosa, the Dodger who has yet to be officially identified as the player to be named later in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. De la Rosa averaged 96.54 miles an hour on the 695 fastballs he has thrown in the big leagues, most of which came in 2011, before he underwent Tommy John surgery. He only threw 15 four-seamers for the Dodgers this season, too small a sample size, and averaged 95.21.
* Gonzalez told T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times that criticism about his power dropoff in 2011 drove him to try to hit more home runs this season in Boston, with disastrous results.
"Everybody was super mad the way we lost and things went down," he says. "Here I thought I had one of the best seasons ever, but because of what I said and because I didn't hit more home runs it wasn't like I had that good of a season. So I said, all right, I'm going to come into next year and hit more home runs. And it wrecked my swing.
"I felt like I disappointed everyone a little bit, so I was going to try and do what they wanted this season."
What went unmentioned is that Gonzalez’s power dropped off in the season’s second half, though the majority of Boston media noted that his inability to maintain strength in his surgically repaired shoulder was a major factor and no one predicted him to struggle the way he did this season.
* Pedro Ciriaco has been one of the few bright spots this season, but his lack of plate discipline raises questions regarding his future with the club. In 226 plate appearances, Ciriaco has six walks. Since 1950, only one Sox player has had fewer walks with at least 220 plate appearances. That would be Don Demeter, who walked five times in 238 plate appearances. Eight other Sox players since ’50 have had 10 walks or fewer: Carlton Fisk (10 in 340, 1979), Andre Dawson (nine in 306 plate appearances, 1994), Rich Gedman (10 in 305 plate appearances, 1982), Jerry Remy (10 in 249 plate appearances, 1980), Russ Gibson (eight in 246 PAs), Herm Winningham (10 in 244 PAs, 1992), Mario Guerrero (10 in 233 PAs, 1973) and Alex Cora (seven in 232 PAs, 2007).