Red Sox make surprising choice for new manager

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Red Sox make surprising choice for new manager

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- When Terry Francona left the Boston Red Sox, he said they needed "a new voice" in the manager's office. They've certainly chosen a brash one. Two months after a record collapse kept them out of the playoffs, the Red Sox picked Bobby Valentine to be their next manager. The sides were working to complete a contract, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday night. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made. Several media outlets in Boston, citing anonymous sources, reported earlier in the evening that Valentine would be the team's new manager. An announcement could come by Thursday. "He's got it. I just spoke to him a little while ago," Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, who managed Valentine in the minors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, said in a telephone interview with the AP. Blunt, cocky and sometimes controversial, Valentine is quite a departure from Francona, a player's manager who rarely went public with criticism of players or internal team problems. As manager of the New York Mets from 1996-2002, Valentine clashed with general manager Steve Phillips. In April 2000, he criticized the team's front office and some players, including Bobby Bonilla and Rickey Henderson, while speaking to students at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. And famously, after being ejected from a game in 1999, he returned to the dugout wearing a fake mustache and sunglasses. Major League Baseball fined him 5,000 and suspended him for three games. More recently, the 61-year-old Valentine has been working as an analyst for ESPN, where he has commented on several Red Sox players, saying pitcher Josh Beckett should work faster and left fielder Carl Crawford should close his stance. Valentine's style can be abrasive, sure, but few question his baseball acumen. He guided the Mets to consecutive playoff appearances, culminating in a trip to the 2000 World Series, where they lost to the New York Yankees. He went to Japan and managed the Chiba Lotte Marines to a championship in 2005. "He's matured, and I think managing in Japan helped him a great deal," Lasorda said. "Becoming the manager of the Red Sox, that's a privilege and an honor, and I'm sure he's going to do a great job." Valentine also managed the Texas Rangers from 1985-92. His last big league managerial job was with the Mets, and he managed in Japan from 2004-09. He was in Japan this week and said he was about to take off on a flight when he sent the AP a text message at 9:48 p.m. Tuesday saying he had no comment on "the Red Sox situation." The manager's job has been vacant since Francona parted ways with the Red Sox on Sept. 30, saying he wasn't getting through to the players. The team didn't pick up his option for 2012. That ended an eight-year run in which Francona led the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. They led the AL East for much of last summer but went 7-20 in September, wasting a nine-game lead in the wild-card race and finishing out of the playoffs for the second straight year, one game behind Tampa Bay. That was followed by reports of starting pitchers drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games in which they weren't scheduled to pitch instead of staying on the bench to support their teammates. "I trusted them explicitly and things weren't getting done the way I wanted it in the end," Francona said at the news conference where his departure was announced, "and I was frustrated because of that. If that's letting me down, maybe it is." With a fresh, forceful voice at the helm, maybe the players will become better listeners. Valentine interviewed on Nov. 21 with general manager Ben Cherington and other members of Red Sox management. Asked at a news conference that day about his philosophy of discipline, Valentine said, "Discipline is not 30 whacks with a whip these days. But I think everyone likes discipline. I think everyone likes structure. Everyone likes to be acknowledged when they do things properly. Discipline and rules and things like that -- it's just about right and wrong." Not since Kevin Kennedy left as manager after the 1996 season have the Red Sox had a manager who seems to enjoy the spotlight as much as Valentine. Jimy Williams, Joe Kerrigan and Grady Little followed Kennedy and preceded Francona. A native of Connecticut and a former roommate of Bill Buckner's, Valentine wasn't on the Red Sox original five-man list of candidates. That group included Gene Lamont, Dale Sveum, Torey Lovullo, Pete Mackanin and Sandy Alomar Jr., all major league coaches. Sveum was hired as manager of the Chicago Cubs by former Boston GM Theo Epstein. Lamont was the only one in that bunch who had managed extensively in the majors, and the Red Sox expanded their search to include Valentine. On Nov. 3, he and Red Sox president and part owner Larry Lucchino took part in Hartford in a program put on by the World Affairs Council on the global rise in the popularity of baseball. At the time, both said they hadn't discussed the job with each other. "He's a great man and a great manager and he has a colorful and successful history, so his name inevitably comes up in this day and age," Lucchino said then. After his interview 2 weeks later, Valentine said if he got the job, "I would feel like it is Christmas." The son-in-law of former major league pitcher Ralph Branca, Valentine has a 1,117-1,072 record as a big league manager but has never finished in first place in 15 seasons. He could have a chance to do that in 2012 with a team that was a popular preseason pick to reach last season's World Series. "I'm happy for him," Lasorda said. "I think the Red Sox got themselves a good manager. In all my years, I've never seen a guy prepare a team for a game like he does. That's what makes him unique."

Why Kyle Schwarber is untouchable and how Cubs plan to rebuild bullpen

Why Kyle Schwarber is untouchable and how Cubs plan to rebuild bullpen

NEW YORK – Let’s start with this boilerplate Theo Epstein quote and file it away for the next time Kyle Schwarber’s name appears on MLBTradeRumors.com or a fantasy-baseball proposal for the New York Yankees.

“I’m looking forward to Kyle Schwarber — who got hurt in a Cubs uniform and is working his ass off in a Cubs uniform — coming back and hitting a very big home run in a Cubs uniform sometime very early next season,” Epstein said.

The president of baseball operations clearly has a special bond with Schwarber, selecting the Indiana University catcher/outfielder with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft, back when the industry consensus made it sound like a reach. Schwarber helped ignite those champagne celebrations last year by setting a franchise record with five postseason home runs. Epstein felt sick watching Schwarber wreck his knee in an outfield collision during the first week of this season, allowing him to rehab in Chicago and hang out in the draft room, essentially viewing him as an untouchable player because of his left-handed power and leadership qualities.

The Mets are the defending National League champs — with all due respect, as Joe Maddon might say, quoting Will Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby character in “Talladega Nights.” But the Yankees might be the New York team the Cubs should focus on now.

While the Mets returned home to Citi Field on Thursday as a third-place team — six games behind Washington after getting swept at Nationals Park — the Yankees will be in no man’s land on July 1 at 39-39.

The Bronx Bombers now have another month to decide whether or not they will become trade-deadline sellers for the first time in a generation, how breaking up the Andrew Miller/Aroldis Chapman/Dellin Betances bullpen could set them up for the future. And what surrender would mean for a YES Network/Yankee Stadium/27 World Series titles business plan. 

Epstein viewed Thursday’s action – the San Diego Padres flipped closer Fernando Rodney to the Miami Marlins while the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired right-hander Bud Norris from the Atlanta Braves – as more of a reaction to the July 2 international signing period (and Clayton Kershaw’s back injury) than a sign that the market would start to move quickly.

“We’re talking to clubs, just trying to see who might be available and where we might have matches,” Epstein said. “But there’s nothing real imminent. There’s usually a flurry of activity around (this time). Despite the trades today, I think it might end up being more of a slow-developing market. We’ll see. We’re not close to anything.”

Remember, the Cubs rebuilt their bullpen on the fly last summer with Clayton Richard (acquired for a dollar from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate), Trevor Cahill (released by the Braves and Dodgers before signing a minor-league deal) and Rodney (a two-time All-Star the Seattle Mariners had designated for assignment).

While Schwarber-for-Miller buzz is great on talk radio and Twitter, for now the Cubs will go with the grab-bag approach, looking at internal options like Carl Edwards Jr. and Joel Peralta, hoping for good news on their Tommy John cases (Joe Nathan, Jack Leathersich) and waiting for Justin Grimm to get locked in again.

“It’s pretty rare that you rebuild a bullpen midseason through big-ticket items,” Epstein said. “Last year was actually more typical. They don’t all work out — that’s not what I’m saying. But if you have a plan and a process — and you’re willing to kind of cycle through guys (and) ride things out — you often get rewarded in the end.

“For a postseason bullpen, if you’re thinking that far in advance, you’re not talking about eight guys. You’re talking about three or four guys that you can lean on heavily. It’s being open-minded, being willing to let guys ride through their downturns and make adjustments, so that they can find it.” 

Minor League Roundup: Cubs, Sox prospects get ready for Futures Game

Minor League Roundup: Cubs, Sox prospects get ready for Futures Game

Each week, CSNChicago.com goes down on the farm for a minor-league report from both the Cubs and White Sox system, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

A pair of Charlotte Knights have made the Triple-A All-Star game in the International League. Matt Davidson and Leury Garcia will represent the Knights in the All-Star game on July 13.

Davidson, a 25-year-old third baseman, is batting .268/.349/.444 in 75 games this season with 10 homers and 46 RBIs – both leading the club. This will also be Davidson’s third career All-Star appearance. It’s possible he could miss the game, as he was promoted to the big leagues on Thursday, where he promptly broke his foot in his first game.

Garcia is batting .315/.366/.393 on the year with two homers, 18 RBI and a team-leading 12 stolen bases. It’s his first career All-Star selection.

Though Carson Fulmer has been struggling this season, the White Sox top prospect will pitch in the All-Star Futures Game on July 10 in San Diego.

In 75 innings this season in Double-A Birmingham, Fulmer has a 5.28 ERA with 44 walks and 75 strikeouts.

Zack Collins’ college career ended last week after the Miami Hurricanes got eliminated from the College World Series, but his pro career could get underway next week.

The White Sox first-round selection in this year’s draft will take some time to rest and then report to the team’s Glendale, Ariz. facility on July 2. The 21-year-old catcher will eventually start at Single-A Winston-Salem.

The White Sox also signed Tony Campana to a minor league deal on Thursday. The 30-year-old outfielder was released by the Washington Nationals on Monday.

Campana spent last season with the White Sox but sat out the entire season with a torn ACL.

CUBS

As All-Star week approaches in the majors, the minor-league All-Star games are getting underway.

At the Triple-A level, Cubs prospects Daniel Vogelbach and Armando Rivero were named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team.

Rivero - a 28-year-old right-handed pitcher - has been in the Cubs' system since 2013 and has a 2.39 ERA and 1.142 WHIP this season. He has also struck out 49 batters in 37.2 innings.

Vogelbach has been making headlines among Cubs prospects all season. The 23-year-old first baseman has been absolutely raking, posting a .308/.422/.556 slash line on the season with 15 doubles, 15 homers and 55 RBI in 73 games. 

Over the last month, Vogelbach has taken his game to another level, hitting .323 with a 1.098 OPS, driving in 22 runs in 28 games on 16 extra-base hits (8 homers, 7 doubles, 1 triple) and has also drawn 18 walks compared to only 18 strikeouts. 

Meanwhile, Iowa third baseman Jeimer Candelario is headed to the Futures Game, which will be played in San Diego the day before the MLB Home Run Derby.

Candelario, 22, started the season in Double-A (where he hit just .219), but has been killing the ball since his promotion to Triple-A, hitting .344 with a 1.079 OPS in 21 games.

In the Futures Game last season, Kyle Schwarber took home MVP honors.

Elsewhere in the Cubs system, big-league pitcher Adam Warren continued to get stretched out to return to the parent club as a starting pitcher. Warren tossed five innings (73 pitches) Thursday for Triple-A Iowa, allowing two runs on three hits and striking out three.

He may be back up to the majors next week, at which time the Cubs will insert him into the starting rotation.

Preview: White Sox take on the Astros Friday on CSN

Preview: White Sox take on the Astros Friday on CSN

The White Sox take on the Houston Astros on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Friday’s starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Mike Fiers

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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