Next battle between Cubs, Red Sox could be over managers

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Next battle between Cubs, Red Sox could be over managers

Updated: Thursday, Nov. 3, 11:45 p.m.

The Cubs and Red Sox still havent decided what Theo Epstein is worth, and it doesnt sound like theyve made much progress on settling the compensation. The next battle between these two historic franchises could be over a manager.

Epstein had to start thinking about candidates on Sept. 30, once it became official that Terry Francona wouldnt be returning to the Red Sox.

Epstein continued doing background work with his eventual replacement general manager Ben Cherington even after he decided to jump to the Cubs and both sides negotiated to break the final year of his contract.

Once Epstein fired Mike Quade, theyd be working from similar lists. Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin a Brother Rice High School graduate who already interviewed at Fenway Park will do the same on Friday at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs and Red Sox have also received permission to interview Mike Maddux, which will probably happen next week, once the Rangers pitching coach recovers from laryngitis.

I dont think either organization is going to defer to the other, Epstein said Thursday. Its the responsibility for us to get the right person for the Cubs, and for Ben to get the right person for the Red Sox. Im not sure thats going to be the same person: Different markets, organizations are in a different place right now.

Epstein spoke with Francona on Thursday and theyve remained in contact since the end of the season. Thats the bond they formed after winning two World Series titles together.

Epstein knows Francona so well like the back of my hand that they wouldnt need a formal interview. Francona could be in play for the Cardinals job.

Clearly, he would be at the top of anybodys list as far as available managers, Epstein said. Thats true of any organization. If we were to look at it and say: Whos somebody with experience? Whos a proven winner? Whod be a real asset? Hes got to be at or very close to the top of the list.

Its got to be the right fit here. Im not sure it is, and Titos not sure it is. But we have a relationship that transcends the professional side of things, so weve stayed in touch.

Epstein has already brought in Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, two executives with a Red Sox connection. Along with assistant general manager Randy Bush, they will bring a candidate to chairman Tom Ricketts and his family.

This doesnt need to be The Boston Show recreated in Chicago, Epstein said. For my growth as an executive, maybe its the right thing to work with a new manager. For Titos growth as a manager, maybe it will be better for him to work with a new boss.

You dont want to live in the past.

The Cubs are not believed to be pursuing any current big-league managers, which would eliminate Joe Maddon (Rays), John Farrell (Blue Jays) and Bud Black (Padres).

Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum, who already interviewed in Boston, will be in the mix. Sources said bench coaches DeMarlo Hale (Red Sox), Sandy Alomar Jr. (Indians) and Dave Martinez (Rays) also could be involved in the search.

The past will guide Epstein in this sense: The Cubs will use a screening process similar to the one that revealed Francona and runner-up Maddon after the 2003 season.

Beginning with Mackanin, candidates will sit down for a traditional interview. But they will also likely have to do game simulations. Afterward, theyll meet with reporters, to see how they handle the media in a big market.

Back in 2003, someone like Francona might have been handed statistics, lineup cards and a history of bullpen usage. The game would be paused at a key situation, like first and third, one out in a late inning. Given whos available in the bullpen, and knowing whos available to pinch-hit, theyd be asked: What would you do in this situation?

We try to create some intensity, Epstein said. So we got right in his face and asked for an answer pretty quickly. We werent looking so much at what the managerial candidate said in terms of the strategy that he would employ. But what pieces of information he would use, what his thought process would be in trying to make a decision.

So even if the Cubs and Red Sox dont zero in on the same manager, their searches will almost certainly have a similar look and feel. Both are moving faster than the Epstein compensation negotiations.

John Lackey roughed up as Cubs blanked again by Dodgers

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AP

John Lackey roughed up as Cubs blanked again by Dodgers

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs have scored zero runs through 18 innings at Dodger Stadium this weekend and still haven’t faced Clayton Kershaw yet. Neither game got tense enough for star closer Kenley Jansen and the sound system blasting “California Love.”

Of course, the Cubs survived a 21-inning scoreless streak last October and came back to eliminate the Dodgers and win their first National League pennant in 71 years.

But the Cubs have to keep saying this is a new year, even as a grueling schedule approaches the Memorial Day mile marker for a 25-23 team. And you could see the frustration during Saturday’s 5-0 loss in front of 48,322 and a national TV audience.

John Lackey walked off the field and down the dugout steps after the fifth inning and slammed his glove to the ground. A one-run game had turned into a 5-0 blowout as Lackey walked pitcher Brandon McCarthy and Chris Taylor then drilled the first pitch he saw into the left-field seats. Lackey screamed into his glove after Chase Utley knocked a two-out, two-run single into right field and Dodger Stadium got loud.

Lackey is now 4-5 with a 5.18 ERA for a team that had been built around reliable starting pitching. The Cubs will try to avoid the sweep on Sunday afternoon in what should be a must-see Kershaw vs. Jon Lester matchup.

Scott Boras fires back at Jake Arrieta’s critics and makes another Max Scherzer comparison

Scott Boras fires back at Jake Arrieta’s critics and makes another Max Scherzer comparison

LOS ANGELES – Scott Boras waved a Cubs beat writer over toward the VIP section behind home plate at Dodger Stadium. Holding a smartphone in hand, the super-agent started rattling off data points on Saturday afternoon, making the case for Jake Arrieta once he hits the free-agent market after this season.

Boras pushed back on the idea that Arrieta is something less than an elite pitcher and compromised by diminished velocity, launching into a defense that lasted roughly 15 minutes and drew in two more Chicago reporters before a security guard told the media to clear the field because it was an hour before first pitch.

Once again, Boras used 2014 Max Scherzer as a reference point, detailing five of six starts between May 21 and June 17 in which a Cy Young Award winner gave up seven runs, five runs, four runs, four runs and 10 runs. That didn’t stop Scherzer from making another All-Star team, going 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA, leading the Tigers to another division title and jumping to the Nationals for a seven-year, $210 million megadeal.

“I just remember going through this,” Boras said, “because when Detroit came to town, I got the ‘Oh my God, the ship is sinking.'"

The night before, Boras sat in a front-row seat with his entourage watching Arrieta during a 4-0 loss that saw aging Dodgers Chase Utley and Adrian Gonzalez crush fastballs over the center-field wall. One theory – floated by the media and essentially confirmed by manager Joe Maddon – is that Arrieta (4.92 ERA) will have to learn how to pitch in a new reality where he can’t automatically unleash a 95-mph fastball.

“That is so far remote from the truth,” Boras said. “To create a voice to your fan base to suggest that Jake is not Jake – Jake is throwing at frankly better levels than what Scherzer did. And the reality of it is that Jake has this history.

“He’s got a great history that goes on, like (Clayton) Kershaw does, like (David) Price does, like (Zack) Greinke does. These guys have not done this for one year. He did it ’14, ’15, ’16.”

Here’s how Brooks Baseball’s online database has tracked Arrieta’s average velocities across the last three-plus seasons:

2014

Four-seam: 94.59

Sinker: 94.49

2015

Four-seam: 94.93

Sinker: 95.21

2016

Four-seam: 94.32

Sinker: 94.44

2017

Four-seam: 92.64

Sinker: 92.50

Here’s the Brooks Baseball analysis of Scherzer’s fastball from 2012 through last season’s Cy Young Award campaign: 94.97, 94.46, 93.88, 94.67, 95.23.

[MORE: Scott Boras doesn't believe Jake Arrieta is feeling pressure of free agency]

Boras dismissed a question about Arrieta’s inconsistencies at the beginning of his career as he shuttled between the Orioles and their Triple-A affiliate and how that could impact the perception of a 30-something pitcher.

“I’m looking at a three-year window coming into ’17,” Boras said. “When you’re elite, you have not done it once. You have not done it twice. You’ve done it three times. Jake has had three premium years. He’s in the Cy Young voting three years in a row. That puts him in a class of all these people.

“(One) comment is: ‘Oh my God, he’s dropped in velocity.’ Fair observation. My point is they all drop in velocity. All the elite pitchers drop in velocity, because they come in the league, they’re throwing 96, they’re throwing 95, then they’re down. But what are they all doing? They’re all (within) the ranges, probably close to 92 and 93.5.”

The Boras Corp. pitch to owners and executives this offseason will also revolve around durability, advanced stats and postseason experience. Arrieta has made 25, 33 and 31 starts across the last three seasons, ranking second in the majors in WHIP (0.97) and third in soft-contact percentage (22.6) and pitching in six playoffs rounds.

Where Kershaw and Price have repeatedly had to answer questions about their big-game performances, Arrieta can cue up the highlights from the 2015 wild-card game in Pittsburgh and show off his 2016 World Series ring.

Boras clearly has an agenda, but all this is worth remembering amid all the instant analysis and overreactions to how the defending champs are playing now. It might also reinforce why Theo Epstein’s front office could view this as a bad investment and keep rolling the dice with change-of-scenery guys and trading from their surplus of hitters. 

“We’re going to sit here and evaluate a player on a 60-day moment or a 10-start moment when he has three years of his history?” Boras said. “Don’t do it. That’s not fair. It’s not an evaluation, because all their velocities drop.

“All these guys are all still doing well and all their velocities dropped. The key thing is they were able to do what they did three years running. What does Jake have an advantage over all of them at? What does Jake do better than anybody? He wins big games.”