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David Kaplan on M&M: Epstein deal ‘is basically done’

10.20.11 at 12:03 pm ET
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CSN Chicago’s David Kaplan appeared on the Mut & Merloni show Thursday morning to share the latest news from Chicago on the continuing Theo Epstein saga.

Kaplan, who has been ahead of the curve on most reports from negotiations thus far, said sources told him the Epstein deal should be official by the weekend.

“I think the deal is basically done,” Kaplan said. “I think you will hear the agreement leaked out a little bit later today. I think tomorrow there will be a press conference at Wrigley Field to introduce Theo Epstein as the new president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs . . . I think then what you will see is probably three, four days from now, there will be another announcement that Jed Hoyer is coming in as the general manager.”

Kaplan said he still was not sure who would be included as compensation for losing Epstein, but claimed Cubs top prospect Brett Jackson and star pitcher Matt Garza would not be part of the deal. Kaplan also denied perceptions that the pressure in Chicago is less than that in Boston, saying Epstein has been likened to a god in Chicago because people expect so much out of him. Kaplan denied, however, that the Red Sox had the upper hand in negotiations, hinting that the Red Sox did not want him back.

“They have built Theo up to be the God here,” Kaplan said. “The messiah to come save the Cubs. But he couldn’t go back to work in Boston. There was no chance the Boston Red Sox were letting him back in the front office to make value decisions on that team.”

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Kaplan, jed hoyer, Larry Lucchino, Theo Epstein

Outfielder Juan Carlos Linares progresses in recovery

10.20.11 at 10:13 am ET
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During the 2011 season, the absence of depth at different positions in the Red Sox organization was exposed. One of those was the absence of major league-ready right-handed outfielders in the upper levels of the minors.

The issue became significant for part of last summer, when both Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald offered virtually no production through the end of June. The issue became less pronounced down the stretch, as McDonald hit .324/.402/.577 against left-handers after July 1, but it was enough of a concern that the Sox did make a late-season deal with the A’s to acquire Conor Jackson.

That might not have been necessary had Juan Carlos Linares been healthy. The 26-year-old (he turned 27 in September), a defector from Cuba who signed for $750,000 last summer, had impressed both in 2010 in the Arizona Fall League and again in Red Sox spring training camp this year. He showed an ability to barrel fastballs consistently and drive them, while also demonstrating an ability to play all three outfield positions.

Linares likely would have been in line for a call-up around the time that Mike Cameron was designated for assignment and subsequently traded to the Marlins. However, he played just 17 games (hitting .233 with a .281 OBP and .500 slugging mark, three homers and nine extra-base hits) before his season came to a crashing halt on May 2, when he tore ligaments in his ankle on a slide into second base. He had to undergo surgery that wiped out what was supposed to be his first full professional season.

However, Linares spent the year rehabbing and was able to participate in the Florida Instructional League. Though he is still working his way back into shape (a common issue after dealing with a lower body injury that impairs cardio activity), Linares appeared to move well in the outfield and, though he was playing against much younger competition, he also impressed at the plate.

“No surprise, he raked,” said Red Sox vice president of player development and amateur scouting Mike Hazen.

Now, Linares has been added to the roster of the Scottsdale Scorpions as a member of the taxi squad who will be able to play a couple times a week. While Linares — who has played just 34 minor league games since signing with the Sox in the middle of the 2010 season — will almost certainly need at least some time in Triple-A, if he is completely healthy and appears not to have been impacted too significantly by his layoff, he could represent an important player as the Sox construct their roster this offseason.

If he looks like a player capable of being a very good fourth outfielder or even someone who could platoon with a left-handed outfielder (such as Josh Reddick or Ryan Kalish), he would represent a significant depth option behind Darnell McDonald. However, if he still remains hindered by the recovery from his injury (and it remains to be seen whether he has lost speed something that might limit his outfield versatility), the Sox may be forced to move more aggressively to find right-handed outfield options this offseason.

Read More: juan carlos linares,

The latest Theo Epstein news from the Windy City

10.20.11 at 9:27 am ET
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Negotiations between the Cubs and Red Sox seemed to reach a sticking point over the weekend, but according to the Chicago media, talks have progressed since Wednesday, and a deal for Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein seems imminent once more. The newest twist in the Epstein saga includes Padres general manager and former Red Sox assistant general manager Jed Hoyer leaving the Padres to become the Cubs GM while Epstein would be named president of baseball operations.

Hoyer was the assistant general manager in Boston from 2005-09 and was involved in the deal that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston.

Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com writes that despite a traditional ban on major announcements during the World Series, the Cubs may be able to announce Theo Epstein as their new president of baseball operations with Jed Hoyer serving as his GM. Levine also asserts sources told him the deal could be done Thursday.

David Kaplan of CSN Chicago reports significant progress has been made in negotiations between the Red Sox and Cubs and the deal could be announced as soon as Friday as long as MLB commissioner Bud Selig lets the teams make a major announcement during the World Series.

Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago speculates on compensation, saying that the Cubs are overprotective of their farm system because they don’t have many top-end prospects and do not want to lose the few they do have, especially after the Rays took high-end prospects Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee and Brandon Guyer in last winter’s deal for Matt Garza.

Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune examines the possibility of Jed Hoyer joining the Cubs by exploring Hoyer’s relationship with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and investigating the moves he made both with the Red Sox and the Padres.

Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune gives a less optimistic picture of negotiations between the Cubs and Red Sox, saying MLB commissioner Bud Selig may enter talks in order to facilitate a deal because he is fed up with the compensation delays.

At least one man in Chicago is not happy with the idea of Epstein as president and Hoyer as GM. Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune opines that he does not want an interim GM (Epstein) in order to get a real GM (Hoyer). He also wonders why it has to be this difficult to replace former GM Jim Hendry.

The Chicago Sun-Times bucks the trend of suggesting a deal could be completed on Thursday for Epstein when Chris De Luca claims that despite some progression in talks, the deal may not be completed until next week. The Sun-Times also reveals sources who say Epstein may be interested in bringing vice president of business affairs Jonathan Gilula with him to Chicago. Gilula was a key contributor in the Fenway Park renovations.

The Chicago Sun-Times also warns that Epstein may not be an immediate hit in Chicago, as sometimes players can be wild cards that unfairly reflect on the GM who acquires them.

Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that progress continues in the Epstein talks and says the Red Sox are now considering cash compensation as part of the deal, something they initially refused to consider.

Read More: Chicago Cubs, jed hoyer, Theo Epstein, tom ricketts

Peter Gammons on M&M: Recent Red Sox allegations are ‘absurd’

10.19.11 at 1:56 pm ET
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Baseball writer Peter Gammons joined Mut & Merloni Wednesday at noon for his weekly appearance. Gammons gave his opinion on the most recent Red Sox news, which includes allegations that pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey drank in the dugout during games.

“At this point, there’s so much swill out there, I need specific, I need names from references, because a report doesn’t have any validity unless it has a name behind it and secondly, when it happened and exactly when was it? Was it a rain delay, an eighth inning rain delay? More specifics,” Gammons said. “Otherwise it’s just so absurd at this point.”

While Lester admitted that there was drinking in the clubhouse during games, he, Beckett, Lackey and former manager Terry Francona all released statements denying that any drinking went on in the dugout. Owner Larry Lucchino also released a statement accepting these denials and calling the report a “reckless, unsubstantiated accusation.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Albert Pujols, ben cherington, C.J. Wilson, carl crawford

Jason Varitek on WAAF: ‘I believe this team liked each other’

10.19.11 at 11:23 am ET
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Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek defended his teammates and lashed out at the unnamed sources who have been revealing clubhouse details during an appearance on Wednesday’s Hill-Man Morning Show on WEEI sister station WAAF.

During his hour-long appearance, Varitek said the team disharmony was not at the level that has been reported, nor did the team tune out manager Terry Francona.

“Did this team respect Terry Francona? I would say yes,” Varitek said. “Everybody has their own respect for their own manager, yes. ‘€¦ I honestly can’t speak for anyone. But, yes, he is your boss. What I believe in is you’re going to have coaches you don’t like, you’re going to have management you don’t like, you have players you don’t like, but I’m still going to play with that utter respect. This is my elder. This is the way I was brought up, the way I was raised. No matter what, I’m going to respect them and treat them with that same respect.

“Whether guys are going to go in a foxhole with somebody, at this point it doesn’t matter. Because you have to function. He’s still our boss. It doesn’t matter what happens. He makes the lineup, we go out and play. He makes the lineup, we go out and play. And with him, whether or not guys would go in a foxhole or have that much respect, you have to. You don’t get to that many wins and those things going on.”

Added Varitek: “What I disagreed with was that this team didn’t like each other. I believe this team liked each other. Whether [Francona] lost this team or didn’t lose that team and he felt that way, that’s the way he felt. Whether he does or doesn’t, and feels like he loses this team, those things, in my opinion, it always comes back to us. Because when it comes down to it, whether his chain of command, he’s our manager, we have directions, we have to perform. We didn’t perform.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: carl crawford, Jason Varitek, john lackey, Jon Lester

Rangers architect Jon Daniels was nearly a Red Sox

10.19.11 at 1:50 am ET
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Long gone are the days when Jon Daniels received vexed looks by those who could not believe that he was old enough to be a major league general manager.

Daniels is still the youngest GM in the majors at 34, but he has spent six years in charge of building the Rangers’ organization, and in 2011, for the second straight year, he has steered Texas into the World Series. A combination of tremendously talented homegrown players, savvy trades and occasional dips into free agency have cemented the perception that the Rangers under Daniels have become one of the best organizations in the game.

For that reason, it is fascinating to consider his baseball roots — both where he did and did not get his start.

Daniels went to Cornell and received his degree in Applied Economics and Management. Out of college, he lived in the Boston area while working for Allied Domecq, a company that was dealing with the branding of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins. The undertaking was uninteresting, and so, following the path of college friend A.J. Preller (now the Rangers Senior Director of Player Personnel, who was then an intern with the Phillies), Daniels decided in 2001 to seek an internship in a baseball front office.

He lived in Boston, and so the first place to interview was obvious enough. Daniels submitted his resume to the Red Sox. At that time, the Sox were in the early stages of creating a baseball operations internship program, a task that had been entrusted to then-baseball operations assistant Ben Cherington by then-GM Dan Duquette as a means of injecting young talent into the team’s front office structure. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: ben cherington, jed hoyer, jon daniels, Padres

Lackey, Lester, Beckett, Francona, Lucchino deny drinking in dugout

10.18.11 at 11:29 pm ET
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The Boston Red Sox today issued the following statements regarding the allegation about drinking in the dugout during games in the 2011 season.

Additionally, former manager Terry Francona has asked that the team release a statement on his behalf.

JON LESTER: ‘€œThe accusation that we were drinking in the dugout during games is completely false.  Anonymous sources are continuing to provide exaggerated and, in this case, inaccurate information to the media.

JOSH BECKETT: ‘€œI cannot let this allegation go without response; enough is enough.  I admit that I made mistakes along the way this season, but this has gone too far.  To say that we drank in the dugout during the game is not true.’€

JOHN LACKEY: ‘€œThere are things that went on this season that shouldn’€™t have happened, but this latest rumor is not true, and I felt that it was important to try to stop this from going any further.’€

TERRY FRANCONA: ‘€œIn 32 years of professional baseball, I have never seen someone drinking beer in the dugout.’€

PRESIDENT/CEO LARRY LUCCHINO ON BEHALF OF THE BOSTON RED SOX: ‘€œTonight our organization has heard directly from Jon, Josh, John, and former manager Terry Francona.  Each has assured us that the allegation that surfaced today about drinking in the dugout during games in 2011 is false, and we accept their statements as honest and factual.

‘€œAs we continue our internal examination to fully understand what went wrong in September, 2011, we appreciate these strong and clear statements from our players.

‘€œIt is time to look forward and move forward, rather than allow a reckless, unsubstantiated accusation from ‘€˜anonymous sources’€™ to mislead the public.’€

Read More: beer, john lackey, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett

Chicago reaction to Theo Epstein’s potential departure to the Cubs

10.18.11 at 9:48 am ET
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After the news broke last week that the Cubs and Red Sox were close to reaching a deal that would make Theo Epstein the next general manager of Chicago, the two sides are reportedly still negotiating how Boston will be compensated for letting Epstein make the move to the Cubs.

Both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune are reporting that if the two sides do not come to a resolution before the start of the World Series on Wednesday, they may have to wait until after the Series ends to officially announce Epstein as GM due to MLB’s blackout rule on major announcements during the World Series.

The Sun-Times reports that the Red Sox are intent on prying top pitching prospect Trey McNutt from the Cubs, while the Tribune reports that Boston wants either McNutt or fellow pitching prospect Andrew Cashner.

David Kaplan from CSNChicago.com reports that sources familiar with the situation say a deal will not be reached before the World Series, but neither side is concerned with the timetable and are instead focused on finding a satisfactory compensation package for both teams.

Also for CSNChicago.com, Patrick Mooney writes that both sides will need to finalize the deal soon, pointing out that both teams will have very little time to prepare for free agency once the World Series ends. Mooney says that the Red Sox have based their negotiations off of the deal that sent former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to the Marlins for two prospects. Sooner or later, Mooney writes, Epstein will be in Chicago with a five-year deal and two former Cubs prospects will be a part of the Red Sox organization.

For the Tribune, Paul Sullivan writes that Epstein’s use of sabermetrics to evaluate players is one reason that Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts is so interested in bringing him in to be GM. Sullivan says that the Cubs were slow to the uptake on sabermetrics, but that the numbers will now determine the future of Chicago with Epstein running the team.

ESPNChicago.com reports that Boston initially asked for starting pitcher Matt Garza as compensation for Epstein, but the Cubs quickly shot that idea down. The report also said that one hold-up in the deal concerns whether Epstein will be allowed to bring any of his own staff to Chicago.

In the Sun-Times, Gordon Wittenmyer detailed how Boston fans are still reeling from the September collapse and how the departure of Terry Francona and imminent departure of Epstein have kept the collapse fresh in the minds of Red Sox fans. Wittenmyer wrote about the mixed feelings that many Sox fans have about Epstein leaving Boston.

Read More: matt garza, Theo Epstein, tom ricketts,

Cubs prospect Trey McNutt is already connected to Red Sox history

10.17.11 at 4:49 pm ET
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Perhaps it is only fitting that Cubs prospect Trey McNutt is being mentioned as a player whom the Red Sox want back in a potential deal involving GM Theo Epstein. After all, McNutt already has a significant tie to the Red Sox.

McNutt went to high school in the small town of Haleyville, Ala. As such, he remained largely off the radar of amateur scouts despite featuring a powerful low- to mid-90s fastball and a wipeout breaking ball. He ended up enrolling at nearby Shelton State Community College, where his junior college coach was a man who owns a place in Sox lore: Bobby Sprowl.

Sprowl was a college star at the University of Alabama, and the Red Sox tabbed him with a second round pick in the 1977 draft. He immediately dominated in A-Ball and did the same the next year in Double-A, pushing his way up to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he continued to perform at a high level despite some command issues.

But then, roughly a year into his professional career, the Red Sox decided to bring the young left-hander up to the majors to debut amidst a pennant race that was suddenly increasingly tight. He had a strong debut (3 runs, 7 innings) in a loss on Sept. 5, 1978, but then made a disastrous second start against the Yankees. Sprowl walked four and permitted three runs while recording just one out on Sept. 10 to cap a four-game sweep that came to be known as the Boston Massacre and that left the Sox — who once possessed a huge lead in the division — in a tie in the AL East with the Yankees.

Sprowl would make just one more appearance in the big leagues for the Sox, earning a no-decision in a Sox win on Sept. 18. He suffered a decline in his command the following spring, and he was traded in 1979 to the Astros, making just 19 more big league appearances before his inability to throw strikes ended his career.

Sprowl entered the coaching ranks, where he went to Shelton State as a head coach and Alabama as a pitching coach before returning to Shelton State. It was there that he recruited McNutt, a big (6-foot-4) right-hander whose powerful frame reminded him of Roger Clemens, “thick and real-physical looking.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bobby sprowl, Chicago Cubs, shelton state, Theo Epstein

Curt Schilling on M&M: Red Sox ‘have no leadership whatsoever in that clubhouse’

10.17.11 at 2:09 pm ET
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Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling called in to the Mut & Merloni show Monday to discuss the news that Jon Lester acknowledged there was drinking in the clubhouse during games this season, although Lester downplayed the situation and insisted it had nothing to do with the September collapse.

“I mentioned something last week that I had talked to a couple of people that I’m very comfortable [with], are being up front and honest about this. And the one message I got was that Jon Lester never stopped busting his ass to the bitter end from a work perspective,” Schilling said.  “Unfortunately, I asked that when you think about his September, his final run of starts, you just have to attribute that to just lackluster performance. I was kind of hoping that wasn’t the case.

“But as far as Jon goes, I’m happy that the kid I knew, and the young man that I knew, wasn’t kind of dragged into this.”

Schilling said it’s not uncommon for pitchers to have a beer in the locker room after being lifted from a game. But if pitchers were exhibiting that behavior on days they weren’t pitching, that crosses a line.

“I was more concerned that this was something that was happening around guys just because. They were going up and having a beer in the clubhouse,” Schilling said. “I think for some of these guys that’s exactly what it was. But I would bet you that when it had to do with Jon Lester, the beer he was having was after he was out of a game. And given how they pitched in September, there might have been more than one beer.”

Asked if Josh Beckett should be next to come forward and explain his behavior, Schilling said all the pitchers should.

“I think they all have to. I don’t know how you get away from [it],” he said. “I mean, you were directly responsible for the largest collapse in baseball history as one of the pitchers that went down on the ship. As the leader of that staff, I think absolutely, he’s one of the two guys that absolutely has to.

“In my mind, there’s only one way to do this. It’s to sit in front of the media and say, ‘Listen, this is what happened. It’s horrific. It was stupid. I made a bunch of mistakes on top of other mistakes. It cost us a chance to go to the playoffs. It cost our manager his job. And I’m sorry. And I’m going to do everything I can do to make up [for it].’ Unless it’s a complete mea culpa, I don’t know that there’s any other path here, especially for these fans.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: carl crawford, Curt Schilling, John Henry, Jon Lester
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