Archive for October, 2012

Why John Farrell picked Brian Butterfield to become Red Sox third base coach

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

John Farrell barely knew Brian Butterfield when Farrell took over as Blue Jays manager two years ago, but that didn’t mean he didn’t know of him.

Butterfield — the Maine native with a passion for the New England Patriots and University of Michigan football — had built a reputation around baseball during his time with the Yankees, the Diamondbacks and, for the past 10 seasons, the Blue Jays as a meticulous baseball instructor with a unique clubhouse energy.

That Farrell understood. The rest he quickly would learn.

And that’s why Butterfield was officially hired to be the Red Sox third base coach Tuesday.

“It was actually before going in there,” said Farrell when asked Tuesday night about when he realized the value of the 54-year-old. “When you sit across the field 18 times and watch how they interact with players doing early work, watch the decision-making in the third-base box and you see the energy in which he carries himself, those were all evident across the field even without knowing Brian as a person.”

But while Farrell understood Butterfield’s abilities while viewing the coach as an opponent, it wasn’t until they shared the same clubhouse that the manager could truly digest all that came with Butterfield.

“For sure,” Farrell said when asked if Butterfield’s energy and attitude weighed into the decision to bring him aboard. “He’s positive. He always looks for ways to make a positive impact on a player, whether it’s with a fundamental technique or talking through the game about challenges they might encounter. This is someone who even in his post-playing career he hasn’t forgotten how difficult this game is and how fast this game can move. At the same time, this is one of the most prepared coaches I’ve ever been around.

“The amount of time and energy he puts in video review, the attention of detail which was evidenced by the number of over-shifts we employed the last two years, and he has a creative mind which he carries to the personnel that we have. We had an athletic third baseman [Brett Lawrie] in Toronto, so we could be more aggressive. After conversations with Brian about how we prepare against certain opponents, we weren’t going to limit that creativity, and in the end it really allowed us to save a high number of runs.”

(more…)

Cody Ross and the pursuit of a Josh Willingham deal

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Cody Ross counts outfielder Josh Willingham as one of his closest friends in baseball. Both achieved status as big league regulars with the Marlins in 2006, when Willingham made a splash as a 27-year-old rookie who swatted 26 homers and Ross finally getting a big league opportunity with a Marlins team that acquired him for $1 from the Reds, hitting 11 homers in 91 games with Florida while showing the ability to play all three outfield positions.

The two outfielders spent three years together with the Marlins, but after the 2008 season, he was dealt to the Nationals, spending a couple years in Washington before going to Oakland in 2011. Ross, meanwhile, remained with the Marlins until 2010 before he was sent on a waiver claim to the Giants for the stretch run that yielded an unforgettable October. He remained in San Francisco for 2011, living near his former Marlins teammate.

But after the 2011 season, both Ross and Willingham found themselves on the same team — which is to say, none at all. The two were free agents, albeit ones in strikingly different boats.

Willingham had a strong walk year with the A’s, smashing 29 homers and driving in 98 while hitting .246/.332/.477/.810 in 136 games as a 32-year-old. Ross, as a 30-year-old, put up far more modest totals, hitting .240/.325/.405/.730 with 14 homers in 121 games for the Giants in 2011. (more…)

Familiarity breeds a bench coach, not contempt: John Farrell tabs Torey Lovullo

Friday, October 26th, 2012

In 2012, the relationships between Bobby Valentine and his coaching staff were plagued by any number of issues. At times, it seemed as if there was a veritable Cold War between the Red Sox manager and those who served under him.

In the case of Valentine’s relationship with his bench coach, Tim Bogar, there wasn’t a strong past relationship between the two. Nor, for that matter, did Valentine have a prior relationship with one of the other candidates he interviewed for the position of bench coach, Torey Lovullo — a fact that Lovullo addressed directly with Valentine when the two talked last December.

“I was going to expect Bobby to define my role as best as he possibly could prior to jumping into the fire. I was going to ask plenty of questions and jump into it with eyes wide open,” said Lovullo of his interview with Valentine. “That’€™s what I explained to him, that he was going to have to lead the way a little bit and show me what his expectations were.”

The need to have those conversations to define the role of bench coach formally won’t be necessary for Lovullo this year. Nor will it be necessary for Lovullo to go through the process that was so challenging for Bogar, chiefly that of building a relationship with the manager under whom he’s working.

The 47-year-old Lovullo was introduced as the Red Sox bench coach on Friday, but in this case, no introduction was necessary with his boss. He’s being reunited with a manager with whom he has tremendous familiarity. Lovullo is the first hire on the coaching staff of John Farrell, with whom Lovullo was teammates in the big league in 1993 (Angels) and in the minors in 1995 (Triple-A Buffalo). He then spent 2002-06 managing in the Indians farm system, at a time when Farrell was director of player development.

It was during that stretch that an idea crossed Farrell’s mind. (more…)

Why Rangers offer hope to Red Sox

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

In the middle of the 2007 season, the Texas Rangers were drifting. A few years earlier, the team went 89-73 in 2004, falling short of the wild card but nonetheless displaying a young nucleus of infielders — players like Mark Teixeira and Michael Young – that seemed like it would allow the team to compete on a perennial basis in the AL West. But three years later, that wasn’t happening.

And so, the Rangers made a decisive move. They elected to rebuild, to move on from that core of power-hitting players to take the club in a new direction. And the most significant move proved extraordinary, laying the groundwork for the Rangers’ emergence as a force, a team that reached the playoffs in each of the last three years while getting to the World Series in both 2010 and 2011.

On July 31, 2007, the Rangers dealt Teixeira (along with reliever Ron Mahay) to the Braves for five prospects: Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Beau Jones. Andrus became an All-Star shortstop, Felix an All-Star closer, Harrison an All-Star starter and Saltalamacchia (after changing organizations) merited consideration as an All-Star catcher this year with a tremendous first half for the Red Sox.

Yet the significance of that deal extended beyond just the players who went to Texas. It was also reflected in the freedom that GM Jon Daniels and the Rangers organization had moving forward from that deal.

The memory of that franchise-altering deal came to Daniels when he saw the Red Sox complete their blockbuster deal with the Dodgers, sending Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to Los Angeles in exchange for first baseman James Loney and prospects Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus Jr.

“I do see some similarities there,” Daniels said of the two deals on WEEI’s Red Sox Hot Stove show on Thursday. “[The similarities were] not necessarily in the exact construction of the deal. Ours was kind of a more traditional buyer/seller scenario, trading the established big leaguer for prospects. In Boston’s deal, it was really unique. You don’t see that many like it. (more…)

There is no alternative to David Ortiz

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Want to know why the Red Sox and David Ortiz are steamrolling so simply towards an agreement on a contract? The answer is simple. He verges on irreplaceable, and his body of work in the batter’s box continues to make him a relative bargain on a two-year deal.

At the time of his Achilles injury early in the second half, Ortiz was amidst one of the finest — indeed, potentially the best — season of his career. In 90 games this year, he hit .318 with a .415 OBP, .611 slugging mark and 1.026 OPS along with 23 homers, 26 doubles and 60 RBI. He was on pace for ridiculous totals, with 162-game projections of 41 homers, 47 doubles.

By way of comparison, here’s what Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera did this year: 161 games, .330 average, .393 OBP, .606 slugging, .999 OPS, 44 homers, 40 doubles. In other words, if one embraces OBP and slugging as better indicators of player performance than average, homers and RBIs, Ortiz was having a better year than the man who won the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski. Moreover, given that Ortiz tends to see power surges in the second half, there’s a fighting chance that, had opponents continued to pitch to him (it’s questionable whether he’d have seen a strike after the Dodgers blockbuster), Cabrera wouldn’t have won the Triple Crown.

How about the other players widely viewed as the top offensive players in the American League? Mike Trout, if projected over a 162-game season, would have hit .326/.399/.564/.963 with 35 homers, nine triples and 31 doubles. (He’d also have been in line for 57 steals…probably finishing ahead of Ortiz in that category.) Josh Hamilton stayed off the DL and played 148 games during which he hit .285/.354/.577/.930 with 43 homers and 31 doubles.

In a nutshell, a case can be made that Ortiz was having a more dominant offensive season than anyone else in the American League.

But what about through a broader lens? How does Ortiz, who will enter his age 37 season in 2013, stack up against players over multiple seasons at this stage of his career? (more…)

Bobby Valentine: Red Sox player complaints ‘unique to that group of guys’

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, in an interview on “Costas Tonight” on the NBC Sports Network on the same day that John Farrell was introduced as his successor, suggested that he remains “incredulous” that Sox players reacted badly to occurrences such as his suggestion that Kevin Youkilis was not as physically or emotionally invested in the game, his feedback on how Mike Aviles performed in a pop-up drill in spring training and his alleged quip after Will Middlebrooks committed an error.

“The thing with Aviles, it was absolutely mind-boggling. … We were going to have a discussion about it while we were running a drill,” Valentine said. “I just said, ‘Guys, on this matter, this is not a democracy. We’re doing it the way you do it in baseball.’ I did it in a loud voice. Guys came into my office and said, ‘Please, don’t yell at Mike like that.’ … I’m still incredulous.

“Was I surprised that guys came in in that situation [after he critiqued Aviles' work]? Yes. I think … that’s unique to that group of guys. I don’t think it’s indigenous to all of baseball. At least I pray it’s not,” Valentine continued. “It’s not functional with the tail wagging the dog, and taking a vote every time you have to decide how to do things. A leader needs to lead. He leads by forming the pack, patting down the pack and having other people follow. You can’t have the guy at the back of the line coming up and deciding which direction you’re going to go in.”

Valentine described the Youkilis statement as “benign” (agreeing with the assessment of host Costas). He suggested that the Middlebrooks incident — in which members of the Red Sox other than Middlebrooks expressed concern to front-office members that Valentine said, “Nice inning, kid,” to Middlebrooks after a pair of misplays, resulting in owners sharing those concerns to him — did not occur.

“Just because we’re in the fact-checking era,” said Valentine, “I don’t think the thing with Will ever happened. He told me he didn’t remember it, and I didn’t remember it.”

Of his dismissal, Valentine said that he was not surprised, and that he did not experience disappointment upon receiving the news that his tenure with the Red Sox had come to a conclusion after the first season of a two-year deal.

“I was relieved that I was not disappointed,” said Valentine. “It was a real trying season. By September, I knew. There was writing on the wall. We had to have themeeting. We had the meeting and made it official.”

As for where his relationship now stands with the team, Valentine chuckled, “They’d kill me. If I ever say anything, they’d send out a hit man. They’d whack me, and it would be all over.” (more…)

John Farrell on leaving Blue Jays: ‘I’ll be forever indebted to the Toronto Blue Jays’

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012


brightcove.createExperiences();

There are two sides to every story. With John Farrell, there are the people in Boston who are grateful to have him back where he helped build a pitching staff that dominated in the late 2000s and produced a World Series champion in 2007.

In Toronto, he is looked at as the man who left the Blue Jays at moment’s notice, never giving full allegiance to a franchise that gave him his first big league managerial experience.

Blue Jays president Paul Beeston and general manager Alex Anthopoulos agreed over the weekend to trade John Farrell and pitcher David Carpenter to the the Red Sox in exchange for Mike Aviles.

On Tuesday, during his introductory news conference as the 46th manager in Red Sox history, there were several reporters from Toronto who made the trip south to ask him how and why he left the Blue Jays after two non-winning seasons, which included an 89-loss campaign in 2012.

“It’s with a lot of thanks and great gratitude to the Toronto Blue Jays, to Paul, to Alex, the opportunity they provided in the two years spent there was invaluable experience. Things might not have always worked out the way we intended but there were a lot of firsts that I was able to experience there, and I’ll be forever be indebted to the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I can honestly tell you it’s allowed me to be that much more prepared standing here than maybe [was] the case two years ago so for that, guys in Toronto, if you’re listening, I appreciate it very much.”

But that wasn’t good enough to appease the media from north of the border. Farrell was asked how he felt about leaving an organization and city that feels betrayed by his departure and suggestions that his heart was never in Toronto. (more…)