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Tom Verducci on MFB: ‘I don’t think [the Red Sox] are a playoff team’ 07.14.15 at 1:20 pm ET
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Tom Verducci

Tom Verducci

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci joined Middays with MFB on Tuesday to discuss the Red Sox‘ strategy at the trade deadline and the strength of their young players. To hear the full interview, go to the Middays with MFB audio on demand page.

With the trade deadline just around the corner after the All-Star break, Verducci doesn’t know which way the Red Sox are leaning, but he does have a benchmark for them to reach before buying.

“It’s really an interesting question isn’t it?” Verducci said. “It’s a critical time for the Red Sox, with [Clay] Buchholz going down it makes it even more critical and who knows how long it will be, but he won’t be coming out for the next two weeks. I’m not sure which direction they would go. I don’t take a team seriously until they’re .500 and they still have to get there. But Kansas City last year was 50-50 after 100 games and they wound up with the tying run on third base in Game 7 of the World Series. Being around .500 is OK but you’ve got to get there.

“Coming out of the break it’s a tough trip to begin with, the schedule’s not in their favor, but they’ve got to come out with a winning record these next couple of weeks and probably a few games over [.500] before we can say, ‘We need to go out there and trade for the one piece that’s going to get us into the postseason.’ Otherwise, it’s fool’s gold.”

Though Verducci does not think that John Henry micromanages the player personnel of the Red Sox, he believes Henry got involved in free agency.

“If you’re talking about complementary pieces on the club I don’t think [he’s involved],” Verducci said, “but when you’re talking about guys like [Pablo] Sandoval and [Hanley] Ramirez, of course. Those were big decisions. … You’re supposed to have those three amigos [David Ortiz, Ramirez and Sandoval] in the middle of the lineup just creating havoc.

“Now, you’ve got Sandoval, whose OPS has gone down four straight years. You signed him to be a switch-hitter — I understand he hasn’t been great right-handed but it’s not a good sign to abandon one side of the plate. And with Ramirez, you look at someone playing the outfield and I know it’s a transition, you give somebody time and all those things, but you want to see something that makes you believe that that learning curve is not going to be that long. I thought from day one of spring training, there was no indication that he was going to get left field quickly.”

As young players like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts come into their own, Verducci believes the Red Sox will be one of the strongest teams in the AL East for years to come.

“I look at the Red Sox as we sit here today and I don’t think they’re a playoff team,” Verducci said. “They could change my mind if they go crazy these next few weeks, but I don’t see it. You alluded to [Brian] Johnson and [Eduardo] Rodriguez, you’re going to have to take your foot off the pedal with those guys at some point in the second half of the season. … I love Rodriguez. I was really impressed with the way he beat the Yankees, it was actually with his fastball and I know he’s got a great changeup.

“The strength up the middle with Betts and Bogaerts, I mean Mookie Betts right now is probably one of the 20 best players in the game and he’s getting better and just learning center field. The upside is really good … and they’re very, very close to being a good team. If it’s not this year, they’re certainly right back in the mix next year and I do love the young core of the team.”

Verducci commented on Rick Porcello’s struggles, citing them as a function of a rotation without a veteran presence.

“Rick is really a student of the game,” Verducci said. “He was famous in Detroit for sitting next to Max Scherzer on the bench, who’s another really analytical mind on the mound. [He’s] always looking at what needs to get better. I think one of the biggest things not just with Rick but with the entire staff has been the lack of an experienced catcher and the injury to Ryan Hanigan. I can’t underestimate how big that has been. I know when we did the game Saturday on Fox, the Red Sox were 14-9 with Hanigan behind the plate, probably well below .500 otherwise.

“In today’s day and age, with all the information that’s out there, you really need somebody to distill that information, come up with a game plan and call the game. I asked Rick about it, and he said, ‘No offense to any of the younger catchers because we all love them, but there’s no substitute for experience. With runners on base, when the difference in a ballgame is those one or two pitches that you have to execute and what those pitches are and the conviction the catcher has with those pitches. There’s just no substitute for a guy that’s been back there before.'”

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John Henry: ‘We respond to reason rather than pressure’ 07.01.15 at 1:20 am ET
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John Henry

John Henry

TORONTO — John Henry has been in town for some Major League Baseball-related meetings. Seemingly, there is no reason to sound the alarm in regards to linking his presence and the Red Sox‘ lot in life.

Tuesday before the Sox’ principal owner’s team beat the Blue Jays, 4-3, at Rogers Centre, he could be seen milling about during batting practice, sitting with Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, eating in the media dining room and then watching the game with Jays president Paul Beeston. (It’s interesting to note that Beeston’s son, David, works for the Red Sox as the Vice President for Corporate Strategy.)

And certainly the Red Sox have eased any edge to Henry’s trip to Canada by winning their first two games of the four-game series against the Blue Jays, closing within six games of first-place in the American League East.

But in between activities, Henry did offer a succinct explanation on why he has taken the approach to keeping the front office and coaching staff intact during the Red Sox’ recent downturn.

“Stability in an organization is a key element,” he told WEEI.com. “Some people thrive on instability, but most organizations, most people, really thrive when there’s stability.”

Asked if staying the course is any more difficult in the baseball world than in his other business interests, Henry responded, “No, it’s just that you have a lot more outside pressure. We don’t really respond to that. We respond to reason rather than pressure.”

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Larry Lucchino on MFB: ‘We all share’ responsibility for Red Sox’ woes 06.03.15 at 1:28 pm ET
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Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox and who bears responsibility for the team’€™s struggles. To hear to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

On Tuesday, principal owner John Henry held a press conference to reinforce his confidence in manager John Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington and accept some responsibility for the team’s struggles. Lucchino echoed those sentiments of support and accountability.

“When it comes to free agency, payroll-setting, we all have a hand in this, so we all share it. I’ve worked with a lot of general managers in my lifetime and Ben is right at the top of the list in terms of his work ethic, his insight, his judgment and his knowledge of the game,” Lucchino said. “I don’t think it is fair to mention the last couple of years without mentioning the extraordinary job he did in 2013.”

Lucchino was equally effusive in his praise of Farrell’s qualifications and abilities as a manager.

“He has a track record with this organization. We know him. When I say track record I don’t just mean wins and losses, I mean years of experience, years of relationships, years of data that we can look at and say, ‘We know this guy.’ We have a sense of his intelligence, his judgment, his people skills,” Lucchino said.

Lucchino acknowledged that some players have not performed as well as expected. He attributes this at least in part to the unpredictability of baseball, and that it is impossible to accurately anticipate performances.

“It’s very hard to understand and to measure beforehand. The performances of some of these players have been utterly surprising. We’re not smart enough year in and year out to guess who those guys are going to be,” he said.

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David Ortiz on if he’s washed up: ‘Everybody’s time is up at some point, I don’t think that’s my problem’ 06.02.15 at 7:39 pm ET
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Like the Red Sox team, designated hitter David Ortiz isn’t off to a good start to the season, batting just .224 with six home runs and 18 RBIs through the first 51 games.

Since Ortiz is 39 years old, some have wondered if the left-handed slugger is near, or at the end.

“What can I tell you man? A lot of people look at me like that seven years ago, and here I am still,” Ortiz said. “Hey, I don’t have no timetable for that. I don’t think nobody has it either. If it happens, who cares? I’m just another player that comes in and comes out. Everybody’s time is up at some point, I don’t think that’s my problem. I’m just going to keep on trying like I normally do.”

Speaking with the media before Tuesday’s game, owner John Henry was asked if he thought the end was nearing for Ortiz. Henry noted people were asking the same question when he struggled in 2009.

“It’€™s six years later. To me, at least in the last few games when he came back after a couple games off, he was really driving the ball to the opposite field,” Henry said. “To me that’€™s a big positive.

“You know, the guy, he’s the best hitter I’ve seen for the Red Sox for a long time. He’s not in his prime. He’s not going to hit 50 home runs, but is he going to hit 30? It doesn’t look like it this year. Is he getting older? Yes. But I don’t think any of us know. But I talked with him yesterday. He’s upbeat about his swing. And we can talk about David, but we’ve got nine guys batting every day and we’ve had some terrible at-bats. Our approach has been suspect. But I think we have the right hitting coach and we have the right hitters, and I think they’ll get it together. We’ll see.”

With the team seven games under .500 and a run differential of minus-48 entering play Tuesday. Ortiz, who has played for the Red Sox for 13 seasons, was asked if he thinks the team needs drastic changes.

“No. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think offensive players we just need to start doing things better and start winning ballgames.”

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John Henry: John Farrell’s job is secure; Ben Cherington will be general manager of Red Sox for a ‘very long time’ at 5:48 pm ET
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John Henry

John Henry

For those who thought general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell‘s jobs were on the line, owner John Henry threw cold water on that fire Tuesday night, offering his full support for the two.

The owner said he doesn’t expect drastic changes, going as far as saying, “I think this is the right team.”

Henry was asked why he believes Farrell and Cherington are right for the job.

“Why do I believe that? Because I have worked with a lot of people over the years and these are two people that are really likable, respected — they are committed,” Henry said. “They are very good at what they do. John has provided the kind of leadership that we need through a tough period and I just don’t think you can blame the manager for this. I watch these games. They’ve been painful games to watch. To me it’s not the manager’s fault the way that we’ve been playing. I just don’t see that.”

He was then asked about Cherington and why he believes in him. Henry went as far as saying Cherington will be the general manager of the club for a “very long time.”

“The general manager is going to be the general manager of this club for a very long time,” Henry said. “I have nothing but respect for him for the job that he does. I think we have been on the same wavelength so you have to blame ownership as much as you blame the general manager. We have a certain philosophy. We’ve talked a lot about adjusting that philosophy.

“As I said earlier, I am not sure just the players need to make adjustments. In fact I am sure about that, there are adjustments we need to make as an organization. Ben will make those adjustments and he’ll lead that process. I think he and his people are the right people to do that.”

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

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Bobby Valentine on MFB: ‘I wasn’t able to establish the trust that was needed’ from Red Sox coaching staff in 2012 05.20.15 at 12:34 pm ET
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Former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who will return to Fenway Park on Wednesday night to make an appearance with ESPN’s broadcast team, checked in with Middays with MFB on Wednesday morning and discussed some of the controversies that ensued during his brief tenure in Boston. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Now the executive director of athletics at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, Valentine said he has no hesitation about returning to Fenway despite his inglorious exit after a 2012 season that included poor play on the field and numerous controversies off it.

“I could give a darn about anxiety,” he said. “I have a lot of friends that I left in Boston. I’ve been in Boston 15 times in the last couple of years. I’m excited about getting back there.”

Valentine was fired one day after a disastrous season in which the Sox finished last in the American League East at 69-92, but he insists he doesn’t worry about any regrets.

“I don’t really look back much at any of my life,” he said. “All I know is that it’s all about sevens — there was seven years in Texas and seven years in New York and seven years in Japan and seven months in Boston. It was all kind of fun looking back at all those things. But I don’t do the microscope. I try to look forward and enjoy what I’m doing today.”

Much was made of the issues Valentine had with his coaching staff that season.

“I think you hit on the key word there: trust,” Valentine said. “That was my mistake, that I wasn’t able to establish the trust that was needed throughout that entire group that were in uniform together. Whether it’s my fault or someone else’s fault, who knows. I’m not a blame-thrower. I can just tell you that when you bring me back to that year that probably the biggest problem was that I delegated the people who were going to speak my gospel, that they didn’t know the language that the gospel was written in.”

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John Henry believes Red Sox are ‘as strong as we’ve ever been’ 02.24.15 at 2:35 pm ET
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John Henry has overseen three World Series title winners since taking over the Red Sox in 2003, but he believes the organization has never been in better shape than it is right now.

“I think we’re as strong throughout the organization as we have ever been,” Henry said on Tuesday.

The reasons for Henry’s optimism? It’s partly the talent general manager Ben Cherington assembled this winter to help the big league club escape its second last place finish in three years, but it’s also the strong minor league system.

“I think there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic,” Henry said. “I feel good about the pitching. I feel great about the hitting. I feel great about the organization, about the fact that so many players came early this year, and there seems to be a focus. It has to make you feel good at this point.”

The Red Sox are in the process of signing 19-year-old Cuban shortstop Yoan Moncada, with the deal expected to be announced on Friday. Moncada adds another impact prospect to a farm system rapidly filling with them.

“At certain times you might say we might have had greater depth, but depth in the minor leagues sometimes doesn’t translate into the major leagues,” Henry said. “What you need are a lot of A and B type players, and we have a lot of A players in the minor leagues these days, people that should make it to the majors. I think we’re in as good a shape as we’ve ever been in that regard. If anything, I think maybe we’ve rushed our players a little bit, because the difference between Double A and Triple A baseball and the major leagues has never been greater. We have to feel good about not only the major league camp, but the minor league camp.”

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John Henry likens Cuban signee Yoan Moncada to No. 1 overall pick at 2:21 pm ET
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Anyone wondering why the Red Sox are in the process of signing 19-year-old Cuban shortstop Yoan Moncada to a record $31.5 million signing bonus (with matching $31.5 million penalty payment to Major League Baseball), owner John Henry has an answer.

In not so many words, Henry suggested Moncada is the equivalent of the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

“We’ve never had a No. 1 pick, and this is our 14th spring training,” Henry said. “Would we pay up to get one? Yes.”

In today’s game, young players are more valuable than ever, and Henry makes no apologies over the Red Sox‘ aggressiveness in targeting them.

“We do our best to quantify risk,” Henry said. “It’s difficult to do, because predicting the performance of baseball players is an imperfect science. But you do your analysis and look at all of the other factors. … I think we’re more discerning than ever, despite what people might write this week. High-ceiling players, you have to take risks on, but especially young players.”

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John Henry isn’t averse to blowing through luxury tax threshold, ‘hopeful’ about Jon Lester agreement 11.25.14 at 8:04 pm ET
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John Henry

John Henry

John Henry offered some clarity Tuesday as to where the Red Sox might go from here when it comes to their offseason approach.

Following the press conference to introduce new left fielder Hanley Ramirez, the Red Sox principal owner said that he was not averse to blowing through the $189 million luxury tax threshold this offseason.

The comment was notable considering the Red Sox would need to reach such financial heights if they were to commit to signing a top-tier free agent pitcher, such as Jon Lester. The last time the team went past the threshold was 2011.

(The team’s payroll currently stands at approximately at $182 million.)

“The way it’s structured we can blow through one year,” Henry said. “Again for next year we have tremendous flexibility so we could go could through for one year and not overly affect us.”

In regards to Lester, Henry made it clear that the pursuit of the free agent pitcher is a top priority for the Red Sox, responding to the question of whether or not he was optimistic about signing the lefty with, “I am. I’m hopeful.”

When asked about the email sent to WEEI.com by one of Lester’s agents, Seth Levinson, saying that the Red Sox had shown “great respect” during the ownership group’s visit to the pitcher, Henry said, “I don’t know that it sends a signal. I guess the signal it sends is there’s never been a problem between Jon and the organization either way. He’s been a huge part of what we’ve accomplished here, and I think when we went to see him a large part of our presentation was finishing that legacy. We’re hopeful he can do that.”

Henry did add regarding how the Lester market is unfolding, “I don’t think we have any idea what the market is with regard to any other team.”

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Read More: hanley ramirez, John Henry, Jon Lester, Pablo Sandoval
Why you should have cared about Friday’s Red Sox game: Sox owner John Henry’s state of disbelief; Steven Wright’s case for 2015 09.26.14 at 10:14 pm ET
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It becomes a bit harder to write this on a night where the Red Sox owner wrote this:

So, we’ll keep this brief:

Steven Wright

Steven Wright

The Red Sox entered the year a wealth of upper levels pitching prospects in Triple-A and Double-A. Assessments of the team’s rotation depth naturally centered around Henry Owens (Baseball America’s No. 2 Red Sox prospect entering the year), Allen Webster (No. 4), Brandon Workman (No. 8), Matt Barnes (No. 9), Anthony Ranaudo (No. 11) and even Brian Johnson. Virtually no one was talking about Steven Wright, who — despite a solid first impression in some big league call-ups — went unranked by the publication.

Wright will not — or at least should not — be overlooked entering 2015.

The right-hander made his first big league start of 2014 on Friday night in an eventual 3-2 Sox loss to the Yankees. Against a New York lineup that looked like it was straight out of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he proved effective, allowing two runs (none earned) on four hits (all singles) in five innings. He walked two and struck out four, his knuckleball moving well enough that he gave fits to both the Yankees lineup and catcher Dan Butler (two passed balls). In 21 big league innings, he has a 2.57 ERA with 22 strikeouts and four walks. Of all the prospects whom the Sox have cycled through the big leagues from Pawtucket over the final two months of the year, Wright’s ability to throw strikes while eliciting either swings and misses or bad contact has been the most consistent.

The net result? Wright will be in the conversation going forward for innings at the big league level in 2015. His ability to change speeds and throw strikes with his knuckleball suggests a pitcher who has a chance to contribute to the Sox rotation. He will not be overlooked in prospect circles, and certainly not in the Red Sox organization, for what he might be able to offer going forward.

“He’€™s in the right place,” said manager John Farrell, “an organization that embraces this type of pitcher.”


— Rusney Castillo, to underscore that Thursday’s home run power was no fluke, went deep again, crushing a slider from right-hander Shawn Kelly onto Lansdowne Street. In 30 big league at-bats, Castillo is hitting .267 with an .813 OPS. He’s showing a surprising ability to get his bat on the ball given that he’s facing big league pitching for the first time and that he’s doing so after what amounts to a 16-month stretch without playing in games following his defection from Cuba, and he’s not merely making contact but showing an ability to drive the ball.

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