The decision the Red Sox made in 2003 to hire Terry Francona over Joe Maddon as their manager has worked out for all parties, writes Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. The Red Sox won two World Series and 574 regular-season games under Francona from 2004-11, while Maddon ended up with the Rays a couple years later and established himself as one of baseball’s top managers. Now, after several seasons of squaring off as AL East rivals, Francona (Indians) and Maddon (Cubs) will meet in this year’s World Series. On losing out to Francona for the Boston job, Maddon told Silverman, “I thought Tito was more prepared for that moment than I was at that time and I’ll stand by that. I got the right job at the right time with Tampa Bay. Tito was the right guy back then. But the experience for me was fantastic moving forward.” Theo Epstein, the executive who picked Francona in Boston, also hired Maddon in Chicago. Epstein explained his call to pass on Maddon 13 years ago, telling Silverman, “In the end, we loved him but we thought taking over a veteran team in a big market, there would have been some risk involved because he’s so unique. I think it worked out best for both sides. He could go to Tampa, which was really like a petri dish at that time, he could try things out, grow into it with young players and obviously blossom.”
More from around the majors:
- Given that the Dodgers were still in the postseason Saturday, left-hander Rich Hill was unwilling to discuss free agency or a potential return to Boston, but the late bloomer did give credit to the Red Sox for his shocking breakout. “Whether it was with (director of pitching analysis and development) Brian Bannister or (pitching coach) Carl Willis. Just the combination of those two guys,” he told Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald. “And also, just the overall opportunity that I did get there, I’ll never forget. Definitely translated over and started something for me that gave me a blueprint on moving forward.” Hill, of course, had a stint in the independent Atlantic League last summer. He then joined the Red Sox, turned in four excellent starts in September and inked a $6MM deal with Oakland last offseason. After continuing to post ace-like numbers with the Athletics and Dodgers this season, the 36-year-old journeyman will earn a substantial raise as the top starter available on the upcoming market.
- Speaking of the Athletics’ pitching staff, general manager David Forst told Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com that the team will pursue starters during the offseason. Acquiring more rotation candidates would add to a group that currently includes Sonny Gray, Sean Manaea, Kendall Graveman, Jharel Cotton, Andrew Triggs, Daniel Mengden and Arizona Fall League standout Frankie Montas. The leader of the staff, Gray, had a nightmarish 2016, but Forst expects him to bounce back. “Am I going to get the Cy Young (caliber pitcher) from Day 1? I don’t know,” Forst said. “But I think there’s a confidence that this was an aberration, this whole year, more than anything else.”
- The Tigers are on a mission to shed payroll and get younger, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of right-hander Justin Verlander or second baseman Ian Kinsler, opines Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. While the Tigers don’t aim to rebuild, Fenech argues that they won’t be able to contend without those two. Dealing the soon-to-be 34-year-old Verlander would remove a Cy Young contender from Detroit’s rotation, though it would simultaneously free the team of some or all of an $84MM commitment through 2019. Like Verlander, Kinsler also had a stellar 2016 campaign, but the 34-year-old is due a far more palatable $21MM over the next two seasons.