November 5, 2017

The Start Of The Off-Season

The Red Sox will officially announce that Alex Cora is the team's new manager tomorrow. And since the end of the World Series, Cora has assisted in assembling his coaches:
Bench Coach: Ron Roenicke
1B Coach: Tom Goodwin
3B Coach: Carlos Febles
Hitting Coach: Tim Hyers
Assistant Hitting Coach: Andy Barkett
Dana LeVangie returns as the bullpen coach. The team has yet to hire a pitching coach.

Roenicke managed the San Antonio Missions (AA) to the Texas League Championship in 1997; Cora, then 21, was a shortstop and the second-youngest player on the team. The 2011 Brewers, with Roenicke in his first season as a major league manager, won a franchise-best 96 games. The Providence Journal states that, during his time with Milwaukee, Roenicke was known "for his analytical bend, including aggressive shifting on the infield".

Febles, after a six-year career with the Royals, worked as a hitting coach for three Red Sox minor league teams from 2007-10. He then managed the Lowell Spinners (2011), Greenville Drive (2012-13), Salem Red Sox (2014-15), and Portland Sea Dogs (2016-17). During those years, Febles had plenty of experience working with and overseeing the maturation of several of the Red Sox's young players, including Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, and Rafael Devers.

For Hyers, this job represents a return to the Red Sox. He was an area scout from 2009-12, then served as the team's minor league hitting coordinator from 2013-15. (He also filled in as interim hitting coach during 2014 after Greg Colbrunn suffered a brain hemorrhage.) For the past two seasons, he was the Dodgers' assistant hitting coach.

Barkett has managed in the minors and worked as an assistant hitting coordinator for both the Pirates and Marlins.

Also: Tony LaRussa has joined the Red Sox front office as a vice president and special assistant to the president of baseball operations, a position newly created by Dave Dombrowski, who worked with LaRussa with the White Sox. This report states LaRussa "will assist with player development and serve as a consultant to the major and minor league coaching staffs, including rookie manager Alex Cora".
Peter Gammons wrote (without offering any examples or evidence):
In many ways, [hiring Alex Cora] is a seismic shift for the Red Sox, who now must deal with the reality that the Yankees have become the Theo Epstein Red Sox and may be a major power for the next few years as Boston faces tough, critical decisions between now and 2019 to avoid the American League East resembling what it was from 1996-2001.
Gammons does not employ an editor at his website, so we get both run-on and partial sentences, like this: "But the wires that bound this franchise from 2004-2013 are frayed, requiring."

Also, when will people stop writing things like: "[T]hese are not your Mike Higgins Red Sox." ... For the record, Higgins last sat in a Red Sox dugout 55 years ago, when Gammons was still a teenager. A few things have happened since then.

Old Hickory is not the only writer touting the Yankees as the team to beat in 2018.

In mid-October, John Harper of the Daily News wrote that the simple act of Boston firing John Farrell meant the Yankees had overtaken the Red Sox as the AL East favourite. That made little sense, of course - and now that the Yankees will also have a new manager for 2018, it makes zero sense. From Harper's article:
"It's hard to win without power, and the Yankees have it while the Red Sox are a little short," was the way a major-league scout put it on Wednesday. "Boston has some good pieces but they do need a thumper to replace Ortiz. I'd rather have the Yankees' kids. They're going to put up some big home-run numbers in the coming years. And they have better young pitching." ...

[T]he Sox are short on pitching depth ... and the Sox don't have any phenoms immediately on the horizon.

Remember, they traded two blue-chip prospects, infielder Yoan Moncada and pitcher Michael Kopech, in the deal with the White Sox last winter, and while [Chris] Sale certainly lived up to expectations, it was a win-now trade that didn't produce a championship, while significantly weakening the Red Sox farm system. ...

As the scout said, young power-hitting is the area where the Yankees are separating themselves. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird ... form the most formidable age 25-or-younger offensive trio in baseball. ...

All of which is a way of saying that, on the matter of young stars, things have changed more quickly between the Yankees and Red Sox than anyone would have anticipated.

A new manager in Boston isn't going to change the fact that it feels like the Sox, though two games better this season, are already trailing the Yankees going into 2018.
A little later in October, the Post's Joel Sherman offered "a peek at Yankees' potentially devastating 2018 rotation" and advised how the Yankees can finish 2018 in "The Canyon Of Heroes":
The 2017 Yankees came faster and went further than expected, reaching Game 7 of the ALCS. Their roster and farm system and future payroll are lined up to produce even better teams. But the step from promise to a parade is perilous. ...

[U]nlike 2017 next spring training is going to begin with the Yanks in their historically familiar position as the hunted, as a team with the overbearing expectations. ...

Joe Girardi talked about "mental growth" after his Yankees were eliminated by the Astros. ... What earmarked the dynastic Yankees that Girardi was part of as a player was that even as fame and fortune and pressure mounted for that group, hunger to win and unity to do so together never wavered. Their mental toughness and physical durability was special.
Most of ESPN's Dan Szymborski's article on early ZiPS projections for 2018 is behind a paywall, but the AL East is visible:

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