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#pounditFriday, December 4, 2020

Baseball

Report: Red Sox had significant doubts about bringing back Alex Cora

Alex Cora

Alex Cora had long been viewed as the favorite to land the Boston Red Sox manager job before it was made official on Friday. However, inside the organization, that was apparently never a certainty.

Cora still commands the respect of many inside the organization, including players and ownership, who won the 2018 World Series with him as manager. However, the ultimate decision was left to chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, who has no previous ties to Cora.

According to Chad Jennings of The Athletic, many in the organization initially felt that Cora would not get the job when the search started. One Red Sox source told Jennings that the search “wasn’t a dog-and-pony show.”

Things shifted when Bloom and Cora began to have face-to-face meetings and Bloom began to seriously consider Cora’s strengths and witnesses. At one point, Cora asked Bloom if the chief baseball officer trusted him, and said the organization should move on if he didn’t. Bloom replied that he did.

In the end, Cora was reportedly one of two finalists for the job, and ultimately got it. He clearly won over Bloom, and it’s a move that will make the players happy as well.

Angels decide on Shohei Ohtani’s 2021 role

Shohei Ohtani

The Los Angeles Angels have not kept Shohei Ohtani healthy for much of his MLB career, but the hope is 2021 will be different.

The Angels shared an update Friday on Ohtani, who was shut down early in 2020 due to elbow issues. The two-way star is expected to be healthy for spring training and has begun to throw from 120 feet, via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. More importantly, the Angels still intend to use him as a two-way player in 2021.

Given the arm problems Ohtani has had, there was speculation that the Angels might give up on him as a pitcher. There even looked to be some evidence that the Angels were moving toward that conclusion late in 2020, but it turns out they are not there yet.

Ohtani, for what it’s worth, has been adamant about how he sees his role. He’s only made 12 MLB appearances as a pitcher, though he looked great doing it in 2018 when healthy. 2021 may be his last shot to prove he can be a two-way player while staying healthy. Another injury and both he and the Angels just might have to accept that his future lies as a position player.

New Mets owner cleaning house in front office

Brodie Van Wagenen

Steve Cohen officially became the new owner of the New York Mets on Friday after his deal to purchase the team closed, and the billionaire hedge fund manager has wasted no time making serious changes.

The Mets announced on Friday that they are firing Brodie Van Wagenen and several other members of the team’s front office. The other executives who are leaving include Omar Minaya, Allard Baird, Adam Guttridge and Jared Banner.

One of Cohen’s first orders of business with the Mets was to bring back Sandy Alderson as president of baseball operations. Alderson was the GM of the Mets until 2018, when he left the role due to a recurrence of cancer. The 72-year-old is credited with helping to build the Mets’ 2015 NL championship team.

Van Wagenen served as GM of the Mets for two years. He was caught up in an embarrassing controversy over the summer, though it seems likely he would have been fired anyway.

The Mets finished 26-34 and in last place in the NL East during the shortened 2020 season. It is no surprise Cohen wants a blank slate after spending $2.4 billion to purchase the franchise.

Justin Turner not disciplined by MLB for violating coronavirus protocol

Justin Turner celebration

Major League Baseball has concluded its investigation into Justin Turner celebrating with his teammates after the World Series, and the Los Angeles Dodgers star will not be disciplined.

Turner was removed from the Dodgers’ 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 before the eighth inning after it was learned he had tested positive for COVID-19. Despite that, the third baseman joined his teammates on the field after the game to celebrate and pose for photos. That was a violation of MLB’s coronavirus protocols, but MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement on Friday that he is “closing this matter by applauding Justin for accepting responsibility, apologizing, and making a commitment to set a positive example going forward.”

Turner and Dodgers president Stan Kasten also issued statements. Turner apologized for his actions and noted that he thought he was permitted to go onto the field when no staffers stopped him. He also described how elated he was to capture a World Series title. Kasten stood behind Turner. You can read all three statements below:

Turner’s teammates certainly weren’t bothered by him joining the celebration. They likely told him they were already exposed to him and felt contracting COVID-19 was worth the risk for him to be able to enjoy the moment with them. Turner wore a mask, but you could tell from his teammates actions that they were not uncomfortable in his presence.

Alex Cora re-hired as manager of Red Sox

Alex Cora

The Boston Red Sox have ended their search for a new manager, and they are bringing back Alex Cora.

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported on Friday that the Red Sox will re-hire Cora as manager.

Cora was suspended for the entire 2020 season due to his role in the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal. There has been speculation for quite some time that the Red Sox could bring him back, and he was believed to be a finalist for the job for more than a week.

Cora was painted as one of the masterminds behind the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme. He was a bench coach with Houston at the time, but the Red Sox were also accused of committing violations while Cora was manager. Those violations were much less severe and Cora was found to be not involved.

The Red Sox fired Cora after he was suspended by Major League Baseball and promoted Ron Roenicke to manager. Boston finished 24-36 in the shortened season and then fired Roenicke.

Cora won the World Series with Boston in his first year on the job in 2018. Players stood by him after news of the Astros scandal blew up.

After former Houston manager A.J. Hinch was hired as manager of the Detroit Tigers last month, it seemed more likely that Cora would find a job quickly. That job happened to be his old job.

White Sox SS Tim Anderson has great answer about Tony La Russa’s age

Tony La Russa

The Chicago White Sox named Tony La Russa their manager last week, which came as a surprise given La Russa’s age and how long it’s been since he last managed.

La Russa is now 76 and last managed the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011. Some have questioned whether he will be able to relate to players and manage effectively in 2020.

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson doesn’t think La Russa’s age will be an issue and has a great reason why.

“He doesn’t have to play,” Anderson said Thursday, via the Chicago Sun-Times’ Daryl Van Schouwen.

That’s a humorous response from Anderson, but one of the questions many are wondering is how he and La Russa will get along. So far, Anderson is saying the right things — that he wants to learn from La Russa — but time will tell. Anderson is known for his unapologetic bat flips, which rub some the wrong way. But don’t forget about all the forearm bashes from the “Bash Brothers” when La Russa managed in Oakland. He’s quite familiar with the way home runs are celebrated.

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia via cc-by-sa 3.0

Ex-MLB draft pick convicted of triple murder

baseball

Brandon Martin, a former first-round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays, was convicted on Wednesday of three counts of first-degree murder for killing three men during a 2015 rampage.

Martin, 27, was the No. 38 overall pick by the Rays in 2011 out of Santiago High School in Corona, Calif. He played three seasons of pro ball but only batted .211 for his minor league career.

According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Martin was experiencing psychiatric issues and admitted for a hold on Sept. 15, 2015 after threatening his father. He was released two days later on Sept. 17. Martin was convicted of going to his father’s home and using a baseball bat to beat three men to death — his disabled father (64), his father’s brother-in-law, and an ADT security worker.

The ADT worker was there for a consultation in response to the father’s fears for his safety following threats from his son.

Martin was also convicted of auto theft, evading arrest, obstructing a peace officer and injuring a police canine while on the run following the murders. He is awaiting sentencing.

The PE has full details on the story and crime.

Martin had no prior felony convictions.

Javy Baez planning to get Gold Glove tattoo

Javy Baez

Javy Baez added to his collection of awards this year, and he’s also planning to add to his collection of tattoos.

Baez learned this week that he had won his first career Gold Glove Award. The 27-year-old played almost exclusively at shortstop this season after splitting time between shortstop and second base for most of the early part of his career. He had 86 putouts and eight errors in 56 games.

Baez has several tattoos and is known for some of his baseball-themed ones. He has the MLB logo tattooed on the back of his neck.

After his Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016, Baez commemorated the win with some fresh ink.

During an interview with ESPN’s Karl Ravech about winning the Gold Glove, Ravech asked Baez whether he was going to get a tattoo to commemorate the honor.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I will somehow and somewhere,” Baez said of the tattoo.

Baez says the only issue is finding space on his body for it.

Baez is building an impressive resume. In addition to his Gold Glove Award, Baez has won NLCS MVP, a Silver Slugger Award, and he is a two-time All-Star.

Photo: Arturo Pardavila III/Flickr via cc-by-sa 2.0

Universal DH may remain in MLB beyond this season

Rob Manfred

MLB utilized a universal designated hitter during the shortened 2020 regular season. That is a rule that may remain for the future.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan wrote a lengthy 20 questions column that he published on Wednesday. In the column, Passan said that the MLB players want a universal DH. He also said that front offices would favor a universal DH as well coming off a season where they had it.

MLB owners would like to have expanded playoffs moving forward like they had this year. They might try to get the players to agree to expanded playoffs in exchange for the universal DH, but the players would be less willing to have that.

The players would be in favor of a universal DH because it should improve the job and salary market since NL teams will want an extra hitter in the lineup.

The question of the NL adding a DH has been around for several years. They have trended towards potentially adding one, and it seems like it may stick around for 2021 and beyond.

Report: Red Sox have narrowed manager search to two candidates

Alex Cora

The Boston Red Sox appear to be closing in on a new manager, with the field narrowing significantly.

According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Red Sox have narrowed their manager search down to two. Former manager Alex Cora remains a leading candidate, but Philadelphia Phillies integrative baseball performance director Sam Fuld has a “very real chance” to land the job. Fuld has strong ties to Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, who will make the ultimate decision.

Fuld, a longtime MLB outfielder, has no managerial experience. He has interviewed for managerial posts before, though, and has been widely touted as a future manager. If the Red Sox don’t hire him, it’s highly likely that someone else will within the next couple years.

Cora, on the other hand, is familiar in the organization and won a World Series with them in 2018. He lost his job due to his role in the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, but retains the respect of the organization and players. The Red Sox are definitely serious about considering him.

Whoever takes the job will have to oversee a bit of a rebuild. The Red Sox cut salary prior to the 2020 season and finished last in the AL East.