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Kapstein sounds off

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  November 29, 2005 11:14 AM

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Are the Red Sox tipping their Kap regarding the next GM? Don't look now, but Sox senior advisor Jeremy Kapstein may be the frontrunner in the team's hunt to replace Theo Epstein.

He got a loose endorsement from Dan Shaughnessy this morning, was profiled in the Providence Journal, and, if you listened to him today on sports radio WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan program, you might think the great GM search is nearly over.

Below are his comments regarding the GM search, the winter meetings, the bullpen, and more.

When asked if it was practical to bring in an outside general manager with baseball’s winter meetings only a week away, Kapstein replied, “That’s a question that could only be answered by Larry Lucchino, Mr. Henry, and Tom Werner, but we have a group that’s working well together and my feeling personally would be if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Bringing somebody in, no matter how good they might be, it takes time to get up to speed.

“What you need here if you’re gonna bring somebody in, you need someone who is known by the players and the manager. You need someone who knows the Boston Red Sox, and knows the tremendous culture that is Boston and the Red Sox, and can work well, most importantly, with our ownership, with Larry Lucchino, and with the people that we have in baseball operations.

“No matter how good that person might be, there would be a time delay, and how long that delay would be would be a function of that person’s personality. Frankly, I don’t think we can afford that time delay because we’re in a very competitive market and if we look out and you look at the rapid activity in that marketplace, this is a very, very hot market, and the thing about this market as opposed to several years ago is there were a lot of players out there but very few clubs were getting in because of their financial capabilities. Now there are a lot more clubs because of revenue sharing who have dollars and the players are much fewer.

Kapstein was asked point blank if he would take the Red Sox GM position if offered: “Yes, Nick Cafardo asked me that on the record the other day, and I said yes, I would absolutely take it,” said Kapstein. “I’ve talked with ownership and Larry Lucchino about that and told them that I would take it for a year, two, whatever was appropriate if they decided to go in that direction and Larry and I had a very brief discussion about money. I took his first offer ... the bottom line is if you’re gonna be part of the team, be part of the team and that’s what happened. I talked to Larry about a one-year situation, he said ‘this is what I can pay you,’ I said ‘fine, we got a deal.’”

Regarding the high price of free agents this offseason and the chances of re-sigining Johnny Damon, Kapstein said, “We’re not nervous, our job is to look at reality and to respond. That’s one of the reasons why the Florida trade was so important. This is a rapidly changing market. I know George Steinbrenner extremely well, and I know he looks at the back pages in New York and he sees our deal with Florida, then he sees the Mets with (Carlos) Delgado and (Billy) Wagner, and hey, George can wake up at any time and do whatever. We realize what his needs are.

“I don’t know (if he’s interested in signing Johnny Damon) but I would go on the assumption that we’re going to try to sign Johnny Damon as soon as is possible, but again the Boston Red Sox are doing that. We are in the process of trying to do that.”

“Our evaluation is based on our knowledge of Johnny Damon and our evaluation of the marketplace,” said Kapstein. “Internally, we do evaluations almost on a constant update basis. I’ll be going into the ballpark and be giving an update on what I project the market to be on each player that we’re interested in and that can change on a day-to-day basis.

“I’m sure it will,” replied Kapstein, when asked if things will be happening in Dallas next week. “And I don’t know what will happen, but I’m sure it will because what you have now is all this activity happening in November and it stimulates the overall market, clubs that haven’t made trades, clubs that haven’t signed free agents want to get in, because naturally their fans in those cities are now putting pressure on them, rightfully so, to get into this thing. Right now it’s been the Red Sox who have made the big news. The Mets have made the big news. Blue Jays, too.”

“There’s a scarcity of players,” added Kapstein. “Pitching is a very, very important commodity and there’s a lot less pitching out there than there has been in the past. You’re not going to have a successful club unless you have a good bullpen. No matter how much offense you have, we don’t have nine-inning pitchers anymore. I think the closest we have in the American League to a true horse is a man in Toronto named Doc Halladay, who will pitch his 7, 8, or 9 innings almost every start. So you need setup guys. That’s why Mota was so important.

“And we’re not done trying to improve our bullpen. There’s nothing more demoralizing to a ballclub than to have a 4-2, 5-2 lead going into the seventh and lose it on a consistent basis. Look at the White Sox, their one vulnerability during the season was their bullpen and then Neal Cotts comes along and improves and then they get Bobby Jenks off the waiver wire and Bobby Jenks is just lights-out in the playoffs and the World Series. You have to have a bullpen. There’s a scarcity, so there will be much more activity trying to (get setup guys).”

And it sounds like Kapstein has his own plan for the Red Sox bullpen for next season.

When asked if the Red Sox have a closer, Kapstein replied, “Do we have a closer? As of right now ... (six-second pause) ... we have people who can close. Do we have a lights-out closer? We have to wait and see if (Keith) Foulke comes back.

“Let’s be frank. I like (Jonathan) Papelbon a lot. He’s got two pitches. I think he could close. So I think that yes we have potential closers but I’m not going to look you in the eye and say that I know exactly what Keith Foulke is going to do next year. I know what he did in ’04 for us. And I know he was critical in us winning a world championship. And we all know what happened in ’05. But we have potential closers already on our staff. Do we have somebody who in 2005 was a lights out closer for somebody, either us or somebody else?

“We like Craig Hansen, we like him a lot. And we also like Jonathan Lester. I drove up to Portland last summer to see him pitch against Akron in the playoffs. He’s got three plus pitches. He’s got tremendous mound presence, and I think he’s gonna be an outstanding major league pitcher.

“Craig Hansen? Alright his slider was flat. It wasn’t the same slider he had at St. John’s and his delivery; he was not throwing with the same delivery that he threw at St. John’s. But in all fairness to him, it’s extremely difficult to be there in September, in the heat of a pennant race, just coming out of St. John’s University. But we like his arm and yes, is he a potential closer of the future? Yes.

“Papelbon, I love his attitude on the mound --‘give me the ball’ -- and he throws two pitches extremely well. And to be a real closer, a lights-out closer, you either have to be a Trevor Hoffman, in your prime, a Keith Foulke, like he was in ’04, with a changeup and pinpoint control, or you have to be someone who wants the ball, Bobby Jenks, or a Billy Wagner or a Papelbon. Now has he closed? No. But is he a potential closer? Yes. Is he a potential starter? Yes. My feelings are to be a starter you need more than two pitches. You talk about a pitcher who was a great starting pitcher who only had two pitches ... I mean Sandy Koufax.”

Kapstein also talked about the Red Sox possibly going after a veteran second baseman, saying he thought youngster Dustin Pedroia wasn't ready to start in the bigs.

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