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Sox could take old school approach

One thing the Josh Beckett deal has done as much as anything is reinforce to the Red Sox' gaggle of executives and administrators that there may not be a need to bring in an outsider to succeed Theo Epstein as general manager. Maybe one of their own can handle the job.

In making one of the most significant deals in recent team history, the committee worked pretty well. In the end, CEO Larry Lucchino sealed the deal with the Marlins, listening to all voices, even one or two who didn't want to part with their favorite prospect.

Since no outside GM candidate has overwhelmed ownership (though Jim Beattie is clearly the front-runner), would Lucchino keep Bill Lajoie or Jeremy Kapstein in their advisory roles or even as an interim GM, overseeing young guns Craig Shipley, Jed Hoyer, and Ben Cherington?

Lajoie, 71, the former Tigers GM who enjoys living in Florida, has indicated he would not want the job.

However, Kapstein, who was CEO of the Padres in 1989 and 1990 after a long career as a super agent and one of the best deal-makers in baseball, was asked whether he'd be interested, and said, ''Yes, I would. I've told Larry Lucchino and ownership I could take the job for one year or whatever the organization felt it needed from me. I've already discussed salary so that part is resolved should that be the direction they decide to go in.

''I'm here to help in any way I can. I was very impressed with the work done by our organization in the Florida deal."

Kapstein would stay the course and be a steady voice while ownership evaluates the young executives while also keeping an eye on who becomes available after next season.

Kapstein worked diligently on the Beckett trade, doing background with former Marlins manager Jack McKeon. The three young guns all had their roles. Cherington, the farm director, is aware of the value of the four prospects the Sox dealt. Shipley has strength as an ideas guy, and Hoyer has worked closely with Epstein on trades the past three seasons.

By keeping the younger guys in prominent roles, the Sox maintain the Epstein philosophy, but with Lajoie and Kapstein they integrate the older faction of the front office, which wasn't always embraced.

Kapstein, a very popular figure in the organization and with the players, is excited about the deal.

''Mike Lowell is an excellent clubhouse guy, a great kid who everyone believes will rebound from his year last season," he said. ''He's an excellent fielder and his hitting style is as such he's going to hit some balls off the Wall and over it. Josh Beckett is a front-line starter who keeps getting better. And getting [Guillermo] Mota is a bonus. He's a terrific setup guy with a live fastball and excellent changeup.

''I feel we've added three players to our ball club that significantly improve our club and help attract other free agents to Boston. If there was a perception that our organization was in chaos, I think we've sent a message to all of baseball that we're thriving as an organization and that we're doing everything we can to get back to a World Series championship."

Scouting report

Sox pitching coach Dave Wallace worked with Mota in the Los Angeles organization. ''It's always great to acquire depth in your bullpen," said Wallace. ''He's got an excellent fastball and a swing-and-miss changeup that is a bit unconventional in that he turns it over and he has good movement on it. He set up for Eric Gagne for us and he did a great job with us for a couple of years. We had Mota, Paul Quantrill, and Gagne, and we had one of the best bullpens in the National League. I know he had elbow inflammation last year in Florida, so hopefully that's behind him. He's a good setup man and if your closer has gone three or four days, he can close for you. He's a quiet guy on a team, a converted infielder, so he doesn't have the wear and tear on his arm that guys his age would normally have." Wallace has had experience with pitchers like Beckett who have had recurring blisters. ''I had Ismael Valdes in Los Angeles and he got them all the time," said Wallace. ''It's one of those situations you have to manage. I don't know that there's a dermatologist around who has a cure or else the problem would have been solved. Maybe it's the humidity in Florida. I don't know if pitching up here will help that situation. But we're happy to have Josh, who's a quality young pitcher." Wallace, who has been apprised by the front office of all moves concerning pitchers, said he's flattered to be asked for his input. Asked whether he'd throw his hat into the ring for GM, he said, ''No, I don't think so. I'm glad to help whoever gets the job. If they wanted me to do it in a pinch and needed me to be the GM on a temporary basis, I would certainly help in that regard. But not for the long term."

The case for Rice

Hall of Fame ballots will be mailed to more than 500 eligible voters in the next few weeks. This is Jim Rice's best shot at gaining induction. The former Sox slugger, who received just under 60 percent of the vote last year, could make up the 15 percent he needs because of three factors: 1. There is no clear-cut choice among the newcomers on the ballot; 2. His career numbers have been strengthened by the anti-steroid sentiment toward modern sluggers; and 3. Sox vice president Dick Bresciani is sending to all voters a statistical study that makes a strong case that Rice was the dominant hitter of his day. Rather than dwelling on Rice's total numbers, Bresciani compared him with his peers during three periods: 1975-84, 1976-85, and 1977-86. Rice's numbers over a 12-year span (1975-86) were the most dominating in the American League; he led in 12 categories and was top five in two others. A closer look at Bresciani's numbers:

In that 12-year period, Rice led the league in go-ahead RBIs (325), slugging (.520), hits (2,145), runs (1,098), home runs (350), RBIs (1,276), total bases (3,670) and outfield assists (125).

Including National League sluggers, he was first in five of the 12 offensive categories, second in three others.

Twenty-five players have hit 300 homers and batted .300 in a 10-year span, and of them only Rice has been excluded from the Hall.

Rice finished with 382 home runs and a career average of .298. Seventeen players who have hit at least 350 homers and hit for a .290 average or better are in the Hall.

Rice is the only player in major league history with three consecutive seasons of 35-plus homers and 200-plus hits.

Only Hank Aaron, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams have had as high a batting average and home run combination as Rice.

Safety measures

The Sox hope to get into the hunt for free agent Billy Wagner (they invited him to Boston this week, but he couldn't make it), though the money is already getting crazy. They don't want to inhibit Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen, but when will they be ready? The Sox have taken two huge steps toward protecting themselves in case Hansen needs more seasoning by signing Mike Timlin and acquiring Mota. If Keith Foulke can regain his effectiveness, the Sox could have a very strong bullpen. While everyone hears good things about Foulke, as Wallace put it, ''Until you see him throw and perform, you never know for sure." . . . The more you think about it, the more you have to like Peter Gammons's idea of a Matt Clement-for-Derek Lowe swap. The contracts are similar, and in Lowe, you have a proven end-of-the-season pitcher who can deal with the trappings of Boston . . . The Sox have been inquiring about young first basemen -- Texas's Adrian Gonzalez and Milwaukee's Lyle Overbay. Both the Rangers and Brewers need starting pitching, so the obvious names -- Clement and Bronson Arroyo -- have popped up. Kevin Youkilis might be developing a complex. First the Sox acquire Lowell, knocking him off of third base, and now they're pursuing a young first baseman of the future . . . The Sox would love to anoint Dustin Pedroia their starting second baseman when spring training is over, but they are protecting themselves by keeping Alex Cora around and possibly re-signing Tony Graffanino or inking Cardinals free agent second baseman Mark Grudzielanek (who hit .294 last season). The Sox are trying to make things as comfortable as possible for Edgar Renteria, hoping he'll be in synch with his middle-infield partner and have a consistent target at first base.

Ramírez on deck

While the Sox will try to accommodate Manny Ramírez's trade request, they may make one more attempt to persuade him to stay. If that should fail, Anaheim still appears to be the best landing spot. Though Ramírez's former agent, Jeff Moorad, runs the Diamondbacks, and a Troy Glaus deal could be hammered out, there's much doubt that Arizona would take on the remaining $57 million on Ramírez's contract. Sox principal owner John Henry is on record saying he doesn't like to pay for players not on the roster. Don't rule out the Mets just yet, even though Ramírez has indicated through his agents and to David Ortiz that he wants to play on the West Coast. The Mets have acquired Carlos Delgado and want to add another bat The Sox will intensify their negotiations with Johnny Damon this week, making re-signing him a top priority. Dragging talks out close to Christmas -- as agent Scott Boras did with Jason Varitek last year -- likely won't happen in this case. The Sox may go as high as a four-year, $40 million offer, but don't be surprised if the Sox eventually kick some tires on Minnesota center fielder Torii Hunter. After all, they do have some chips in Youkilis, in whom the Twins had some interest last season, and Arroyo, a bargain end-of-the-rotation starter . . . The Sox have been pushing a deal for David Wells, but the Padres aren't showing a lot of urgency in making it happen. The Sox are trying to get the Angels and Dodgers involved, in part to get the Padres to move quickly. The most mentioned name is former Sox outfielder Dave Roberts, but the Sox will likely want more . . . Both Wallace and Kapstein have been visiting Terry Francona in the hospital after the manager's knee replacement surgery. ''He's been in good spirits," Wallace said. ''Things are always a little more complicated because of some of the medical issues Terry has to deal with, but I think he's doing well."

Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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