Red Sox

Martone: There was more to Yawkey than all this

Martone: There was more to Yawkey than all this

As we sit here 41 years after Tom Yawkey's death, two generations removed and with detail lost to time, it's hard for many to know exactly why he was thought of as a man for the ages.

MORE ON YAWKEY

The Red Sox won only three American League championships during his 44 years as owner. He spent money lavishly, and many said unwisely, in creating an organization where accountability -- on and off the field -- was a largely unknown word. It goes without saying the team's racial history left a dark stain, dark enough that current owner John Henry says he's been troubled by it since purchasing the club in 2002.

Thing is, I'm old enough to remember the last decade or so of Tom Yawkey's life. Hard as it may be for anyone under the age of 50 to believe, he was a beloved figure.

He was generous to charities and causes; the Jimmy Fund is what it is today in large thanks to the support -- financial and otherwise -- of the Yawkey Red Sox. He was regarded as a benign gentleman sportsman who, rightly or wrongly, valued team above profits. When he died, the people who worked for him chipped in for a plaque that still hangs outside the front door of the team offices that reads "In memory from those who knew him best: His Red Sox employees." Sox players, at least those who spoke publicly about him, adored him. (Of course, that may have had something to do with the generous salaries he paid in those penurious times.) Even some minority players spoke well of him near the end of his life. Bill North, an outspoken black outfielder for the Oakland A's, once said: "Tom Yawkey's the only white man I call 'sir'."

That was the public perception of Tom Yawkey that I -- and others of my age -- grew up with. The portion of Jersey Street in front of Fenway Park was renamed Yawkey Way a year after his death without any pushback that I recall. He sailed into the Hall of Fame a few years later with barely a peep of protest.

All of that has been lost over the years, overwhelmed by the Sox' disgraceful racial past. (And the subsequent revelation that Yawkey and his widow Jean, who ran the team for 16 years after his death, reportedly protected an employee pedophile who sexually abused young clubhouse workers for years.) The negative is all that people seem to remember about Tom Yawkey now.

And I'm not saying that's wrong. Some sins are so strong there's no defense for them.

I just think this story is more nuanced than it's become. My feeling (and it's just my feeling): Yawkey was more weak than evil, a man who had problems with alcohol until he stopped drinking in the 1960s, who didn't question the norms of his time, who wasn't strong enough to stand up and say, "This is wrong." And he certainly surrounded himself with some virulent racists, like Pinky Higgins, to whom he gave enormous power in the organization.

The question, really, is why such a non-groundbreaking figure was given these honors in the first place.

I always had the feeling it was his philanthropy, his generosity -- which was considerable -- that earned him the love. That, and his gentle, non-assuming public persona, was why people of his time regarded him so fondly.

None of which is what John Henry's talking about. The thrust of Henry's statement -- the Yawkey name is a symbol of baseball racism, and we should distance ourselves from it -- is hard to stand against.

But though I never met him -- I was only 21 when he died -- I remember Tom Yawkey as more than just a one-dimensional, bigoted symbol of baseball's blighted past. Even if he doesn't deserve the plaudits he received, there was more to him than that.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

mlb_rob_manfred_081414.jpg

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

cy_young_corey_kluber_chris_sale_111517.jpg

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE