Red Sox

Beckett not apologizing for golfing

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Beckett not apologizing for golfing

What, you were expecting a contrite Josh Beckett?

A sheepish, if-I-had-it-to-do-over-again Josh Beckett?

No such luck.

But this shouldn't be much of a surprise.

Beckett may be evolving as a pitcher, but his personality remains unchanged: defiant, stubborn, and, literally and figuratively, unapologetic.

In other words, if you were expecting some sort of mea culpa, you came to the wrong place. That's not Beckett.

It wasn't Beckett last February when he met with the media for the first time since the chicken-and-beer details were made public last October. And it wasn't Beckett Thursday night in the wake of an embarrassing start against the Cleveland Indians.

Of course, Beckett has had embarrassing starts before. Every pitcher has. But this one came with one added ingredient: spectacularly bad timing.

Many fans were already outraged after a report placed Beckett at an area golf course last Thursday, a day after the Red Sox announced that he would not make his next scheduled start, slated for Saturday.

The Sox reasoned that Beckett was experiencing some soreness in his lat muscle, and was skipping a start as a precaution.

Ever since, the Red Sox have attempted to nuance that explanation to death, with manager Bobby Valentine claiming twice this week that, well, technically, Beckett wasn't really injured, but was merely suffering from a physical issue.

And it strains credulity that the Sox would have, as has been theorized in some parts, skipped Beckett for the sole purpose of mollifying Aaron Cook, who forced his way onto the roster a week ago thanks to an opt-out in his contract.

Either way, the club publicly introduced the notion that Beckett wasn't 100 percent, and now, both the Sox and the pitcher himself have to live with that explanation, however tortured it has become.

Beckett had to know that he would be asked about the golf outing, and sure enough, after a few questions about his outing, they came at him.

He was not unprepared, either. In what sounded suspiciously like a rehearsed answer not unlike a politician delivering a made-for-TV soundbite in a debate Beckett stated defiantly: "I spend my off-days the way I want to spend them."

When another question was posed, asking whether he could understand how fans might react, Beckett was ready again: "My off-day is my off-day."

Not long after, he mentioned that major league teams have just 18 off-days per season, and they were his to spend as he wished.

"I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves," said Beckett.

Here, of course, Beckett is being more than a little disingenuous. No one is suggesting that players don't have the right to some recreation. What doesn't pass the smell test, however, is the timing, coming as it did when he was being ruled out of his next start, just two days after tee time.

It was the same logic that Beckett used when he attempted to explain his poor performance last September by mentioning that his wife was expecting the couple's first child and he wasn't about to misplace his priorities.

No one was suggesting that, naturally. But many athletes possess the ability to be good point guards, left wings, tight ends and starting pitchers, while still acting as good husbands and fathers.

It's not, as Beckett suggested, an either-or-proposition.

Beckett's insistence that he did nothing wrong is merely one more invitation to fans to tune the Red Sox out. It's one thing for a team to under-perform and another thing entirely to come off as distinctly unlikeable.

In his first press conference this spring, Beckett did acknowledge that the Sox had to earn back the trust of the fans after last fall's collapse and ensuing unsavory tales from the clubhouse.

But with a chance to do so, Beckett stumbled even more than he did on the mound hours earlier.

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press