Red Sox

Blow up what?

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Blow up what?

At this point, there's no turning back and there's no in between. By the end of this season, the Red Sox will either make me look really smart or really stupid. I'm talking Bill James or Rick James. Bobby Fisher or Bobby Jenks. Carl Jung or Carl Everett.

OK, you get my point, and I've made it a few times on here over the course of the season. But here we are again, with another storyline that's given me the sudden urge to take a bath with my toaster: Is it time to blow up the Red Sox?

First of all, what do people mean when they suggest it's time to "blow up" the Sox? I assume that Big Ben and Loser Larry should fire up the trade machine and send a bunch of different pieces in a bunch of different directions? That they should find the heart and soul of this team, smash it to smithereens and build a new identity with a new batch of names and faces?

OK, so let's take a look at the roster and see how we're going to blow this thing up. I'll start naming guys and stop me when I get to someone you actually think would be worth trading right now. And by "worth" I mean that getting rid of him would actually help the Sox situation andor it wouldn't cost millions upon millions upon millions to convince another team to take him. Here we go:

Dustin Pedroia? David Ortiz? Jacoby Ellsbury? Mike Aviles? Jarrod Saltalamacchia? Cody Ross? Ryan Sweeney? Nick Punto? Will Middlebrooks? Vincente Padilla? Franklin Morales? Clay Buchholz? Jon Lester? Felix Doubront? Alfredo Aceves? Carl Crawford? Adrian Gonzalez?

Anyone yet?

OK, how about Josh Beckett? Yes, OK. You can make an argument that Beckett's awful attitude makes him a prime candidate to be shown the door in the event of a clubhouse cleansing. Of course, you can also make the argument that Beckett has been their most consistent pitcher and is the only one who's experienced any consistent success in the playoffs.

Kevin Youkilis? Yes, of course. We all know that Youk needs to go. We all know he eventually will go. But I'm not sure that getting rid of your struggling, malcontent third baseman while you already have a prospect bursting at the chance to take the starting job can be considered a step towards "blowing up" the team. In fact, I really don't understand where the idea comes from at all. Or more, how it's possible.

When we talked about the blowing up the Celtics all winter, it was because we assumed they achieved as much as they could as a unit. That they were old and out of shape that as a unit they had NOTHING left and that if this was going to be their last year together anyway, why not shop them around, see what you can get. Why not get a head start on the rebuilding? In basketball, all it takes is trading one or two guys to "blow things up." Sometimes that's all you need. In baseball? With this team?

One of the rallying cries of the blow it up crew is that the Sox are in last place. And I get why that's a point of frustration to an extent.

They're a last place team! Can you believe they're in last place?! What a bunch of last place bums! Fine, but what are you going to say if they win tomorrow? I mean, come on. They're in last place, but they're actually tied for last place. Not to mention, they're also only six and a half games out of first place and four and a half out of the wild card and, oh yeah, it's June 14.

It's June 14.

Their pitching is better than ever. They've got Josh Beckett and Felix Doubront who are tied (albeit with a bunch of other guys) for fourth in the AL with eight quality starts. Jon Lester is right behind them with seven. And Clay Buchholz had an awful first two months but is probably pitching the best out of any of them. In other words, the Sox currently have four very good pitchers in their rotation. Four guys that you're confident in every single time they take the mound.

And their line-up is a little broken right now, but it can only get better from here. And as it is, they're already second in the Majors in runs scored, fourth in batting average and fifth in OPS. Despite all the recent struggles, don't you still have faith in names like Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz and Gonzalez down the stretch?

Listen, I'm not saying that we should all just be hunky dory about the Sox situation. Believe me, I understand the hate. I listened to Theo Epstein on the radio yesterday and read his interview in the Globe this morning, and every step along the way, my hatred for this ownership continued to grow. I didn't think it was possible to hate them anymore than I already did, but no no, it is. And i do. But it's too early to give up on the guys in the field. I don't think blowing up anything in that clubhouse makes sense right now.

Although if you want to blow up the owner's box, you've got my full support there.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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