Red Sox

Crawford ready to wear out Boston's bases

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Crawford ready to wear out Boston's bases

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When the Red Sox signed free agent outfielder Carl Crawford to a landmark seven-year, 142 million contract last December, it was an extraordinary investment, the second-largest deal the franchise had ever given.

The Sox were motivated to spend as much as they did because of Crawford's unique skill set, which features virtually unmatched speed and defense.

But surely, it must have been more than a passing thought to Red Sox executives that the commitment would almost be worth it just knowing that the Sox would never again have to watch Crawford torment them as an opponent.

In eight seasons, playing the Red Sox as often as 19 times during the regular season, Crawford wore out the Red Sox, particularly on the bases. Over that time, Crawford successfully stole 62 bases in 66 tries, including 35 steals in a row without being thrown out.

Now, that's someone else's problem.

If you can't beat him, sign him.

"All the things that use to aggravate us when he was in a Tampa uniform,'' said Terry Francona, "hopefully will excite us now that he's in a Red Sox uniform."

Told that Crawford and catcher Jason Varitek had jokingly "buried the hatchet,'' now that they are teammates, Francona cracked: "I still have some animosity. He looks awfully good in our uniform, though. When he walked in today, I said, 'It's amazing how you can hate somebody so much when they were in a different (uniform) and then fall in love with him when he's in your (uniform).''

Indeed, Crawford seemed to save his best for games against the Red Sox. In his rookie season, he hit a walkoff homer off Chad Fox to beat the Sox on Opening Day of 2003, and only last season, stole six bases against them in a single game.

Recalling the six-steal game, Francona said: "It felt like he was going right from first to third, not even (stopping) at second.''

After competing against the Sox for the last eight seasons, the transition from Tampa to Boston is a sizeable one and Crawford may take some time making the adjustment.

"Yesterday,'' said Crawford, "walking into the clubhouse (for the first time), it was new for me. I thought I was ready for it but I still really wasn't. Today, I felt a little more comfortable and I figure as each day goes along, I'll feel comfortable.

"It's a new group of people. I've seen those guys playing on the other side a lot, but it's different when you're actually in the clubhouse with them...I got really comfortable (in Tampa). I knew everything - the little ins-and-outs. Now, I've got to figure everything out again.''

Reminded that his stolen base totals might decline precipitiously because he no longer will get the chance to run against the Red Sox, Crawford blushed some, laughed and said: "I don't think so. I try to get as many as I can every year. That's my goal -- to put pressure on the other team, steal as many bags and get into scoring position.''

He later added that when he saw Varitek recently in Boston, they hugged.

"I let him know, 'I'm on your side now, so you don't have to worry about that anymore,' '' Crawford said.

Later, Varitek told reporters that having Crawford as a teammate would, by definition, extend his career.

Though the Rays didn't have a winning season in their history until 2008, a rivalry between Tampa and Boston developed and grew in recent seasons. It wasn't nearly as intense as the long-standing Red Sox-Yankee rivalry, but it had its moments.

"Over time, we built up a little rivalry,'' said Crawford. "We wanted to beat the Red Sox really bad.''

Crawford's success rate on the bases against the Red Sox almost became a joke. First baseman Kevin Youkilis said earlier this week that Crawford at times told Youkilis when he was going to take off for second, comforted by the knowledge that not even advance warning could stop him from succeeding.

"I don't want to say I told him that,'' said a chuckling Crawford. "Maybe I would say some things to throw him off. It was just a little friendly banter. He knew what I was trying to do and I knew what he was trying to do.''

Now, Crawford will be Youkilis' teammate, trying to beat the Rays the way he once tried to beat the Red Sox. It won't take long for Crawford to meet up with his former team -- the Rays come to Boston in mid-April for the second home series of the season.

"It's going to be fun,'' he said. "It's going to be highly competitive because I know that they're going to try to beat us and we're going to do the same. It should (make for) some interesting games.''

Now, with one twist: Let the other team worry about Carl Crawford.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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

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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

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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.

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