Red Sox

Do the Red Sox have the best outfield in baseball?

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Do the Red Sox have the best outfield in baseball?

There’s a litany of reasons why the band that brought you “Win, Dance, Repeat” can be considered the best outfield in baseball.

Mookie Betts finished second in the 2016 A.L. MVP race (and should have finished first). Jackie Bradley, Jr. is arguably the best defensive center fielder in the game and finally provided some offense last year, launching 26 home runs. Then there’s the 2017 top-ranked MLB positional prospect Andrew Benintendi, who burst on the scene by batting .295 (31-for-105) through 34 games.

The Red Sox have had their share of stellar outfielders over the years, but this could be the best group the franchise has seen. And yes, that includes the beloved Jim Rice-Fred Lynn-Dwight Evans combo.

How about today's game? Well, after reviewing the other 29 outfields, there’s no question the current Red Sox stack up with any of them.

Not convinced? Take a look at the best three outfields other than Boston's.

COLORADO ROCKIES: Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl

Gonzalez is an established MLB talent. Since he became an everyday outfielder in 2010, he’s hit .296 and is averaging 26 home runs. The long-ball total could be even higher if he could get stay on the field; however, Car-Go’s only played in as many as 130 games four times since 2010. In addition, he’s a three-time Gold Glove winner, and was in consideration again last season.

Blackmon’s continued to turn heads since his 2014 All-Star campaign. The 2016 Silver Slugger winner finished with 29 homers last year and a .324 average.

The third spot is up for grabs, but it's because there's actual competition for the job and not a lack of talent. Dahl, the Rockies' first-round draft choice in 2012, looks to be the best candidate after hitting .315 with 23 extra-base hits in his first 63 games with Colorado.

Still, Boston has to be considered  better. Betts is an MVP candidate and hasn’t had health issues like Gonzalez (knock on wood). Blackmon may be a better hitter than Bradley, but Bradley’s defense is far superior. In comparing the two young talents, Benintendi has faced more adversity -- between his injury and the postseason -- than Dahl, and he’s risen to the occasion. Plus, most general managers around the league seem to think he’s the best young offensive talent in the game.

MIAMI MARLINS: Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich

Stanton is one of the most physically gifted players in baseball, without question. But injuries have plagued him, especially the last two years. And while he can hit the ball a country mile -- averaging 41 home runs for every 162 games played -- his career average (.266) has taken a hit in the past few seasons.

Ozuna earned his first All-Star nod in 2016, finishing with 23 home runs. The 26-year-old has now hit 23 home runs twice in his career.

Yelich could become the best of Miami’s trio, after maintaining a high average (.298) in 2016 and tripling his 2015 home-run total by hitting 21 last year.

The Marlins have youth with Stanton (27) being the oldest, but their youngest is older than both Betts and Benintendi. The Red Sox’ bunch is better on defense, top to bottom. And other than Stanton’s raw power, they are offensively superior, too.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES: Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Andrew McCutchen

McCutchen had a rough 2016, but was an MVP candidate and Silver Slugger winner from 2012-2015. Had last season gone differently for him, the Pirates might’ve been higher on the list.

Marte earned his first All-Star nod and took home his second Gold Glove in as many seasons. In his fifth MLB season, he hit over .300 for the first time and swiped 47 bases, a career high.

Polanco is the youngest of the three (25) and still has to mature at the plate, hitting .253 through three seasons. However, he showed off some power in 2016 by launching 22 long balls in 144 games.

The Pirares are solid all-around defensively, maybe the best in that category of these contenders. But offensively they don’t hold a candle to Boston’s Killer B’s.

While there are other teams worth looking at -- the Nationals, Royals, Mets, Tigers, and Angels to name a few -- some were missing that solid third piece (Los Angeles), others are aging (New York) and some are just a clear tier below the rest (Detroit).

Which makes it hard to escape the conclusion that no matter how you slice it -- tools, statistics, age -- the Red Sox have baseball’s best all-around outfield.

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

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.