Red Sox

Drellich: Sandoval, Sox figured out support system too late

Drellich: Sandoval, Sox figured out support system too late

BOSTON — Pablo Sandoval’s Red Sox career seems a case of too little too late.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski on Friday said there were “other issues” at play for Sandoval. He did not call them off-the-field issues, but that seems a matter of semantics — something was, or some things were, going on in his life that contributed to his downfall with the Sox.

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“I could say in 2017, and really into 2016 in the winter time, he worked hard,” Dombrowski said. “We had people that worked for him. He had some issues that he was dealing with that really probably didn't get him into shape, that didn't get him into the shape we would have liked. But there was more to it that I can't really get into, private type of issues for him. But I will say that since I've been here — I can't speak for before I was here — his effort level has been good. But I think we have had, going into 2016, going into his surgery, once he had that surgery we had a more comprehensive program ourselves to address a lot of different things that needed to be addressed.”

Sandoval may well have a career revival with another organization. He has a good track record against right-handed pitching. The Red Sox, don’t forget, said they would have preferred Sandoval stay in the minors with them and get every day at-bats.

But now that Sandoval’s Sox career is over, you have to wonder if there were red flags that were missed, or misjudged. 

Could those “other issues” that cropped up with Sandoval been discovered by the Red Sox previously, if they previously existed? Were they known, but ignored, or underestimated?

That “more comprehensive program” Dombrowski referred to sounds like something that could have been in place sooner. Particularly when it comes to the oversight of Sandoval’s eating habits — the one area that was publicly known to be a problem for Sandoval well before he joined the Red Sox.

Here’s how the Red Sox look at it: for one, it takes two to tango. Any player has to want to help himself. There were mechanisms in place to help Sandoval and his nutrition from the day he got to Boston. Clearly, those mechanisms evolved, as Dombrowski spoke about. 

Here’s the other, perhaps most important point: with any player, it’s hard to know exactly what their needs are until they’re in house. 

Once you’re living with someone, you learn a lot more about them. The best scouting in the world doesn’t compare to having a player in your organization, and the Red Sox have great scouting. 

Still, that reality doesn’t eliminate a question of whether the Sox-Sandoval acquaintance process was too slow.

Sandoval did tell ESPN over the winter that he had become complacent, but work ethic never seemed to be the primary issue. Consider what Giants manager Bruce Bochy said on MLB Network Radio in 2013 about Sandoval, whose best years were with the Giants.

“He knows long term he’s got to get some [weight] off,” Bochy said four years ago of Sandoval. “Because it’s going to help him, it’s going to help his career. He’s so good he gets away with it right now. Another two three years from now, it’s going to catch up with him.

“He’s done all he can do as far as the conditioning part. We work him as hard as any player I’ve ever had. … He’s doing cardio two or three times a day.”

Eating was the problem. (Or at least, one of them.)

“Unfortunately, he’s not shown the discipline we would like at the table, and that’s what’s getting him right now,” Bochy said. “It’s hard to play third base if you’re overweight. You got to come in on a slow roller and it cuts down your range.”

It’s almost like Bochy predicted the future. 

“He just got to be able to control himself a little bit,” Bochy continued. “Some of us don’t have the best genes. … It’s a tough thing to beat. Pablo, he’s got to do it, for his future.”

Were the Red Sox listening loudly enough? Was Sandoval?

A former private trainer of Sandoval’s from his time with the Giants, Ethan Banning, said last year the Sox never reached out to him as they pursued Sandoval. Banning detailed how he helped control both what Sandoval ate and drank — minimal booze — and how rapidly Sandoval could gain weight.

“I care about him greatly,” said Banning, who lost touch with Sandoval after the 2011-12 offseason. “But it’s a tough love. He needs to be smart enough to say there’s a problem. It’s like the alcoholic that won’t admit he’s an alcoholic: well, you can’t address that you’re an alcoholic if you don’t ever admit there’s a problem.

“He’s proven to me and shown consistently that he’s got to have somebody like me holding his hand doing that. And it’s not an exercise thing, it’s an eating thing. Obviously exercise is an important factor in it, a very important factor, but eating is going to be the component that needs to be managed and monitored. We had a chef on staff that cooked all his meals.”

The Red Sox, over this past offseason, seemed to figure out the level of support Sandoval needed. Sandoval also might have figured out what he needed in the last year.

It’s too bad it didn’t happen sooner.

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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