Red Sox

Life Without Ortiz

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Life Without Ortiz

On Tuesday night, Jon Lester was awful and the Red Sox offense was lacking in a 7-5 loss to Chicago. To make matters worse, the other Sox were led by a vengeful Kevin Youkilis, who seems to have lost 20 pounds of fat and added 10 pounds of muscle in the two weeks since leaving Boston.

On Wednesday night, the game was delayed due to a tornado warning.

Yeah, Im not sure the David OrtzDL Era could have started much worse for the Sox. You could already see Ortiz watching it all unfold from the dugout, rubbing his hands together and thinking: Oh yesss. Whats up, Larry? How you enjoying life without Papi? Bahahaha!

With the way this seasons gone, you really had to wonder if the Sox would survive these two weeks without Ortiz. While hes been a huge pain in the ass off the field, hes still been Bostons undisputed best player. Hes the biggest reason theyre only one game out of a playoff spot. For three and a half months, Ortiz was the glue in that line-up and things were still on the verge of falling apart. But now . . . Who would step up in his absence? Who would be there on the nights when no one else showed?

There may still be times over the next two weeks when we find ourselves asking those questions, but last night wasnt one of them. Last night, after an inauspicious start to Life Without Papi, the Sox gave us reason to believe. Not just that they can survive sans No. 34, but that once he comes back, Ortiz and the Sox will have what it takes to turn this season around.

Of course, who knows? Weve been here before with this team. Weve gotten our hopes up, only see them crumpled up and crapped on. To quote a wise, wise man, the Sox play on the field has at times tested the mettle of the faithful. It could be maddening one day, enthralling the next. As a result, weve learned not to get carried away.

But at the very least, we can all agree that last night was a lot of fun.

First of all, the Sox are a different team with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford atop the line-up. In three games, theyve taken Boston from borderline unwatchable to one of the most exciting teams in baseball. As long theyre healthy, Crawford and Ellsbury will continue to change the game. Theyll make opposing pitchers dizzy and make life a whole lot easier for everyone whos hitting behind them.

Doesnt Crawford already look more confident and comfortable than he did at any point last season? Kill the guy all you want for the money and the injuries, but right now he's ready to play.

Same goes for Adrian Gonzalez, whos 9-16 (.563) with two homers and nine RBI in four games since the All-Star Break. His average is up to .296, hes in the top 10 in the AL in hits, the top five in doubles and the power looks like its creeping back. Speaking of power, Cody Ross is healthy again, judging by his two home runs that traveled a combined marathon. And did I mention that Dustin Pedroia is coming back tonight? Believe it or not, he found that sometimes it's beneficial to take a seat and let yourself heal. He's ready to roll.

And suddenly, we're left to wonder: Instead of the Sox falling apart without Ortiz, might we remember this stretch as the time when this team finally came together?

When Ellsbury, Crawford and Pedroia all returned, and with a hell of a lot to prove. When Gonzalez and Ross had no choice but to pick up the slack and carry the RBI burden. And that when David Ortiz comes back in two weeks, he'll no longer have to play the role of savior for a beat up and worn down line-up. Instead, he'll come back as the final piece to what was originally supposed to be one of the most imposing line-ups in baseball.

And there I go getting carried away.

I know, Larry. I'm sorry. I should learn from your sage words. As enthralled as I am right now, I must be prepared for my mettle to be tested. It will be so unbelievably maddening!

But for now, despite all the Red Sox will lose with David Ortiz on the DL, last night gave us a reason to be optimistic about all they'll gain in the meantime.

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