Red Sox

McAdam at the ALCS: Rangers' aggressiveness evens it up

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McAdam at the ALCS: Rangers' aggressiveness evens it up

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- With the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sitting out this postseason, the Texas Rangers, who replaced them as American League West champions, are taking their place in another way.

Like the Angels, the Rangers are hyper-aggressive. And like the Angels, the Rangers are finding that carries with it some risk.

Sometimes it pays big dividends, as it did in Game Five of the ALDS against Tampa Bay. The Rangers managed to score the first two runs of that series-deciding game by sending baserunners from second base on infield groundouts.

So it was in the first inning Saturday when the Rangers evened the ALCS with a 7-2 stomping of the New York Yankees.

Shortstop Elvis Andrus reached on an infield single, took second on a wild pitch, swiped third and then, in tandem with Josh Hamilton (walk), executed a double-steal, giving the Rangers a quick 1-0 lead.

That sort of aggressiveness was critical for the home team, which had a crushing loss the night before. It made a statement that they wouldn't retreat from their trademark style, even after Ian Kinsler has been picked off first in the ninth inning Friday night, representing the potential tying run against Mariano Rivera.

There's a double-edge that comes with playing that gambling, occasionally reckless style. On occasion, it can backfire. The Angels discovered that in the 2008 ALDS against the Red Sox when a botched squeeze at Fenway ran them right out of the postseason.

But the Rangers made a conscious effort to continue playing the way they had all year, when they finished fifth in the league in steals and finished first in the American League in going from first-to-third.

"It's a big part of our game,'' said veteran infielder Michael Young. "We're going to find a way to push the envelope.''

They had won their division, beaten the A.L. team with the best record in the first round and led the defending world champs for seven innings Friday night.

They weren't going to change. In fact, they found it odd that anyone believed they might scale back their aggressiveness.

"That's the way we've played all year,'' said Andrus. "We know what we need to do on the bases. If you put extra pressure on the pitcher, extra pressure on the catcher and the defense, it can be hard (on them). That's what we're doing and it did a lot of good for us.''

Andrus was tipped by third-base coach Dave Anderson that Hamilton was looking to run. When the shortstop saw Jorge Posada throw down to second to nab Hamilton, he broke for the plate.

It was the only run of the inning, but it set the tone for the game. The Rangers would not back down, even after Kinsler was caught Friday night, even after a demoralizing, late-inning setback.

If a single play leading to a single run could make a statement, this was it.

"It's just a play that adds energy and gets us off on the right foot,'' said David Murphy, the former Red Sox outfielder who later contributed a solo homer and a run-scoring double.

"That's the kind of game we play,'' shrugged manager Ron Washington, who seemed surprised that anyone might be surprised the Rangers maintained their aggressiveness.

More than establishing their game, the double steal helped put the disappointment of Friday behind them. Even with the short turnaround time, the Rangers indicated they were not suffering from any short of day-after hangover.

"That's just the way we play,'' said Kinsler. "Honestly, no one said a word about being aggressive. We're all just aggressive. If we're going to make an error, or we're going to make a mistake, it's going to be on the aggressive side. We're not going to be timid. We're not going to be afraid.''

It helped that Texas later showed some thump, with six extra-base hits from the second through the fifth, leading to six more runs.

But the biggest run of all came in the first, when the Rangers ran like they were trying to leave Friday night behind, like they had someplace else to go.

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

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