Red Sox

McAdam: Monday's win doesn't hide Sox warts


McAdam: Monday's win doesn't hide Sox warts

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
The recent freefall by the Red Sox has, understandably, consumed fans for the last few weeks.

What was once a safe and secure lead for the American League wild card spot is now very much in play and the team's poor performance over the weekend against Tampa Bay only inflamed tensions.

The team's doubleheader split with Baltimore took a day off the calendar, kept the lead at two games and knocked a game off the Magic Number -- it now stands at eight.

The Sox are in clear survival mode. They don't care how they win or how they get there. The object is to hold off the Rays and win one more game than their closest pursuers.

Style points aren't of much consequence now. Moreover, the Red Sox can convince themselves that shouldonce they reach the playoffs, they can hit the re-set button and start fresh.

But the Monday night win, needed as it might have been, obscured two salient facts as the Red Sox stumble toward the finish line.

1) The Sox have won three games on their current homestand and two of those have taken place when they've scored 18 runs.

Again, a team desperate for wins isn't about to refuse any because they don't fit the mold. This isn't about aesthetics; it's survival, pure and simple.

But it should be more than a little troubling that the Sox are being forced to out-hit their pitchers' mistakes.

John Lackey spotted the Orioles a 3-0 lead Monday night and even after the Red Sox rallied to provide him with nine runs in the first three innings, Lackey couldn't pitch long enough (five full innings) to qualify for the win.

Should the Red Sox reach the post-season, they won't have the luxury of facing Brian Matusz, who's allowed at least five or more runs in seven straight starts.

Instead, they'll be matched against one of the three best teams in the American League, against starters with ERAs which begin with the number three or four, rather than, say, 10, as is the case with Matusz.

For the Sox, it was nice to see Jed Lowrie contribute a three-run homer and for Conor Jackson to get some playing time and chip in with a late-inning grand slam.

But if the Red Sox think they can win in October the way they've won twice in the last week, they're fooling themselves.

Which leads, indirectly, to another ongong issue...

2) The Sox still have no one capable of taking the ball for a Game 3 start in the Division Series.

Despite the Red Sox' win, Lackey's ERA actually increased to an unsightly 6.49.

He fooled nobody in the Baltimore lineup and allowed 13 baserunners in just 4 13 innings. After, in his post-game press conference, Lackey seemed nearly as lost as he did on that night in May in Toronto when he confessed: "Basically, everything in my life sucks right now.''

Lackey looked just as long on the podium as he did on the mound -- without the requisite eye-rolling and hand-raising that accompanies him in games. He confessed to be without answers for his poor performance, though, in true Lackey form, he managed to indignantly point out that he had pitched "pretty well'' in his previous start and that, at least once during the debacle against the Orioles, he had been the victim of a ball "dropping in.''

He still has the worst ERA of any qualifying starter in the American League. He still has a bloated WHIP of .163. And he still has a batting average allowed of .310.

Perhaps help will come Tuesday night in the form of Erik Bedard, who hasn't pitched in 13 days and who, because of the layoff, will be somewhat restricted in terms of pitches thrown.

Before he was sidelined by knee and lat issues, Bedard was at least keeping his team in games, a minimum requirement for a post-season starter, so perhaps Bedard could still claim that No. 3 spot with a good showing Tuesday followed by another on the team's final road trip.

The uncertainty that surround the rotation, however, is a reminder that the team's problems are far from solved and that things have to improve -- and fast -- for their post-season qualification to mean anything.

Just because the math is slightly better this Tuesday morning that it was 24 hours earlier doesn't mean the Red Sox' problems have gone away.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall


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


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.