Red Sox

McAdam: Red Sox ugly finish similar to 2001 mess


McAdam: Red Sox ugly finish similar to 2001 mess

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
Since the Red Sox' September faceplant became official Wednesday night in Baltimore, it's been fashionable to compare this year's epic collapse to 1974 or 1978, two other seasons in which the Sox coughed up late-season leads and finshed short of qualifying for the postseason.

In 1974, the Sox were in first place by a game on Sept. 1, but tumbled in the standings, finishing in third, seven games back.

The 1978 collapse, of course, was more notorious, as the Sox went from 13 12 games ahead of the Yankees to a one-game playoff game, which they lost.

But the more you think about what happened this season -- and the more sordid details that emerge -- the 2011 season much more resembles another nightmarish season: 2001.

The Sox were thoroughly mediocre in 2001, finishing 83-79, 13 12 games in back of the New York Yankees, who were on their way to a fourth straight American League pennant.

But like the Red Sox of 2011, the 2001 Red Sox soiled themselves with their attitude and behavior.

Players openly mocked interim manager Joe Kerrigan, a former pitcher and pitching coach, who gave edicts to not swing at the first pitch of any at-bat and promised consistent lineups only to change them nightly.

Shortly after 911, at a closed workout at Fenway, Pedro Martinez angrily tore off his uniform and defied Kerrigan.

On a flight to Tampa later that month, when Kerrigan tried to quell a fight brewing between Ramirez and some teammates, Ramirez brusquely dismmised his manager's peace-keeping efforts, telling Kerrigan: "Joe, shut up and sit down.''

Ramirez's humiliation of Kerrigan wasn't complete until weeks later in the offseason when Kerrigan began to visit players across the country and Ramirez refused to allow him entrance onto his property in South Florida.

The season was disappointing enough that manager Jimy Williams was fired in August despite the team's standing among the leaders for the wild card at the time.

But what really resonated was the team's indifferent play, its open defiance of its manager and embarrassing way it responded in the final month.

In other words, much like this September.

(That, in itself, should put this year's debacle into proper context: not since Joe Kerrigan has a Red Sox manager been as disrespected as Francona was this year.)

At the conclusion of the 2001 season, the Red Sox were a laughingstock. They had missed the playoffs for two straight years, fired a successful manager and were saddled with troublesome personalities.

Sound familiar?

The difference was, back in 2001, help was on the way. The team was in the process of being sold to a new ownership group which promised to be responsive to the fans and restore order and pride to the franchise.

Within months, general manager Dan Duquette, whose mostly shrewd personnel moves were nearly cancelled out by his tin ear and poor interpersonal skills, was fired, as was Kerrigan.

The cavalry had arrived.

Now, exactly 10 years later, the cavalry is in place, and frankly, it's part of the current problem.

Reaction to the departure of manager Terry Francona has been overwhelmingly negative. Worse, fans object not only to the move itself but the incredibly clumsy way in which it was executed.

While Francona left with candor and grace, management -- especially CEO Larry Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner -- came off as calculating and disengenuous.

Francona's sole parting swipe, in which he questioned whether he had the support of ownership, has already left its mark. When the dueling press conferences had concluded Friday, Francona, without really trying, had seized the high moral ground.

General manager Theo Epstein, who was honest enough to take at least some of the blame for the season's crash-and-burn, insisted that the Sox didn't need any significant overhaul -- just the right choice as manager and some roster fine-tuning.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2011 debacle, that seems hopelessly naive. Beyond the obvious holes (starting rotation, bullpen, right field), there are now questions about the team's overall direction.

The managerial job is still an attractive one, thanks to the resources available and the team's high profile, but it comes with strings attached, too: huge expectations, constant scrutiny and regular meddling from upstairs.

The two World Series titles can't be taken away, of course, and the way in which the franchise is viewed has been changed, mostly for the better.

But in some ways, the Red Sox have suddenly and unexpectedly gone backwards, all the way back to where they were when the these same owners arrived and there was only one direction in which to go.

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.