Red Sox

Sox owners make surprise visit, blame media

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Sox owners make surprise visit, blame media

BALTIMORE Just so theres no misunderstanding that it was a super-secret squirrel organizational assessment meeting to discuss anybodys job security, the Red Sox ownership group was very public in their surprise appearance at Camden Yards on Thursday night.

This was no cloak-and-dagger meeting that all participants needed to swear a Secret Skull Society oath not to discuss afterward. Because its the snitches, the leaks, the whistle blowers and the menacing media that are to blame for everything that ails the pitiful Red Stockings.

Larry Lucchino stood near the visiting dugout steps at Camden Yards and held court with reporters for 10 minutes in a State of the Soggy Sox Address. The Sox CEO managed to both spring up some eternal hope for his flailing, nowhere ballclub while also chastising the jaded, cynical media for being too mean to his players as they embarrass themselves nightly with conduct unbecoming a ballplayer.

The cynical and jaded media do not necessarily capture the voice of the fan base, said Lucchino in a thought that could be described as both admirably earnest and thoroughly out-of-touch.

While the Red Sox ownership group would much rather take people on a chaperoned stroll around Fenway to gaze at the historical plaques and offer up Fenway bricks at a reduced price, they also now hope that the local media will take a baseball laughingstock out for Little League sundaes after the games.

Tom Werner, John Henry and Lucchino are looking for the good job, good effort treatment from the Boston media and Sox beat reporters as they sink lower into the abyss.

Thats simply not how it works when things are working correctly in the checks and balances system.

At least not from anybody thats actually watching the wretched, uninspired games.

Apparently holding the second-highest payroll in Major League Baseball and sitting 13 12 games back in the AL East is something worthy of praise or admiration. Things would be much better after a few puff pieces about how great a player is to hang out with, or because he always picks up the tab.

Because thats the point of sports, right?

The kid gloves treatment from those around the Sox has been as big a factor in their slow decline from a World Series contender as age, injuries, complacency, arrogance or anything else surrounding this Band of Blowhards.

Bobby Valentine passed off a notion in an interview with WEEI this week that the tough media scrutiny in Boston could dissuade some attractive free agents from coming to play with the Red Sox in the future. It certainly didnt hinder big-time free agents such as Manny Ramirez, Carl Crawford and J.D. Drew from signing with the Sox over the years, and the Sox will always have the money to make up for it.

Lucchino also disputed that notion while testifying to the media.

"I don't think that's a long-term danger," said Lucchino. "I do think there's probably a little bit of a reservation on the part of some players perhaps with respect to the grueling media coverage. You've just got to make sure you pick the right people and personalities to come here to be able to withstand that."

"Every franchise, every brand goes through rough times. No one is immune to the hills and valleys. We've had a long run of success. We've created very high expectations for the franchise. Sometimes those high expectations are not met, and the result is a reduction, a hit to the brand and to the team and to the fan base. If it's broke, we'll fix it."

The bigger danger to the Sox is exactly what Lucchino referenced in the last two sentences. As the dysfunction and ugly flaws of the Boston baseball organization ones that were so well hidden and extinguished by Theo Epstein and Terry Francona in the golden years of World Series titles come floating to the surface one day at a time, players are going to pass on the Sox.

Why choose an employer that seems to really need to get its house in order, and has become a punchline around the baseball world?

Thats not jaded or cynical. Thats just reality.

What isnt reality, you might ask? That would be realistically thinking that this bunch of unlovable misfits has even a punchers chance at the Wild Card spot or the playoffs. But Lucchino was doing his best Lloyd Christmas impersonation from Dumb and Dumber on the Camden Yards field prior to the game Thursday.

He was sayin theres a chance for his Olde Towne Team.

"There are still 44 games left, so technically we are still alive," said Lucchino. "I said to someone recently that you can go to St. Louis and Tampa to get a sense of what can happen after this point of the season. I know it's a bit of a long shot, but it's still interesting baseball."

Perhaps the Sox ownership group should worry less about what theyre saying in St. Louis and Tampa, and worry much more about what theyre saying in Boston. Its something along the lines of were paying some of the highest prices in Major League Baseball, and not getting their moneys worth.

The Sox fan base wants sweeping change at all levels of the organization, they want the chicken and beer crew gone for once and for all this winter and they want a baseball team that they can root for once again like they did in 2004 and 2007.

Because this current group of Sox is largely detestable with a few exceptions and worsening by the day.

The voice of the fan base is furious, and theyre using language thats far too colorful for any member of the jaded, cynical media to get away with these days.

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