Red Sox

Sox players back their embattled manager

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Sox players back their embattled manager

BOSTON The Red Sox players were understandably upbeat when learning about the vote of confidence emails and words submitted by Sox principal owner John Henry and GM Ben Cherington on behalf of embattled manager Bobby Valentine.

The Sox are a decidedly mediocre 55-55 on the season after pasting the Texas Rangers by a 9-2 score at Fenway Park on Monday night, but Sox management and ownership backed Valentine before the first pitch was thrown.

The Sox skipper was a bit sheepish it had come to that point, but such is life when youre managing an underachieving ballclub with a 175 million payroll.

I regret that they had to do it. If our record was better then they wouldnt have to do it, said Valentine. Its totally appreciated, though, if they felt it was necessary and think it was good for the guys.

Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has caught fire since the All-Star break, but he was among many underachievers during the first half of the year.

So Gonzalez understands as well as anyone that the teams plight is on the players no matter what happens to their manager.

He deserves it. Its one of those things where he hasnt swung the bat all year. He hasnt pitched, said Gonzalez. Its us that are playing out there. The .500 record that we have right now is on us. Its not on Bobby. Everybody wants to make a big deal about that, but its not on Bobby. Its on us.

Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia took it one step further, and said that the players should collectively worry about the results on the field rather than anything else. Theyre nine games behind the Yankees in the AL East and four games behind the As and the Tigers in the wild card chase.

The Sox need to worry more about wins and less about the soap opera playing out along Yawkey Way with Valentine in the title role of Dudley Do-Wrong.

We need to focus on winning, you know? said Saltalamacchia. Thats the stuff that really isnt needed around here. We dont need that. We just need to go out there and play ball.

If we go out there and win then theres something to talk about. What were going to talk about is winning, and thats what were going to continue to talk about. Thats our focus.

More results will go a long way toward quelling the fire the manager talk, but the Sox have been unable to stabilize things over the first five months of the season, so its difficult to envision whats different about this same group of players now under the same embattled manager.

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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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.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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