Red Sox

Standing Room Only: A true Classic

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Standing Room Only: A true Classic

We try to keep the spotlight on Boston in this space, but every once in a while you cant help but burst through the local bubble.

For instance, last night, while the Pats were packing for Pittsburgh, the Bruins were rolling over at the Garden, the Celtics eyes were on New York and the Sox were kicking back a cold one, the Cardinals and Rangers were playing one of the ugliest baseball games Ive ever seen.

Im serious. It was awful, and not just for a potential World Series clincher. This wouldnt have been acceptable for opening day of Spring Training. There were dropped pop-ups in the infield . . . flubbed fly balls in the outfield . . . two booted grounders . . . there were five errors through the first six innings! (And that doesnt count the comedy of errors spewing out of Tim McCarver). But thankfully, in the top of the seventh, with the score tied at four, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back homers to put the Cardinals (and the baseball world) out of their misery. Or so we thought . . .

Instead, right around 12, as night turned to morning and the Pats (dreaming of Terrible Towels), the Bruins (with Montreal nightmares), the NBA (starring David Stern in a night cap and footie pajamas) and the Sox (passed out in front of an empty box of DiGiornos) were all deep in sleep, the Rangers and Cardinals combined for what will go down as one of the most exciting and historic baseball games Ive ever seen. The most uplifting, heart-wrenching, unbelievable back-and-forth battle since . . . honestly, I dont know. From a personal standpoint, Id have to say Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS or (gulp) Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, but all bias aside neither could match this stage.

If you saw it, you know exactly what Im talking about. If not, Im sorry, but theres no way I can do it justice. There were so many different heroes, so many different goats. You felt for so many people Matt Holiday, Nelson Cruz, Nolan Ryan, Neftali Feliz, Scott Feldman, Josh Hamilton, Lance Berkman, David Freese, Ron Washington, Tony Larussa, Alexi Ogando, Mark Lowe, Mike Napoli, Joe Buck on so many levels.

The Cardinals were trailing by two runs and down to their last strike on TWO different occasions. Crazy, right? Well, how about the fact that the Rangers were one strike away from WINNING a World Series on two different occasions?

Its funny, because when you have a dog in the fight, you only deal with one side of those emotions, but as an innocent and unbiased spectator, you burn the candle at both ends. Every moments bittersweet, every big play's a simultaneous high five and gut punch. When David Freese, the same guy who hit the game-tying triple in the ninth, the same guy who GREW UP in St. Louis cheering for the Cardinals, hit a walk-off 11th inning homer to send his hometown team to the seventh game of the World Series, I stood up and cheered, yet at the same time, part of me died. The Rangers, man. One pitch away . . . twice! It was an absolute trip. Probably the purest, yet most emotionally-confusing sports viewing experiences Ive had in years.

And as Freese crossed home plate, while a large part of me was relieved to finally get to bed, another part was bummed that the game couldn't go on forever. It was history. We were living baseball history. And I didn't want it to end.

Although in many ways, it didnt. In reality, I guess Freeses homer marked more of an intermission. The real ending plays out tonight, and Boston team or not, Ill be along for the ride.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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

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.