Red Sox

McAdam: Sandoval incident reveals dysfunction aplenty


McAdam: Sandoval incident reveals dysfunction aplenty

Until, say, two weeks ago, the Red Sox were just another underperforming, overpaid team.

Then came a string of additional losses, some distinct lack of hustle on the field, a team meeting which had no positive effect and, finally, the Pablo Sandoval Fiasco.

Now the Red Sox aren't just underachieving - they're also hugely unlikable.

Now they're a punch-line, an honest-to-goodness laughing stock, inviting ridicule and scorn.

Sandoval's silly and ill-advised flirtation with social media in the middle of a game pulls back the curtain on the 2015 Red Sox and reveals dysfunction aplenty.

Not everyone is guilty, of course, but everyone is guilty by association. Sandoval by have been the instigator, but in the eyes of many, he's merely a symptom of a team wildly out of control.

That may not be fair to the likes of Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts and Koji Uehara, who have carried themselves as professionals both on and off the field.

But selfish acts like the one pulled by Sandoval cut through nuance and stains everyone in its path.

Less than 20 months ago, the 2013 champion Red Sox were the darlings of the city, not just for their improbable ride to the World Series, but also the way they came to represent a city and a region rebounding from the horrors of the Boston Marathon bombings.

The Sox and the city were one, bound by tragedy, recovering in unison, celebrating in tandem.

Now? Now, the team is being compared to the 2011-2012 edition, teams marked by selfishness and division. The 2011 edition not only fumbled away a playoff spot in the final month, but did so in almost indifferent fashion - as the "chicken and beer" episode demonstrated all too well.

The less said about the 2012 season, the better. Red Sox ownership brought in an incompetent manager, then seemed caught unaware when the team performed in his likeness, complete with player rebellions and failed coup attempts.

When the ugliness of 2011 revealed itself, it led to Terry Francona's dismissal after an otherwise stellar run that featured two titles and another appearance in the ALCS. Francona walked away, took a year off from the dugout and returned to manage in Cleveland, his reputation restored.

The task ahead for John Farrell seems more difficult. Not only must he attempt to direct the team back to respectability - contention would seem like too much to ask - but he also must do so with a group that includes a handful who have spent the last few weeks proving that they're not all that interested in respect.

Farrell himself shouldn't escape all of the blame, and though he wasn't part of the 2011 nightmare, having escaped to Toronto the previous year, he's unwittingly repeated Francona's mistake: assuming that his players care enough to behave like professionals without being babysat.

Worse, he'll have to perform this salvage job with Sandoval on the roster. With 4 1/2 seasons remaining and more than $80 million due him, Sandoval isn't going anywhere.

And neither, of course, are the Red Sox.

Red Sox flight to Houston diverted due to mechanical issues, per report

Red Sox flight to Houston diverted due to mechanical issues, per report

The Boston Red Sox played at 12:37 p.m. ET on Thursday to get a head start on their weekend trip to Houston.

But travel plans don't always cooperate.

The Red Sox's charter plane bound for Houston from Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Thursday night diverted course and made an unscheduled landing in Detroit.

The diversion was caused by a potential mechanical issue, according to WBZ-TV.

Delta Flight 8884 carrying the Red Sox departed Toronto at 6:18 p.m. ET, a few hours after Boston defeated the Blue Jays 8-2 in their series finale. But the plane deviated from its flight plan and landed at Detroit's Metropolitan Wayne County Airport about two hours later.

According to FlightAware, the Red Sox had a layover of several hours in Detroit and finally continued their trip at 10:47 p.m., arriving in Houston just after midnight local time (1 a.m. ET).

The Sox will spend the morning resting up before beginning a three-game set with the Astros on Friday night.

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Ryan Weber offers Red Sox a reminder that lighting up a radar gun isn't everything

USA TODAY Sports photo

Ryan Weber offers Red Sox a reminder that lighting up a radar gun isn't everything

The Washington Post's Dave Sheinin this week took a fascinating deep dive into baseball's toxic love affair with velocity, the force at the root of the game's decline as entertainment.

With more pitchers than ever throwing at least 95 mph, hitters are left with two choices: marry launch angle with exit velocity in the hopes of leaving the park, or find a new line of work. Pitchers roll off a similarly homogenous assembly line, with one 6-foot-4 reliever after another throwing gas. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.

Then there's Ryan Weber.

The 28-year-old baby-faced right-hander did not reach the big leagues on the strength of his arm so much as the dexterity of his fingers. He breaks 90 mph with his fastball about as often as most of us do on the highway.

He's a throwback to a time when baseball made room for pitchers who didn't max out the radar gun, and rotations craved variety: the flame-throwing right-hander, followed by the crafty lefty, followed by the innings-eater, followed by the forkball specialist, etc. . .

That would seemingly crowd out someone like Webber, who instead relies on the precise location of his sinker, changeup, and curveball. And it's not like opportunities have been plentiful for the former Brave, Mariner, and Ray. Since being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2009 draft by Atlanta, Weber has appeared in only 28 games.

He opened this season as Triple-A depth, and the Red Sox summoned him after injuries to Nathan Eovaldi and David Price thinned the rotation's ranks.

Following three solid relief outings, Weber received the call to start on Thursday against the Blue Jays, where his peculiar set of skills were on full display. Weber reached 90 mph exactly once in 93 pitches. He mostly lived at 86-88 mph with a ton of movement as he worked the corners, stayed out of the middle of the plate, and kept the ball down.

In an age where even accomplished sinkerballers like Rick Porcello feel no choice but to live up in the strike zone, Weber did things his way on Thursday with smashing success. One night after the Red Sox burned through six pitchers in a 13-inning marathon win over the Jays, Weber delivered six innings of one-run ball, limiting the Jays to three hits and striking out four in an 8-2 victory.

"It's different," manager Alex Cora told reporters in Toronto. "It's not that vertical attack, fastballs up, breaking balls down. It's more about pitching east-west and changing speeds. It's like a little bit of old school."

Weber earned his first victory as a starter after spending parts of the last four seasons with the Braves, Mariners, and Rays. If there's one common element to each pitch in his repertoire, it's that nothing is straight. Weber can generate movement to either side of the plate, and he does not let his lack of velocity keep him from throwing front-door two-seamers that start inside to left-handers hitters before zipping back over the corner.

"Just giving the team a chance to win and saving the bullpen was really my main goal," Weber told reporters. "And doing that, I'm excited and proud of what I did."

"Everything felt good," Weber added. "Arm felt great. First win as a starter feels nice."

With Eovaldi making progress in his return from elbow surgery and Price already back in the rotation, the Red Sox hope not to need a rotating fifth starter for much longer. If nothing else, Weber reminded the organization that there's more than one way to be successful, should the need arise again.

"Amazing," Cora said. "He did a good job changing speeds, moving the ball around the strike zone, changing eye level. He can pitch."

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