Red Sox

Best of the Decade: Red Sox All-Interview Team

Best of the Decade: Red Sox All-Interview Team

Since we're Top Ten-ing everything else related to the decade, allow me one small measure of self-indulgence -- my All-Interview Team.

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Not everyone on this list was/is a great quote, per se, but they're guys I liked talking to for various reasons, and who doesn't enjoy the occasional peek behind the curtain? Also, No. 1 on my list is 1,000 percent real, I swear.

1. J.D. Drew

I know what you're thinking, but I'm telling you, no player had a better handle on baseball's relative insignificance. Drew played because it made him rich (he's notoriously cheap) and he was really good at it, but he never wanted it to define him. A folksy conversationalist, he was also sneaky funny, like the time he hopped up the dugout steps to boos during BP in Philly, proclaimed, "This is MY house," and then went 4-for-5 with a three-run homer.

2. David Ortiz

Big Papi will end up topping a lot of best-of lists in the next couple of weeks, and for good reason. But beyond providing countless moments of drama, he was a hell of a colorful interview, speaking unfiltered and from the heart, even when it might've behooved him to go the diplomatic route. He'd get ripped for bitching about his contract or a lost RBI, but what reporter would complain about that? He made great copy, and when he held court, his blue streak would make Lenny Bruce blush.

3. Jonny Gomes

Critics ripped him for being a self-promoter, and while I wouldn't totally absolve him of that charge, his impact on the 2013 clubhouse was real. The most impressive part of talking to Gomes was just how closely he paid attention to the rest of baseball. Some guys can't tell you what's happening outside their clubhouse door, but Gomes knew everything about everyone in the AL and NL, and he'd talk baseball with anybody.

4. Xander Bogaerts

For someone who won his first World Series just a couple of weeks after turning 21 and recently signed a nine-figure contract, Bogaerts has remained remarkably humble and grounded. He spent his early seasons in the background, ceding state-of-the-team responsibilities to veterans Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. But now that he's entering his eighth (!?!) season, he recognizes the need to be a spokesman, especially when things are going poorly, and he's as accountable as they get.

5. Daniel Bard

When Bard's career went south in 2012 following a failed move to the rotation, no one was secretly more disappointed than the beat writers. Bard was always a thoughtful quote, with a keen intelligence befitting his lineage -- his grandfather coached at MIT for years -- and a willingness to offer insight. Some believe that intelligence worked against him, causing him to overanalyze his mental woes, and we'll never know how his career would've turned out if he had remained in the bullpen.

6. Carl Crawford

While there's no question Crawford disappointed on the field, it wasn't for lack of effort, and those of us who were around him every day could see the toll all that failure took on him personally. Extremely popular among teammates -- most of whom he greeted with, "Wassup, big man?" -- Crawford was honest to a fault with the media, even when the questions were relentlessly negative. He may not have been worth $142 million, but he was no villain.

7. Clay Buchholz

A truth about reporters: sometimes we only reluctantly ask the toughest questions, because we know our subjects will get their backs up and then we have to steel for a fight. Then there's Buchholz. You could ask him the most pointed question about why he was terrible and everyone hated him, and he'd answer without rancor because it's just how he's wired. He just shrugged and took nothing personally, which is a gift.

8. Jackie Bradley Jr.

After the birth of his first child, Bradley was leaving Fenway Park when a couple of reporters held the door for him and wished him a Happy Father's Day. Bradley turned around, confirmed they had kids as well, and said, "then Happy Father's Day to you, too." In an industry where narcissism is practically required, Bradley manages to treat people with respect instead of contempt.

9. Burke Badenhop

Here's to the nerds! Badenhop was unapologetically wonky and one of the first players to embrace advanced analytics in pursuit of self-improvement. A business major at Bowling Green, he had landed a coveted job at pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in 2005 before baseball came calling. The son of an English professor and contributor to a book on finance for young college grads, he considered writing for "Saturday Night Live" his dream job.

10. Kevin Youkilis

Youkilis could be confrontational. He constantly railed against negativity. He once yelled at me for calling him the Greek God of Walks, because, "you know I hate that name." Despite all that, I enjoyed interacting with him, because deep down, he was still just the kid from Cincinnati rooting on the Bengals from the nosebleeds, and even after he signed a $40 million contract, that everyman regular guy remained a part of him.



Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

The lawsuit against Major League Baseball filed by daily fantasy game players, who claimed to be defrauded by the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, has been dismissed, but not without harsh criticism of the teams by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in his ruling blasted the Red Sox and Astros for "shamelessly" breaking both baseball's rules and "the hearts of all true baseball fans."

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In throwing out the suit brought by five daily fantasy players, Rakoff invoked the New England Patriots "Spygate" scandal from 2007, agreeing with MLB lawyers' contention that rulings in similar suits brought by fans against the NFL after the Patriots were caught illegally taping opponents' defensive signals had set a legal precedent for this suit to be dismissed. 

While the suit charged that the Red Sox and Astros had engaged in consumer fraud that created "corrupt" and "dishonest" fantasy contest for companies such as Draft Kings, Rakoff agreed with previous decisions in the NFL cases that ruled fans should know teams will look for any advantage - even "foul deeds" - to try and win.

From Rakoff's ruling: 

[D]id the initial efforts of those teams, and supposedly of Major League Baseball itself, to conceal these foul deeds from the simple sports bettors who wagered on fantasy baseball create a cognizable legal claim? On the allegations here made, the answer is no.

The Astros' sign-stealing scheme led MLB to fine the team $5 million and the one-year suspensions and subsequent firings of manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The Red Sox then parted ways with manager Alex Cora, who, according to MLB's findings, was the mastermind of the scheme as Houston's bench coach in 2017. 

That team won the World Series, as did the 2018 Red Sox, who are accused of using a similar system to steal signs under Cora.

MLB has yet to release a report on the Red Sox allegations. Commissioner Rob Manfred said it has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but will be released before MLB begins its 2020 season. In comments last month in court an MLB lawyer seem to imply the Red Sox are aware of Manfred's findings and that they disagree with them.



Say hello to Arizona Red Sox? How MLB's Cactus League could save 2020 season

Say hello to Arizona Red Sox? How MLB's Cactus League could save 2020 season

Nothing says Red Sox home game like iguanas, scorpions, and cacti, but these are desperate times.

Barring millions of instant tests or a miracle cure, COVID-19 will just be a fact of our pent-up, penned-in lives for the foreseeable future.

This makes embarking on the baseball season problematic, since one infection would theoretically sideline an entire team for two weeks, and good luck staying virus-free while flying all over the country. Visiting hot spots would not only increase a player's risk of illness, it would also up the odds of one becoming a vector himself, which is bad for the brand, not to mention public health.

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But what if baseball could maintain some control over its players' whereabouts while limiting travel to a fleet of buses? Could a season happen under these tightly managed circumstances? And if so, where?

It may be a long shot, but the more one considers the alternatives, the more it sounds like the best hope we've got is for MLB to hold its entire season in Arizona.

The logistics are nightmarish regardless, but in a situation this unprecedented, the fewer variables the better. And MLB won't find a higher concentration of acceptable facilities than in the 48th state.

The Cactus League features 10 ballparks that host 15 teams in two months of spring training. Unlike the far-flung Grapefruit League, with teams scattered across Florida's east and west coasts, the Arizona sites are compact.

Tomase: Hindsight 2020 - remember when the Red Sox built around the wrong All-Star?

Parks stretch from Mesa in the southeast to Surprise in the northwest, a drive of only 45 minutes. Everything else lies in between, a constellation of moons tightly orbiting Phoenix.

Decamping to the desert for the duration would eliminate air travel and give the league a chance to closely monitor its players. The challenge is Herculean: hosting roughly 800 players, plus at least that many coaches, staff, families, umpires, and broadcasters without anyone contracting the world's most contagious virus, against which we possess zero natural immunity.

Players would need to be quarantined in league-controlled hotels, tested constantly, and shuttled to and from the park. For such a plan to work, they'd have to sacrifice their most basic freedoms of movement, because a single failed test would grind the season to a halt while at least one team spends two weeks in isolation, potentially triggering a cascade of shutdowns, too (the mere possibility of which prompted the NBA to suspend its season, after all).

Convincing the union to sign off on such draconian restrictions won't be easy, but the alternative may very well be no baseball.

The games would be made-for-TV events without fans. If each ballpark hosted one or two games a day, a regular schedule could be played.

The challenges would be enormous. Do three teams share one clubhouse? Could ballpark and hotel staff be expected to live in isolation as well to avoid infection? How long could players live like prisoners? Will testing capacity ramp up enough to accommodate an entire league? Are the results even reliable? And how would teams keep their facilities germ-free if they're in use all day?

Politics matter, too. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey only belatedly ordered a stay-at-home order on Monday, and it has drawn criticism from the state's mayors as one of America's weakest, with exceptions for "essential" services like golf courses, nail salons, and hotels. If Arizona experiences an outbreak, then this little thought experiment dies on the vine. The same goes for extending the order past its current April 30 expiration and into the summer.

But we're here to ponder best-case scenarios, not fill your heads with more unrelenting negativity. And though the task would be monumental, if there's to be a baseball season, our best bet might be to play it in the desert.