Red Sox

Forget David Price, Red Sox fans should focus on Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts

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Forget David Price, Red Sox fans should focus on Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts

BOSTON -- They are the twin pillars of hope in an otherwise upside-down Red Sox season, and on the day that David Price reminded us how his definition of "good teammate" might not jibe with yours or mine, let us salute Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.

The homegrown stars bring a missing vibe to the lineup on a nightly basis. When either steps into the box, you can feel the confidence pouring off them like steam. Bogaerts has never looked more comfortable, especially with runners on base, his at-bats a study in composure and patience. When he gets his pitch, he's no longer looking to dunk it to right field. He's trying to shatter a windshield, as his 21 homers and 74 RBIs attest.

Devers, meanwhile, doesn't even know how good he is, because he raises that ceiling with virtually every swing. Overnight he has become one of the toughest outs in baseball, a line drive machine who covers every inch of the plate — and a few beyond it — while barreling rockets to all corners of the park.

On Wednesday night, both played key roles in a bounce-back victory over the Blue Jays. Bogaerts set the tone by doubling on a grounder through the shortstop hole, his breathtaking acceleration around first shocking Blue Jays center fielder Teoscar Hernandez, along with everyone else in the park.

Devers, meanwhile, maintained his relentless assault on the American League leaderboards with an opposite-field homer that saw him blazing around first before it found the seats as part of a 3-for-5, four-RBI night. After not driving in a run for the first 12 games of the season or hitting a homer for the first 32, Devers suddenly finds himself hitting .326 with 18 homers and 70 RBIs.

In a season where nothing has come easily — including Wednesday's 5-4 victory — Devers and Bogaerts represent an oasis. If we could watch them alternate at-bats all season, baseball might not have to worry about losing the next generation of fans.

It was hard to miss the juxtaposition of their joyful play vs. the pregame scene of Price once again blasting broadcaster Dennis Eckersley over the latter's relatively benign quotes in a Boston Globe profile.

Price wondered why we were still talking about their 2017 confrontation on a team charter, and why Eckersley couldn't let it go. He also egregiously suggested that the Hall of Famer had no friends during his playing days, based on what sounded like the partial viewing of an MLB Network documentary. Price said the doc quoted no players except Eckersley; that was factually inaccurate. Former teammates from Bruce Hurst to Mark McGwire to Fred Lynn, among others, were featured.

Watching Price demand a chance to apologize, as if he had somehow become the victim — instead of the man he ambushed — was flat-out distasteful. It also made you wonder what he enjoys about playing in Boston to be carrying around that kind of seething resentment.

But we're not here to dwell on Price. This is about the opposite end of that spectrum inhabited by Bogaerts and Devers, two young players with bright futures who approach each game with an infectious delight. It's almost like they're the only two players who haven't received the memo that repeating as champions is a hopeless, joyless slog towards doom.

With the toughest portion of the schedule looming — 14 straight games against the Yankees and Rays — the Red Sox will need Bogaerts and Devers to be better than ever.

Something tells me they'll deliver. But will there be anyone with them?

Why Bogaerts is a legit MVP candidate>>>>>

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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.

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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.