Red Sox

How two words from Alex Cora helped Michael Chavis end homer-less streak, Adrian Beltre-style

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USA TODAY Sports

How two words from Alex Cora helped Michael Chavis end homer-less streak, Adrian Beltre-style

BOSTON -- Michael Chavis's first home run in over three weeks looked like a tribute to a Hall of Fame-bound slugger who spent one season in Boston and eight in Texas, but as Chavis explained, falling to one knee like Adrian Beltre actually showed he's rediscovering his swing.

Chavis's solo homer to left in the fourth inning of Thursday's come-from-behind 7-6 victory over the Rangers ended a homerless drought at 20 games and 79 plate appearances. His 11th long ball of the season came on a slider from Adrian Sampson that Chavis corkscrewed 352 feet to left at a towering 43 degree launch angle.

He swung so hard, he ended up genuflecting as the ball left his bat.

"That's something that honestly was a good sign," Chavis said. "Whenever I finish on a knee on an off-speed pitch or a pitch that's down, that tells me I'm using my legs better, that I'm using them correctly and staying behind the ball and not trying to go out and get it, so that was honestly a real good sign. I think I even did it on a pitch later in the game as well. Beyond the result, me doing that in that at-bat and getting my swing off, that was a huge sign for me."

The previous three weeks have not been kind. Since hitting a game-winning home run in the 13th inning at Toronto on May 22, Chavis had batted just .197 with five RBIs in 20 games, striking out 35 times and walking only six.

With teams attacking the top of the strike zone at high velocity and then inducing him to chase sliders off the plate, Chavis faced the first extended struggle of his very young career. But manager Alex Cora brought him back with a piece of simple advice.

"It hasn't been very fun, if I'm being honest," Chavis said. "One of the things that helped me get past it -- it's one game where I'm feeling better, so I'm not saying I'm completely back or anything -- but AC actually just reminded me, 'Have fun.' I took a step back like, 'I haven't had fun in a while, if we're being honest.' It weirdly just put me in a better place mentally, helped me relax."

And so when Chavis connected in the fourth inning, he could breathe a sigh of relief. It made sense that he left the park just as he learned to stop swinging for the fences.

"It definitely did feel good to finally connect for a home run, but what's funny about that is the biggest thing I've been working on is trying not to do that," he said "I've been getting so big and trying to do much and the whole mental aspect of it was out of control, so I've just been trying to stay as simplified and controlled as possible. That was not at all what I was actually trying to do, but obviously the way my swing works, I connected well, and so it went."

Chavis has found other ways to contribute during his slump, particularly defensively, where he has exhibited excellent range at first base and made multiple diving stops.

"That's one of the things I've thought this whole process," he said. "I was like, 'If I ain't going to hit, I might as well try to save a run here or there.' That was something keeping me grounded."

Cora's advice didn't hurt, either. Maybe there will even be some more Adrian Beltre in his future.

"I had fun tonight, and I'm just going to keep it going," Chavis said. "I feel like it has put me in a better place mentally. A lot of the stuff that was going on was all mental, trying to do too much, trying to create results and chasing numbers, instead of just having fun. I think I'm in a better spot now."

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Lou Merloni destroys MLB, players for bickering over 2020 return plan

Lou Merloni destroys MLB, players for bickering over 2020 return plan

As the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLS prepare to resume play in the near future, Major League Baseball still can't get out of its own way.

MLB reportedly rejected the Players Association's proposal Wednesday for a 114-game season in 2020 and apparently doesn't plan to make a counter-offer.

The league and the players have refused to budge on the issues dividing them: Players don't want to take an additional pay cut after agreeing to prorated salaries in March, while the owners are wary of extending the season too long due to the coronavirus pandemic and want players to agree to further reduced salaries to mitigate lost revenue.

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That stalemate has cost MLB valuable time, however, as the league doesn't appear close to beginning its 2020 regular season as the calendar turns to June.

So, who's to blame here? Lou Merloni believes it's everyone involved.

The former Boston Red Sox infielder ripped into both the league and the union Wednesday night during an appearance on NBC Sports Boston.

"Both sides suck, OK? That's the bottom line," Merloni said. "The Players Association comes back and says, 'Not 82 (games), we want 114' when they know that's the non-starter. The owners don't want to sit there and play until November. They're worried about the pandemic; they've got to get the playoffs in. And then the owners come back and say we're not even going to counter?

"Jesus, we're like a month into this thing. Can you string this thing out (any longer)? How about go in one room together and try to figure this out in a day or two?"

Compounding MLB's issue is that the NBA is expected to announce a return-to-play plan Thursday that would resume the 2019-20 season in late July. The MLS and NHL also have made headwinds toward resuming their seasons this summer -- which means baseball is wasting a much-needed opportunity to showcase itself as the only active pro sports league.

"I mean, you're running out of time and you're only screwing yourself. Even if baseball does come back, people have already said, 'I've had enough of you.' It's been like a month, a year, and you guys talk and bitch about this thing publicly. I don't give a crap anymore. I've got hockey, basketball, football is around the corner, hell, soccer is around the corner. I'm good.

"They don't even realize it! It's like they're in this bubble and they don't even realize what's going on around them right now. Figure this thing out: 70 games, 65, prorated (salaries), start playing some baseball, because your ass better be first coming back. If not, people are going to be done."

There's reportedly some optimism that the players and the union will resolve their differences and put a return plan in place. But with nearly one-third of the season already lost, the clock is ticking.

Check out Merloni's full comments in the video player above.

Who are the best designated hitters in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Who are the best designated hitters in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

There's only one choice for best designated hitter in Red Sox history, but just in case there's any doubt, we'll quote broadcaster Dave O'Brien with the signature call from his WEEI days: "DAVID ORTIZ! DAVID ORTIZ! DAVID ORTIZ!"

No sense in even pretending there's any suspense on this one.

What's fascinating about ranking the Red Sox DHs, however, is just how few of them have actually held down the position for any length of time over the years.

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Only nine players have made at least 200 appearances there with the Red Sox since the DH was introduced in 1973, and four of them — Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, and Manny Ramirez — have already appeared elsewhere in our outfield rankings.

That leaves five men to fill out the list, and about the only difficult omission is slugger Jose Canseco, who made 184 appearances between 1995 and 1996.

Click here for the Top 5 DHs in Red Sox history.