Red Sox

Mookie Betts removed from Red Sox season ticket web page

Mookie Betts removed from Red Sox season ticket web page

Are the Red Sox sending a not-so-subtle hint about Mookie Betts' future in Boston to prospective season ticket holders?

When you visit the portion of the team website seeking new season-ticket buyers, the illustration on the web page shows Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Chris Sale.

Barstool Sports' Jared Carrabis pointed out earlier this week that Betts had been removed from the illustration. The Red Sox All-Star right fielder and 2018 AL MVP, the subject of much trade speculation as the team prepares to shed payroll this offseason, actually appeared on the page in mid-August. By last week, Eduardo Rodriguez had replaced him. The current graphic has Sale on the left.  

Just like the others pictured on the page, Betts isn't a free agent...yet. Bogaerts and Sale have signed long-term extensions and the Sox are reportedly ready to talk about an extension with Devers. Betts? He'll likely receive more than $30 million for the 2020 season in arbitration then command a long-term deal of $300 million or more when he tests the free-agent market after next season.

That kind of financial commitment due the soon-to-be-27-year-old (happy birthday on Monday, Mookie) - and Red Sox ownership's admission that their goal is to get under the $208 million luxury-tax threshold - has led many to believe that Betts will be traded this winter.

A report even emerged this week of what the Red Sox would be seeking in a Betts trade. 

Red Sox team chairman Tom Werner said last week the team remains hopeful of keeping Betts. Still, with his teammates assuming he'll be gone before next season begins, the Sox appear to be reluctant to promote a player to season-ticket holders who'll be in another uniform.

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Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers get some MVP recognition in AL voting

Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers get some MVP recognition in AL voting

In a disappointing season for the Boston Red Sox, the productive years of Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers did warrant some MVP recognition.

Bogaerts finished fifth in the American League MVP voting (The Angels' Mike Trout was your winner for the third time in six years), Betts, who won the award a year ago, was eighth and Devers 12th in the voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Bogaerts hit .309 with 33 homers, 52 doubles and 117 RBI; Devers .311, 32 HR, 54 doubles and 115 RBI. They became the first teammates to ever reach the 30-homer/50-doubles mark in the same season. The numbers for Betts (.295, 30 HR, 80 RBI), the subject of trade rumors this offseason, were considered by many to be a down year for him.

The Dodgers' Cody Bellinger was voted National League MVP.

Justin Long, the Sox Senior Manager of Media Relations and Baseball Information, points out that having three players in the top 12 is the best showing for the Red Sox since 2011:    

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There's only one way Astros sign-stealing story blows back on Red Sox, and we're not there yet

There's only one way Astros sign-stealing story blows back on Red Sox, and we're not there yet

Let's say for the sake of argument that Alex Cora played the role of lead drummer when the 2017 Astros were stealing signs like a merry band of trash-can pounding subway buskers.

So what?

That's an institutional crime and Houston should pay the price, not a former bench coach. Think of it like Deflategate. The Patriots deserved their punishment, but taking Tom Brady within a whisker of the Supreme Court was overkill.

Here's where things get dicey. What if Cora imported some of Houston's less savory tactics to Boston, a team that has already been censured by MLB — under former manager John Farrell, to be fair — for using Apple watches to help steal signs in 2017?

Because Cora and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson were both members of that compromised Astros staff, and because the arms race to gain even a tiny edge can very easily blur the line between gamesmanship and fraud, the only way this story truly becomes relevant to the Red Sox is if an MLB investigation reveals that Boston has enacted some of Houston's worst practices over the last two seasons.

There's no evidence that the Red Sox have deployed technology with similar nefariousness, and the numbers under Cora don't reveal any wild home-road splits. Since 2013, for instance, the Red Sox have outperformed their road OPS at Fenway Park by anywhere from 3.34 percent (2014) to 17.65 percent (2015). Cora's two Red Sox clubs fall in the middle of that range — 9.66 percent in 2018 and 7.33 percent last year.

In conversations with multiple executives at this week's GM meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., one theme emerged consistently — the Astros don't consider their actions cheating, because they believe they live in a world where Everybody is Doing It, and if they happen to be better at finding those edges at the margins, that's not their problem. Don't hate 'em 'cuz you ain't 'em, so to speak.

This issue has burst into the public eye because The Athletic has broken a series of stories about the Astros stealing signs. Former Astros reporter Evan Drellich and national writer Ken Rosenthal first reported that the Astros stole signs in 2017 by positioning a center field camera on the opposing catcher, connecting it to a monitor outside the dugout, and banging on a trash can in real time to warn the hitter when a breaking ball was coming.

The Athletic followed up on Wednesday night with a report that Cora and Mets manager Carlos Beltran — Houston's DH in 2017 — will also be summoned as part of MLB's investigation. ESPN added that the league has already spoken to Bjornson, who served as Houston's bullpen coach in 2017.

While the involvement of Cora and Bjornson makes this tangentially a Red Sox story, for the time being it's just an Astros story. That will change if MLB determines the ex-Astros didn't want to fall behind their former team in the information race after they arrived in Boston, but so far there's no indication that they're under suspicion.

Making all of this murkier is Cora's well-earned reputation for sign stealing and pitch tipping. He was considered one of the best in the game at these very particular skills as a player, and he hasn't lost his touch as a manager. Of course, there's a big difference between noting glove placement on a fastball and cracking opposing signals on a high def monitor over the toilet next to the dugout.

So let the Astros take the heat on this one, at least for now. If something changes, we can reconvene.

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