Red Sox

Red Sox lose marathon 17-inning game to Twins, so pull up a chair, because there's a lot to dissect

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Red Sox lose marathon 17-inning game to Twins, so pull up a chair, because there's a lot to dissect

While you were sleeping, the Red Sox and Twins played one hell of a baseball game on Tuesday night.

You want a little bit of everything? We've got a little bit of everything.

Minnesota prevailed 4-3 in 17 innings after 5 hours and 45 minutes in the longest game in both innings and time in the nine-year history of Target Field in Minneapolis and the Red Sox' longest since their epic, 18-inning loss to the Dodgers in the World Series. This finish did not lack for controversy. Red Sox manager Alex Cora and right-hander Rick Porcello screamed at the umpiring crew over a foul bunt by Eddie Rosario in the final frame when it looked like he made contact while stepping out of the batter's box, though Cora later apologized.

The Twins walked it off on Max Kepler's single into the right-field corner. But between Miguel Pineda's first pitch at 8:10 p.m. and Brian Johnson's last just moments before 2 a.m., a week's worth of action occurred.

"There was a lot of stuff weird in this game," Cora told reporters, later adding, "we'll build from this. I know that for a fact."

Let's dive in!

  • So about that Rosario bunt. Cora and catcher Sandy Leon believed he had made contact after leaving the box, but replays showed that not to be the case, which Cora acknowledged in his postgame apology. It's easy to understand why the Red Sox wanted the out, because Rosario then doubled to right to put runners at second and third with one out. 

  • David Price lasted only five innings and 73 pitches, departing in a 1-1 tie. The Red Sox announced that his absence had nothing to do with anything physical, but it still makes you wonder. Price was obviously worlds better than his last start, when he recorded only four outs vs. the Rangers, but he lacked his best stuff, recording just two strikeouts. Cora told reporters that the plan had been to limit Price's innings from the start. 

  • It's hard to say which slugger had the rougher night -- J.D. Martinez or Miguel Sano. The Red Sox DH went 0 for 8 for the first time in his career and struck out five times, including in the 17th with no outs and the go-ahead run on first. The Twins third baseman went 0 for 7 with five punchouts of his own and stranded five baserunners.

  • The Red Sox stayed in the game with some outstanding defense. Catcher Christian Vazquez picked off Twins counterpart Mitch Garver at third base for the first out of the sixth, snuffing the first-and-third rally. Center fielder Jackie Bradley added to his legend with an absurd over-the-shoulder catch while leaping into the center field wall like Spiderman to rob Jorge Polanco of possibly three bases in the eighth. First baseman Michael Chavis snared a C.J. Cron line drive and doubled off Eddie Rosario following a leadoff double in the 15th. Xander Bogaerts made a tremendous throw from deep in the hole. Mookie Betts briefly stranded the eventual winning run at third with a perfect relay. The defense gave the Red Sox every opportunity to win.

  • The bats? Another story. The Red Sox went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and worked just two walks. They recorded 17 hits, but stranded 14 runners. Every regular except Betts and Chavis recorded at least two hits; unfortunately, almost none of them were timely.

  • The beleaguered bullpen delivered a no-name tour de force. The Red Sox used nine pitchers, including fifth starter Brian Johnson, who entered in the 17th when Hector Velazquez couldn't continue after a recurrence of the back injury that had disabled him since May 29. The Red Sox received scoreless outings from Mike Shawaryn, Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor, and Colten Brewer.

  • The box score will show four one-run innings with three strikeouts for Velazquez. The box score does not tell the story. The Twins hit rockets right at defenders. Per Baseball Savant, the expected batting average on five of his outs were .520, .430, .620, .480, .510. That might've had something to do with the fact that Velazquez started grabbing his back midway through the outing. He may end up back on the IL.

  • Defending MVP Mookie Betts delivered one of his first legitimately dramatic hits of the season, a solo homer in the 13th. Unfortunately, Kepler matched him with a solo blast of his own in the bottom of the frame.

  • Months after losing an 18-inning World Series marathon before rebounding to sweep the next two games and claim a championship, the Red Sox hope to be similarly inspired before Wednesday's finale. Cora praised the energy in the dugout and the fact that everyone was engaged.

 

The teams have about 18 hours to recover before first pitch in Wednesday's finale.

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Projecting the Red Sox' 2020 Opening Day roster

Projecting the Red Sox' 2020 Opening Day roster

The Boston Red Sox begin their offseason with a number of question marks. We could be looking at a familiar roster in 2020, but the hiring of Chaim Bloom as Chief Baseball Officer all but confirms significant changes are about to be made.

It's still too early to get a read on which way the wind is blowing for the impactful decisions Bloom will be faced with this winter, the most important of which will be the future of superstar right fielder Mookie Betts. But as we look forward to what's sure to be an eventful offseason, we can at least take a shot at what the 25-man roster could look like come Opening Day.

Here's a look at the potential roster before free agency gains some steam in the coming weeks:

Catcher: Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon OR free agent/trade

Vazquez is locked in as Boston's starting catcher after producing the best offensive season of his career and earning a Gold Glove award nomination. The real question is who will back him up.

Leon could be non-tendered if the Red Sox ultimately decide they want more offensive production behind Vazquez on the depth chart. If Leon isn't brought back for 2020, expect Boston to sign a cheap alternative in free agency.

First Base: Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, Sam Travis, free agent/trade

Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce both are unrestricted free agents with the latter pondering retirement. It's a possibility Boston re-signs Moreland on a reasonable one-year deal, but there are some interesting alternatives.

Chavis could see a lot of playing time at first depending on how the second base situation plays out. This also could be the year we see minor league slugger Dalbec get some big-league at-bats. We should expect to see Travis in the mix too following a 2019 season in which he appeared in 59 games.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic recently noted one player the Red Sox could pursue to replace Moreland and Pearce is free agent Justin Smoak, who spent the last five seasons with the Blue Jays.

Second Base: Michael Chavis, Dustin Pedroia, free agent/trade

It's safe to say we probably shouldn't enter 2020 with an optimistic outlook on Pedroia, but he's on this list as a formality.

Don't rule out Brock Holt returning in free agency. Though if he doesn't, we could be looking at another year of Chavis as the team's primary second baseman.

Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts

Barring some ridiculous trade this offseason, Bogaerts is locked in as the starting shortstop for 2020 and years to come.

Third Base: Rafael Devers

Devers ain't going anywhere.

Left Field: Andrew Benintendi

We'll see what happens with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, who we'll discuss momentarily, but for now it looks like Benintendi will again be the starting left fielder for the Red Sox as he looks to improve in 2020.

Center Field: Jackie Bradley Jr. OR free agent/trade

Here's where it starts to get interesting. Ken Rosenthal reported the Red Sox trading Bradley this offseason "seems all but certain." Bradley is set to make $11 million before he hits free agency in 2020.

For what it's worth, Rosenthal mentions Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick as a potential replacement if Bradley is moved. Of course, if Bradley isn't traded before Opening Day, he'll resume his role as the Sox' starting center fielder.

Right Field: Mookie Betts OR free agent/trade

To trade Mookie or to not trade Mookie? That is the most glaring question Bloom is faced with as he begins his Red Sox tenure.

Betts will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season if he and the Red Sox cannot come to terms on a contract extension. If Betts is adamant about testing the free-agent market, Boston could opt to move the 2018 American League MVP for a haul. That would have to be a last resort as obviously the Red Sox would prefer to keep the homegrown 27-year-old.

This will be the most compelling storyline of the offseason. For now, mark Betts down as the starting right fielder.

Designated Hitter: J.D. Martinez

Martinez decided to not opt out of his contract, so he'll be back as the Red Sox' stud DH next season unless they decide to trade him, which doesn't seem likely. The 32-year-old can block trades to three teams.

Starting Pitchers: Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, free agent/trade

The Red Sox are looking to shed payroll this offseason. One way of doing that would be to part ways with the expensive contracts of Price and/or Eovaldi. In fact, rumor has it Boston has already discussed such a deal with the Texas Rangers.

Sale, assuming he's healthy, is the clear-cut ace with Rodriguez looking to build off an impressive 2019 campaign. Rick Porcello is a free agent, so unless the Red Sox bring him back on a cheaper contract, they'll need to sign or trade for someone to replace him in the rotation.

Bullpen: Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez, Ryan Brasier, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden, Brian Johnson, Travis Lakins, Heath Hembree, free agent/trade

Workman likely earned the closer role after being one of the bright spots in an otherwise bleak 2019 season. Barnes and Brasier should resume their roles as the set-up men and "spot-closers." Left-handers Hernandez and Taylor were effective down the stretch and provide hope for a more stable bullpen in 2020. There's some uncertainty in the rest of this group, including Hembree, who could be non-tendered.

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Yankees cut Jacoby Ellsbury, proving that sometimes stars don't come back to haunt you

Yankees cut Jacoby Ellsbury, proving that sometimes stars don't come back to haunt you

The duck boats were still idling on the infield dirt when a handful of reporters covering the 2013 championship parade asked Jacoby Ellsbury if he had a minute to talk.

"When I come back out," Ellsbury said while descending the dugout steps.

Those would be his last words in a Red Sox uniform, because he never returned.

Six years later, Ellsbury's a fascinating study in how sometimes the best decision a franchise can make is to walk away. A month after celebrating Boston's third title in 10 seasons, Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $153 million contract with the Yankees. Despite being a homegrown star who had only just turned 30, Ellsbury's departure didn't inspire much rage amongst Red Sox fans.

That will certainly not be the case if Mookie Betts is traded this winter, and while it would be disingenuous to compare Ellsbury to Betts, it's nonetheless worth noting how frequently massive free agent deals end up biting the new team more than the old one. (Ask the Nationals if they miss Bryce Harper.)

The Red Sox made no effort to retain Ellsbury and fans were fine with it because they had him pegged. Those who considered him an injury-prone soldier-for-hire disinclined to play through pain watched his forgettable Yankees tenure confirm their instincts.

His career likely came to an end with a whimper on Wednesday night when the Yankees announced they would eat the final year and $26 million remaining on his contract. He hasn't played since 2017, when he hit .264 in 112 games. The Yankees actually hold a $21 million option for 2021, but they shan't be paying it.

What did $153 million get them? A .264 average in parts of four seasons and only 520 out of a possible 1,296 games played. That's what's known as money hemorrhaged.

And yet the Yankees can partially thank him for their newfound financial discipline. When the 2013 offseason yielded overpaid bloat in the form of Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran, a profligate era (century?) effectively ended. Two years later, the Yankees sold off stars Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman and Beltran, released the disgraced Alex Rodriguez, and kickstarted the rebuild that has produced 100 wins in each of the last two seasons.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, suffered no consequences. In fact, they benefitted from Ellsbury's unreliability and the drag he put on New York's payroll.

Ellsbury was always a bit of an odd duck in Boston. Perfectly amiable and pleasant, he nonetheless projected a vibe of corporate detachment, that corporation being Jacoby Ellsbury Ltd. The phrase "Scott Boras client" is used pejoratively to describe players loyal only to their bank accounts, and even if it doesn't actually apply to the super-agent's entire stable, Ellsbury embodied that mercenary ethos like no other.

He tended to act in his own best interests at the expense of, say, playing more than 18 games in 2010 with the infamous "front . . . and back" rib injury that the team's medical staff considered nothing, much to Ellsbury's consternation. His clubhouse standing seemed directly tied to how well he played. Teammate Dustin Pedroia probably shouted, "Yo, Ells!" more in 2011 than the rest of Ellsbury's career combined. That's the year Ellsbury delivered one of greatest all-around seasons in Red Sox history, hitting .321 with 32 homers and 39 steals while winning a Gold Glove and finishing second in the MVP voting. He was Mookie before Mookie.

(It's also worth noting that he wasn't humorless. During Ellsbury's breakout 2011, hitting coach Dave Magadan held up a $100 bill and asked if the center fielder could make change. "That is change," Ellsbury deadpanned before breaking into a wide grin).

Ellsbury never approached that level of brilliance again, but he did steal a league-leading 52 bases in 2013 and hit .344 that postseason, making him a priority for a Yankees club that had just finished third in the division while missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Then the injuries started and everyone who ever doubted Ellsbury's ability or desire to stay healthy just nodded knowingly.

It's hard to imagine Betts's next team experiencing similar regret, but he's not the biggest guy and injuries happen. At the same age, after all, 27-year-old Nomar Garciaparra had already won two batting titles and a Rookie of the Year and looked like a first-ballot Hall of Famer. A couple of years later, the Red Sox couldn't win a World Series until they got rid of him.

They won a pair of titles with Ellsbury, so no complaints there. Then he ghosted us and took his talents to New York, and it turns out Red Sox fans had no problem with that, either.

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